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Chicago Bulls tap APSU designer for game day graphic series

Beth Rates, graphic designer with Austin Peay State University's Public Relations and Marketing Department.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Basketball and art have driven Beth Rates since she was 5 years old, and she recently seized the chance to unite her passions by designing an official game day graphic for the Chicago Bulls in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Rates currently works as a graphic designer for Austin Peay State University’s Public Relations and Marketing Department and graduated from the University in 2017. She established herself as a key player for the women’s basketball team as a student, and her career total of 127 blocked shots remains the second highest in program history.

“This was a surreal moment for me, because I grew up loving and playing basketball while also loving art and design,” Rates said. “Being able to put those two things together on such a huge platform for the Chicago Bulls was incredible, and there’s honestly not just one word to describe how amazing it felt.”

The Chicago Bulls commissioned seven artists to create game day graphics during Women's History Month, including Austin Peay graphic designer Beth Rates. Her design was showcased on March 17 to promote the Bulls' home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Bulls commissioned seven artists for their Women’s History Month graphic series, including Rates. Her design was released across the team’s social media platforms on March 17 to promote a home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I was going back and forth about whether I wanted to do it, but I decided to just submit it and see how things went,” Rates said, noting that she learned about the campaign through Twitter. “I didn’t know if I’d get selected because there were thousands and thousands of people on that thread … but about two weeks later I got a phone call from one of the designers.”

Rates said she was provided with several photos, logos and assets for her design and asked to use her personal style. She decided to spotlight Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine because of his strong performance this season.

“My creative process was different than usual because I was nervous, and I knew this was going to be posted on huge platforms,” Rates said. “I sat and looked at some different sports design posters – which I do in my free time anyhow, because I make a lot of edits with my favorite players – and put on some games. There were actually a lot of NBA games playing the week I did it, so I watched a lot of different matches and looked at designers on Twitter and Instagram to see what they were doing.”

Although Rates looked to posters and game footage to get inspired, her finished design came together through pure instinct.

“I knew I needed to keep it in my style as well, so I just sat down, got in my zone and started working,” she said. “There was no rhyme or reason to why I did what I did – it just felt right.”

After determining a theme and choosing the right logo, Rates in her design roughly a week before the game – and it wasn’t long until Bulls fans from around the world were seeing it.

Beth Rates, graphic designer with Austin Peay State University Public Relations and Marketing.

“I couldn’t do anything but thank God, really,” Rates said. “This was such a blessing and such a huge platform. I called my parents immediately to tell them it was live, and they were so happy for me. My friends and coworkers were also really excited.”

Rates said her time as a design student at Austin Peay helped her develop the skills needed to create the graphic, and her job at the University has allowed her to keep improving.

“Even though they wanted me to be able to customize the graphic, the Chicago Bulls have a brand,” she said. “I’ve learned to work with a brand from being here at Austin Peay as an employee and as a student, so that made a huge difference.”

Being able to work on a variety of designs, from issues of the University’s alumni magazine to Candlelight Ball invitations, also prepared Rates to take on a project for the Bulls.  

“Austin Peay was definitely the reason that I was even able to do this,” she said. “I have coworkers and supervisors here that are so encouraging with all of my designs and let me go beyond my limits … having people like that in my corner gave me the confidence to be able to do something new and step out of my comfort zone.”