Prior to kickoff in Saturday’s match against LAFC, local artist Shogo Ota led the stadium in Scarves Up. As the artist who designed this year’s member scarf, it was a special moment for Ota to see thousands of supporters using his creation as part of a matchday tradition.
Inspired by the creative elements of The Bruce Lee Kit, Ota’s scarf design is homage to the club, the Pacific Northwest, strength and perseverance, and contains Bruce Lee’s famous line, “Be Water.”
“I took those elements to design and did multiple different layout shapes over whales with a wavy kind of background, watery background,” said Ota. “I used some kind of patterns that were pretty strong that were a little bit different from the last couple of years.”
The decision to hire Ota as the designer for the membership scarf was an easy one; since 2012, Ota’s art and graphic design company, Tireman Studio, has played a significant role in the Seattle art community and beyond. While designing a scarf was unfamiliar territory for Ota, he’s been a part of several projects involving custom art installations, product branding, poster designs and the production of murals, making this task easily adaptable for him.
“I’ve never made a scarf this big before, or like ever,” said Ota. “I think 40,000 of the fans are going to have one scarf so that's a really great way to connect the fans and team together.”
After sketching a series of designs, his work was in the hands of the supporters; Alliance Members collectively voted for their favorite illustration and ultimately decided on Emerald Tides. Featuring an orca whale with geometric patterns and wave imagery, it’s a fitting representation for the Seattle soccer community.
“I kind of knew the whale [design] was going to be the one,” said Ota. “It’s a high-contrast, really bold design.”
Along with the incorporation of the specified themes, Ota added his own artistic style to the scarf design as well.
“I kind of use those flowy lines and also I use those patterns inside things, especially animals,” said Ota. “So, a kind of style like waves or water shapes… I customized [the Sounders font] kind of wavy so it looks like it’s floating on the water.”
The development of the scarf was an opportunity to showcase Ota’s talent on a large scale, while also allowing him to incorporate his craft into something else he shares a passion for — soccer.
“I used to play soccer and I've seen a Sounders game before, so I think I just got excited and wanted to apply for this,” said Ota, looking back on when he first heard about the opportunity. “I started [soccer] in maybe first or second grade till even when I went to Idaho and tried out for the University of Idaho [club] soccer team…Of course I will say yes for any big soccer team or big team project.”
Ota’s love for the game served as an important part of grasping the theme of the Sounders organization, but it was his artistic gift that allowed him to perfectly execute a design that tied the several components together to make the 2023 membership scarf.
“I’m really happy how it turned out,” said Ota. “Everything's handmade, hand-drawn… I think it's a big, big thing to have [so many] supporters have the same scarf and cheer for the team. It’s amazing.”