Interview Ted Cocuzza Mob Grip

Interview with Ted Cocuzza, Graphic Designer for Mob Grip

November 2, 2022

When we talk about graphics in skateboarding, we usually think of the bottom of the board. We discussed with the graphic designer for Mob Grip to change that and learn more about graphics on grip tapes. Let’s meet Ted Cocuzza for our grippiest interview ever!
I saw you work on OJ, Krux and Creature, but your main focus is on Mob Grip?
Yeah I work for four brands at NHS but I’m the only designer for Mob Grip. Any outside art that comes through Mob comes to me and I lay it out and set it up for print and everything. But I get to do my own stuff with it too. It’s a pretty easy brand to have fun with.
Is it the same approach designing grip tapes or boards?
It’s a little different, I think. With grip tape, the ideas could be a little sillier because it’s not really meant to have longevity. You could come up with weird ideas and see what sticks, some surprisingly sell very well. But the grip that always sells the best obviously is the plain black, the next best-selling one is probably anything we do with Thrasher. I’m still stoked that I get to do some fun stuff like that.
Interview Ted Cocuzza Mob Grip Illustration 1
Do you have more flexibility designing a grip tape because of its short longevity?
I would say there’s some slight flexibility. We have a whole plan of what’s going in the line, things already in place, but there’s usually one or two slots where we can get some creative stuff going. Sometimes we’ll get the whole creative department on it and everyone just submits their ideas. We’ll make a voter and send it out to Instagram and see what everyone else thinks, then start designing the grip based on all that information we get.
Are there any technical limitations?
Actually, because the printers print CMYK process, you could take any image and put it on grip tape, there’s no limits to how many colors you can use. Although because you’re printing transparent inks onto black, the colors are never gonna pop as much as you want them to, but it still looks good all things considered. Sometimes, partners we work with are like: “Oh this yellow doesn’t look yellow enough”, it’s never gonna be a hundred percent yellow on a dark surface. I think that’s the biggest limitation.
Interview Ted Cocuzza Mob Grip Quote 1
And by the way, why are all grip tapes black?
I think that’s just the natural color of all the grit and stuff so that’s just what it’s going to be. But when you want to make it colored, you have to print over it, ink over it.
What do you think about customizing it with markers or paint?
I always drew on my grip tape as a kid, now I just roll with this plain black grip. But I think it’s awesome when people do that. It’s the one part of your skateboard you get to customize. I feel like the grip tape is really this blank canvas. It’s weird but that’s the part of the board that’s showing all the time, you actually rarely see the bottom of the board, so the top of the deck is what you’re always looking at and what everyone else is looking at. I’m fully down for people customizing the top of their board and doing their own thing with it, I think that’s the beauty of grip tape. We also have a clear grip tape so you could put stuff under it and it’s really cool to see what people could do with it.
Interview Ted Cocuzza Mob Grip Graphics
It’s funny because when you look at the history of skateboarding, all of the graphics were on top of the board at the beginning. But now with clear grip tapes, do you think it will encourage more board companies to have graphics on the top?
That’s what a clear grip is for, especially when the main [bottom] graphic just ends up getting scratched up in the first two sessions. So, there’s definitely room for companies or any board brand to have some sick graphics on the top of their decks. That stuff’s cool, it should be seen! It’s always nice to see when there’s some nice thought put into the top graphic. I don’t know if the clear grip is a make or break for companies to be really going hard on their top graphics but it’s always a nice option.
We see way more amateur skaters with a customized grip than pros, why is that?
Maybe it’s because pros just go through boards so quickly, I think that’s probably the reason. When skateboarding is still new to you, you have this thing that you could draw on and customize, you want it to be yours, whereas the more you progress, the more you realize: “Oh I’m starting to go through boards a lot”. But I know there are pros that do some cool stuff, like Franky Villani, he’s always got some cool stuff going on the top of his board. He actually did some grip for us recently that came out really cool.
Interview Ted Cocuzza Mob Grip Quote 2
What’s your relationship with pros and team riders?
I’ve met a bunch of them through events but my relationship is strictly through a computer screen looking at them, just designing ads and marketing for them. Sometimes I’ll be working on an ad for a pro or something for Mob, like color correcting, getting masking and all that stuff, and it feels like I’ve met them. So I see them in real life and it’s like: “Hey what’s up”, but this person’s never seen my face in their life! I’ve just been staring at theirs for so long, it feels kind of weird [laughs].
Do you have some input from the team members?
Cairo Foster is the brand manager and he’ll always run stuff by me like: “What do you think of this guy for that ad?” or “What do you think of this person for the team?”. It’s cool that he asks for my input on that even though I’m just the designer, but that stuff’s important to me too.
Interview Ted Cocuzza Mob Grip Illustration 2
You also do marketing designs for OJ, Krux and Creature?
It’s a lot of web marketing, emailers, social media stuff, title cards for YouTube, that’s a big one. So, a lot of technical stuff like that but I get to do a lot of other different things. For Krux, I’ve done a lot of illustrations. For Creature, I’ve done some t-shirt designs, random illustrations here and there. It’s not just a one-way street with these brands. I do marketing design for them but it’s just general design, just whatever I could get my hands on, that’s what I try to do for these brands.
What has been the coolest thing you worked on so far?
Recently I did some Krux packaging for some bolts. There was a little comic on it, and I made up these two characters filling out, one’s a Phillips head and one’s an Allen head bolt. Alex White, the brand manager, and Jason Arnold, the art director, let me do my own thing with it. It was super fun, and it was a dream project of mine just being able to draw funny little comics for a skateboard company, even if it’s just for something as small as bolts. There are opportunities to do fun stuff with every little aspect of these brands. I’m very appreciative that they let me do stuff like that and that I have the opportunity to do it.
Interview Ted Cocuzza Mob Grip Quote 3
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I have all my skate artists that I looked up to as a kid, like Ed Templeton, Michael Sieben, Todd Bratrud, obviously Jim Phillips. They’re all on such different styles and levels. I like that there’s a place for every type of artist in skateboarding, whether you’re drawing goofy funny stuff or more serious detail and accurate representations. I guess that’s what inspires me about skateboard art, as you grow as an artist or designer, it’s cool to find your place in that and knowing that it’s somewhere in there.
Are you looking at social media trends?
I’m on Instagram and I follow a ton of artists and a ton of brands, so I’m always seeing what’s new and at the end of the day you have to look at what’s trending now and what the kids are into. Kids are into some pretty fun stuff these days, it’s fun to think like a 15-year-old again, like if I was 15 years old, what kind of grip tape would I want to be running or what kind of trucks would I want to have on my board.
Interview Ted Cocuzza Mob Grip Krux Bolts
Have you designed a lot of boards?
Not too many at NHS, there’s some Santa Cruz boards that I’ve designed but not really as much illustration, mostly different layout of logos with different design elements, same with Creature. It’s not the main thing I’m doing at NHS, but anytime I do get an opportunity to do it, it’s super fun.
So what’s your favorite grip tape graphic?
The “no parking” graphic! I think it’s one of my favorites because this curb is a curb we skate all the time here in Santa Cruz at the Chase Bank. I was like: “It’d be cool to get this on grip and have some slappy grip”. So I went there one time and took a photo of the curb and the no parking sign and juxtaposed it. This curb means a lot to me and my friends, that was one of my favorite projects I’ve worked on with Mob.
Interview Ted Cocuzza Mob Grip Quote 4
That must be funny to actually do a 50-50 on the curb with that grip.
Yeah! You’re slapping a curb while you’re skating a curb. I like that whole concept of this weird “you’re skating a curb on a curb” [laughs].
What about board graphics, what’s your favorite deck or series?
One of my favorite series is from 2004-2005, it’s a really random one. Michael Sieben did a Toy Machine series with all the Ed Templeton’s characters, but it was Michael Sieben’s version of them. As a kid, I thought: “Man, this is so cool!”. Toy Machine was and still is one of my favorite brands. And at the time, I was just a kid, I didn’t even think about collecting the boards or anything. It would have been cool to hold on to some of that stuff, but it’s always how it is! Collecting skateboards when you’re 15 is not something that goes through your head.
Interview Ted Cocuzza Blink 182 Enema Of The State
Can’t go wrong with this one!
You’re working at one of the biggest skateboard companies with a lot of history. What’s it like to work at NHS?
Oh man I love it! I’ve been there for eight years. It’s like a dream come true working there. All the people I work with are awesome. We’re treated like humans, not just employees there. And over the last eight years, I’ve been able to do a lot of different design work. I think I’ve worked on every brand at NHS. I’m super thankful that I get to work in such an amazing place and try to keep it going.
So what are you working on right now?
Working on the holiday 2023 line, everything is done almost a year in advance. But recently, Mob had a gripper’s union, so a bunch of shops submitted their own graphics, and I laid them out on grip. That was a pretty big project and it’s cool because they get their own local artists and that stokes them out. As far as Krux, there’s some rose gold trucks coming out and we filmed this little commercial for it, trying to make it look like one of those fancy wine commercials, but it’s just trucks. That’s another thing that I loved about the late 90s, early 2000s, the skits and stuff, you don’t really see much of that anymore. So being able to film funny stuff like that brings me back to the point of skateboarding I really liked!
Check out more of Ted’s designs on his website and on instagram.