The 90s are a hot commodity in 2024.
A decade largely known for pop culture prosperity, enormous fashion and the rise of the internet, the era serves as peak nostalgia for a trifecta of generations.
So when the Lightning Foundation needed an artist to design the puck for this week’s ’90s Night’ home game, they tapped a native of the American mecca of 90s influence: Seattle’s Chad Atkinson.
Atkinson is a Florida-based photographer, visual designer and artist out of the Pacific Northwest who found a home in Jacksonville in 2015. Ironically, that’s where he fell in love with Lightning hockey—catching games at a local sports bar—and eventually the Tampa Bay area thanks to its beaches and unique culture in places like St. Pete and Ybor City.
The 90s Seattle music and art scene is famously influential—what was it like to experience that and did it help in your design of the 90s puck?
There was always some local music being played around the house and in the car. My mom loved Soundgarden and Nirvana, so those became staples of mine as a kid. Although 90s Seattle might be more associated with flannel and muted color palettes, there was a highly contrasting and vivid aesthetic that was popular especially in the early 90s which fit a kind of overall alternative vibe that was going on, breaking up some of the gloominess that its known for. Melvins’ ‘Houdini’ album is a good example of that, with vivid colors and quirky imagery juxtaposing with the dark and heavy music. That definitely had an influence on me, incorporating high contrasting and vivid elements in my creative endeavors, while also finding a way to be both mainstream and against the grain, just like the music I grew up with.
So when I saw there was a 90s theme option for puck designs, I immediately started having some nostalgic flashbacks to that era, which is cool because it also happens to align with the origins of the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the Tampa Bay area having some of the best beaches in the world, I thought it fitting to incorporate some design elements that were reminiscent of early 90s beach fashion, where a lot of that fashion is vivid, high contrasting, and can have a bit of unique expression that goes against the grain. Looking at you Gecko Hawaii! The skating aspect of hockey was also a factor in the design, as it evokes childhood memories of roller rinks and the styling that went with it, from the bold accented carpets to the colored skates, both of which seemed to be omnipresent in the 90s.
Your passion for art started out with music—what did that involve? Do you still play or perform?
Music has always been a significant part of my life. I still get goosebumps listening to songs I’ve heard a thousand times. I started playing guitar at around eight years old and developed a passion for musical instruments, playing percussion in symphonic band and playing stand-up bass in the high school jazz band. There was also a period during and after high school I played in a local rock band, aspiring to one day make it big haha. In my 20s, I found my musical tastes changing a bit and started producing electronic music, having fun generating some originals and remixes. Even got into DJing and performed a couple small gigs while living in Seattle. But for the most part, music has been kept as a hobby with some noodling here and there these days, along with jamming with my 4-year-old son while he wails away on his little drum set.
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