K-State Sports Extra: Creative Mr. Cook

by Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - One living in the Wildcat Nation sees his work daily, but a name can't be put with his efforts.

An argument can be made that he's the most creative individual on the K-State staff, but he walks through K-State game settings in anonymity.

Meet Ron Cook: native of West Palm Beach, Fla., eight-year United States Army veteran, 2000 K-State graduate, and his 10th year within the Wildcat athletic family.

When you see all the Wildcat posters at restaurants, when you see the cover of a K-State media guide, when you see a stack of K-State pocket schedules, or see a KSU billboard, or see the decorative game tickets ... all of that is the work of Cook, the athletic department's graphic designer.

Of his role, Cook quips, "That's quite a difference from being a mechanic and working on tanks when I was in the Army."

A huge sports fan since a kid, Cook calls his position "... a dream job. I love sports and that's where my inspiration comes from, which makes it easy to stay creative."

But without question, it is a challenging job to create "new and fresh" ideas every year that will please the variety of Wildcat coaches that he deals with, plus presenting ideas that will mesh with the workings of the sports information staff and the Fan Experience department.

"There are a lot of hands in what I do, and a lot of ideas from different directions before it goes to the head coaches for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down," said Cook. "The main thing is to give the coaches what they want. If the coach is happy, then I'm happy with the product."

And Cook admits, there's been a time when a poster idea was returned with a note: "Try again!"

Cook says the theme of this year's K-State football schedule poster is to focus on the whole atmosphere of a K-State game day.

"Coach (Bill) Snyder likes to feature the team and family, so we have a collage showing the stadium, the fans, fireworks in the background, an image of Ft. Riley Day and Harley Day, Coach Snyder, Willie, and then a couple players," said Cook. "Then during the course of the year we can take elements of the poster and use them on tickets, or a glass, or the inside of the media guide. We try to keep a constant theme throughout the year."

This fall, Cook said that each of the six Wildcat captains will be featured on the programs for the six home games, which he is also responsible for.

Cook said that last year's "Every Man A Wildcat" men's basketball poster was a big hit that showed Denis Clemente, Jacob Pullen, Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels and Dominique Sutton in a "Star Trek" type look.

While not out yet, Cook said the 2010 volleyball poster will carry the theme of "Your Field House; Your Wildcats; Your Seat Is Waiting."

For the Wildcat baseball poster this year, it showed the team taking to the field over the NCAA logo in its first-ever Regional appearance in 2009.

Cook tries to hit the wants of all coaches, which can vary from focusing on a team concept, to highlighting all-American candidates, to featuring seniors.

"Coach Snyder wants to feature the team, Coach (Frank) Martin likes about everything that you send to him, and Coach (Deb) Patterson wants something that shows an active and exciting atmosphere," Cook said.

He says he's "never been stumped," but admits the yearly challenge is to incorporate up to date ideas, which is where meeting with the Fan Experience and sports information staffs come in handy.

In Cook's stack of Top 10 District and National awards are first-place finishes for the cover of his 2008 women's track and field media guide, and the 2006 football media guide.

A total of 15,000 football posters are printed, 7,500 each for men's and women's basketball, 5,000 for volleyball and baseball, and 1,000 posters each for tennis, track and field, equestrian, rowing and men's and women's golf.

In addition, 180,000 football/volleyball schedule cards are printed and 50,000 for the combined basketball programs.

Cook is also responsible for a portion of the information seen on the Jumbotron and the sideboards at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and Bramlage Coliseum.

"I can't say that anything I do is more important than something else," said Cook. "The media guides go out to recruits, so that's important, but the posters are seen by fans every day, so that has its own importance."