Meet Collin Scott, the WSU student designing gameday posters hidden around campus

Nov. 15—PULLMAN — Collin Scott had to look twice. Scott had just hopped on his bike, riding away from Gesa Field, the site of Washington State's home matchup with Northern Colorado, when he noticed something.

It was two girls, laughing as they held up a 13x9 poster, which showed an illustration of a Cougar and a Bear, the two mascots squaring off that afternoon in September.

It was Scott's poster. Not even 24 hours prior, he had designed the thing himself.

"I was like, 'Oh, this is pretty cool,' " Scott said. "They were smiling, like dang, we found it."

Scott, a junior majoring in art at Washington State, doesn't always get to see the people who find the printouts of the posters he designs — but he feels fulfilled either way. An intern in WSU's creative media department, Scott uses an app called Procreate on his iPad to illustrate a poster for the Cougars' home games, which gets printed out then hidden somewhere around campus a few hours before the game for one lucky person to find.

The spot can be anywhere around campus, like the Cougar statue or The Coug, but to get to that stage, Scott has to design the poster first.

For each of WSU's five home games this season, Scott has designed five posters. For the Cougars' game against Wisconsin, he drew a WSU player in front of a wheat field. For the game against Oregon State, he drew the Cougars' and Beavers' mascots hanging out on a park bench, a nod to the friendship between the only two remaining members of the Pac-12. For the game against Arizona, he drew Butch T. Cougar laughing at the Arizona mascot tangled up in yarn. For the game against Stanford, he drew Butch driving a semi-truck carrying chopped-up trees — a dig at the Cardinal's mascot, a tree.

A few hours before each home game, WSU director of creative media Dallas Hobbs and his team do the same routine: Airdrop the poster from Scott's iPad to Hobbs' iPad, which connects to a printer in their office. Out comes the finished project, which they take to some place around campus. Then Hobbs snaps a picture of the poster — showing enough context around the location to give hints, but not enough to make it obvious.

Then Hobbs posts the picture on the WSU football Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, asking readers to post a picture of the poster if they find it.

"If you're a real Coug fan, you'll be able to pick it up," Hobbs said.

Scott spends around eight hours on each design — but that's only the time he spends drawing in Procreate. At the beginning of weeks with a home game, he'll put heads together with Hobbs and two other staffers in the WSU creative department, Carson Rorick and Scott Boldt, and toss around ideas: Butch chopping down a tree for the Stanford game? Two cats playing with yarn for the Arizona matchup? For Friday's game against Colorado, how about Butch and a buffalo showing off their fashion on a runway?

That idea ended up hitting the cutting-room floor — it's best to let Scott and WSU reveal the final version later this week — but that's the point. Not every idea Scott thinks of makes it on the poster. He's more into soccer than football anyway, so to get on the same wavelength as his co-workers and understand which ideas will resonate with fans, he has to toy around with plans that never see the light of day.

"We'll be like, 'Oh, we like this element,' " Rorick said. "And Dallas will have something, and then throw it all together."

For Scott, a Redmond, Washington, native, then it's time to get to work in Procreate. Sometimes he likes to work at his apartment, but that's also home to lots of distractions: His phone, roommates, TV. "My Playstation is right there," he said. So usually, he'll head to the art studio on WSU's campus, where he can focus a lot easier, or sometimes he'll work in the creative office, a fifth-floor outfit in the Cougar Football Complex — spacious digs that overlook the team's practice fields.

"It really is beneficial having that area to go and work," Scott said, "and having the office to come and talk to people about stuff instead of just (being at home)."

That's when the work really begins. For example, take Scott's art for WSU's game against Arizona. He started with Butch, drawing his head, his whiskers, his arm pointing to the Wildcat mascot, Wilbur, wrapped in yarn. He added shadows, both on Butch and Wilbur. Then, to ensure the scene made sense, he added a few balls of yarn on the floor, all complete with their own shadows.

That's to make no mention of all the smaller things, the finer details Scott adds to pull the poster together: The WSU flag on the left, the Cougar pennants in the middle, the shelf directly underneath holding a football, a helmet and a mirror — all with Washington State logos. On the right, there's even a window showing an outdoor scenery of a Palouse wheat field.

It all sounds impressive, and it is. On closer look, you see the areas Scott wants to improve as he goes. He leans over his iPad and pinches in to get a closer look at the WSU banner.

"Like, there's no highlights on the flag or anything," Scott said. Then he pans over to the window, which also displays a tree. "The trees, they're a little bland."

Nobody else notices those minute details, Scott understands, but he does, and they bother him. He knows he can be better, but he also recognizes he isn't exactly a full-time employee. He has classes, a job, hobbies. He's a college student. He can't be perfect.

To Hobbs and the creative team, though, that's what makes Scott so special.

"There'll be a lot of people that WSU graphics or things like that," Hobbs said, "and we'll see them, and they don't end up being Washington State students. So it's not as fun that way, because then I gotta deal over text or Zoom."

Hobbs found out about Scott before he knew he was a WSU student. It was last fall, and Hobbs was scrolling through Instagram stories, when he came across a friend's story, which included a post of someone's art. He wanted to know more, so he clicked on the post. He liked the art, so he followed the account.

Then, sometime as he scrolled through Scott's posts, he realized he was a WSU student.

"And I was like, oh," Hobbs said. "Then I DM'd him, and I was like, 'Let's chat.' "

At that time, Scott was designing art in his own style, an abstract approach that didn't exactly scream sports. He'd draw three people standing next to each other. A flower growing out of someone's empty palm. Work from one of his classes, like a piece depicting syrup pouring over a stack of blueberry pancakes, or a picture of two people looking at each other — except their faces were a sun and a cloud.

"Something that has faces on them so that humans can kind of relate to it," Scott said. "They're like, 'Oh, that's just an inanimate object, but this person made it feel like it's alive,' you know? If you just looked at it like this, you can have it just be a sun and a cloud, but then you add the legs and the face, and it's like, 'Oh, that's a character that is experiencing some kind of emotion.' "

Scott and Hobbs both got their start in creative media after they hung up their cleats. Hobbs played defensive line for WSU from 2017-2021 before he forayed into the world of creatives. In high school, Scott played soccer for his school and club team, which he felt a real passion for — but he started to suffer from ankle and hamstring injuries, and around that time, the coronavirus pandemic began.

So Scott got into art. He started on sheets of paper, doodling things like a rabbit person, a guy squeezed into a box, a purple car, a Mac Miller portrait. Then he moved into the digital sphere, where his illustrations took on new life: An interpretation of a scene from "Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse," a cityscape, a man with oversized legs and sweet Nike kicks.

Only a couple of years later, he finds himself designing posters for Washington State's football program. Sometimes he even sees people discovering them — and he realizes how cool of a job he has.

"It does get hard with burnout, having to do school and work," Scott said.

"And an art major," Hobbs said, "where he's already doing five other art projects at the same time. He didn't say that."

"I'm working on these things already," Scott added, "like similar things that are taking the same amount of brainpower to achieve. But really, the motivation comes down to — it's a cool program to be a part of, and I get to have fun with it."