Element 9 Graphics is a one man operation based in Aberdeen, Scotland that specialises in custom painting helmets. The man behind the E9G is Craig Scott; a graphic designer, music enthusiast and rider who has been riding for longer than he’d like to admit. Craig has been painting helmets for close to 4 years now with each design baring a creative and unique style that has become synonymous with the Element 9 brand. We caught up with Craig to find out a little about the company’s background, his interests and what the future holds for E9G…
Element 9 Graphics owner Craig Scott working on a lid in progress. Photo by Jonathan Dawson.
How old were you when you started mountain biking and how did you first get involved with the sport?
I think I was about 13 or 14. I was into BMX when I was younger, and had a brief interest in road bikes for some reason… I had a mate who was just getting into mountain biking at that time so I got one too.
Where did you grow up and what was the riding scene like?
I grew up on the west coast of Scotland, near Greenock. There wasn’t much of a scene back then, no proper tracks or anything but we just used to go on epic rides looking for steep hills to ride down!
Craig’s latest creation for New Zealand shredder, Wyn Masters. Photo by Jonathan Dawson.
Can you give us a little background information on Element 9 Graphics and why you decided to start the company?
I’ve always had an interest in design, and I’ve loved bikes from as early as I can remember. Helmet painting I think is the best way of combining my interests as you can paint pretty much anything on a helmet, so it leaves it open to your creativity. Your lid is probably the most prominent piece of kit other than your bike.
Who or where do you get inspiration from for helmet painting?
There’s a few helmet painters that have their own unique style, and make some really amazing works. I definitely try to have my own style but this is something that will develop over time. I look at a lot of illustrators’ work as well, guys like Dan Mumford and Godmachine, but inspiration can come from anywhere really .
Who are some of your own personal favourite helmet painters?
Tagger Designs is probably my favourite as his work is unlike anything else out there. Troy Lee Designs of course, because they have the whole racing heritage thing that comes with them. Brett King Designs is a relatively new name, but his work is outstanding – you can definitely tell he’s a graphic designer. Ralph at RL Designs as well, he creates really strong bold designs and Tom Fuller of Image Custom Design is a really amazing artist and custom painter, though he mostly paints Harleys.
James Shirley going big on the Fort William wallride whilst wearing his E9G designed jersey and painted lid. Photo by Paul Cram.
What is the process involved in custom painting a helmet and how long does it take from start to finish?
The design stage comes first – I normally sketch out ideas with pencil and paper and if necessary I’ll draw it up on the computer to get a better idea of how colours will work together. Each helmet usually takes me at least 25 hours, depending on the design and the prep work that needs done. Then the helmet needs to be stripped of anything that can be removed, sanded and primed, then graphics are taped out, colours sprayed and layered up, with a final protective clearcoat being the last step before polishing and reassembly.
A subtle yet clean design sporting go faster flames. Photo by Sam Brill.
How does somebody go about getting their own Element 9 custom painted helmet?
Who are some of the riders you have previously painted for? Do you have a favourite design you’ve created?
The most recent is Wyn Masters, and I’ve done work for some of the Scottish boys like James Shirley, Ben Cathro and Chris Hutchens. My favourite is probably the Scotland/300 design done for Tom Lamb, or the latest one for Wyn.
Tom Lamb’s Scotland/300 helmet Craig painted back in 2010. Photo by Sam Brill.
Do the riders have much of an input in the design of the helmet themselves?
Yeah, definitely. I try to get some idea of what the rider wants, as ultimately a custom design is about the rider and should reflect their personality. I try and translate that into something that looks good. Some guys will have a pretty good idea of what they want it to look like, others are pretty happy to leave it up to me.
If you could paint a helmet for anyone, dead or alive from any sporting background, who would you be honoured to paint for?
Haha, I guess Minnaar has always been a favourite rider of mine, and he usually has cool paint so it would be amazing to have him rocking one of my designs, and of course Peaty too. Getting to do a lid for someone like Rossi would be pretty amazing.
Ben Cathro rocking his Element 9 painted lid at last years BDS round at Glencoe. Photo by Jacob Gibbins.
I know you’re a massive fan of music, what genres of music do you listen to and who are some of your favourite bands?
I mostly listen to rock, punk, hardcore and a bit of metal, but I like a lot of different stuff too! Strung Out are one of my all time favourites, and I’ve been listening to a fair bit of Lamb of God, Corrosion of Conformity and The Smashing Pumpkins lately. Also, I’ve been getting into instrumental rock bands like Russian Circles, If These Trees Could Talk, PG. Lost… I could go on for too long!
You used to be in a band yourself, can you tell us a bit about that?
I played in a punk rock band for a while and we put out a couple of CDs. It was just for fun really, with good mates who were into a lot of the same kind of music. Back then I was more into bands like Pennywise, AFI, and Strung Out.
As well as running E9G you also work full-time as a graphic designer, can you tell us about your background in design and what are some of your favourite projects you’ve worked on over the years?
I always enjoyed design in school so it was natural that I (eventually) got into graphic design. So I went to college for a couple of years and have been working as a designer for the last 6 years. A lot of it isn’t so interesting, but I get to work on logo designs fairly often, and doing vehicle livery can be fun as well. It depends on the customer though – we tend not to do work for racing companies so the designs usually aren’t that wild.
Between running E9G and working as a graphic designer it must be hard to find the time to get out riding. When you do get out, where do you ride and what are your favourite trails?
Fort Bill is definitely my favourite track, and I love the tracks around Morzine. Innerleithen is quite close to my folks’ house so I like to get there when I can. I really like Inners actually as it’s the sort of loamy forest trails you get back home on the west coast.
Chris Hutchens repping an E9G designed jersey and painted helmet whilst racing at Craigs favourite DH course, Fort William. Photo by Paul Cram.
Do you have any big plans in the works for Element 9 in the near future?
I’ve been working on a few things, but it’s hard to find the time to do everything. What will hopefully be happening soon though is that I’d like to get a few jersey designs made. It will just be a few limited runs first and I’ll see where it goes after that. Eventually I’d like to make painting helmets/E9G my full time occupation.
Where do you see Element 9 Graphics progressing over the next 5 years?
I’d like to have the time to work on more helmets, and get the jersey designs out there, then I would like to work on team kit designs – from jerseys and helmets right up to van and truck livery.
To be a helmet painter you need to have a lot of patience… Check out the detail on this Juice Lubes design from last year.
Thanks for your time Craig! Do you have anyone you’d like to thank?
No worries! Both Ralph at RL Designs and Tom at Image Design Custom have helped me out with painting advice, so big thanks to them, and thanks to all the riders who’ve taken an interest and rep E9G at the races.
Fancy getting your helmet sprayed or do you just want to see more of Craig’s work? Hit the logo below and get creative!