Wilson Tennis Lights Up Rackets With Night Session Design, Part Of Larger Racket-Aesthetic Strategy


The US Open lights up the moonlight hours at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Wilson Tennis embraces the popular feature of the year’s final major with the creation of a new Night Session collection, featuring three reflective tennis rackets, shoes and additional gear.

The highlight of the Night Session collection, releasing Aug. 15 (early access available here), comes via the Blade V8 98, Clash V2 100 and Pro Staff V13 97, all with a black-based design featuring reflective detailing, part of a larger push from Wilson to use racket aesthetics—whether paint, texture or otherwise—to add a unique element to the frame’s engineering.

“When the light comes just right off the racket,” says Brad Schantz, senior manager of design, Wilson Racquet Sports, “there is a feeling of surprise and delight. It is not enough for us to have a different color palette. We do that and it is interesting, but we want to push into a space nobody has ever seen in the market. When you unbox a Wilson racket, we want you to go, ‘Woah.'”

For the Night Session designs, Schantz says the team wanted to tell a story of working day and night to earn a spot under the lights at the US Open. To get there, designers explored concepts from those who train at night and found a common thread of reflectivity. They wanted to work that concept into the actual frame, keeping it balanced so it added intrigue but wasn’t too much.

Using a technology popular in the bicycling space, Wilson added reflective decals to the frames. But you may not always see them. The entire racket—from the base paint to the Wilson logo—gets blacked out and the decals are almost black themselves. A first glance is “super subtle,” Schantz says, not noticed until the light hits the decals just right. “When you see it not lit,” he says, “you see tonal black, but once you start interacting with it, there is a moment of ‘wait a minute, that is not what I saw.'”

The frames also include the franchise information on the right shaft becoming more subdued and the “Night Session” moniker on the frame via a raised 3D decal. “You are not going to see it right away, but once you start moving it,” Schantz says, “you see it is a texture, you see it is an added point of interest as you get closer and closer.”

The Night Session designs for the 2022 US Open aren’t the first forays into unique aesthetic look and texture from Wilson. The Clash V2 has a soft-texture paint coating and embossed detailing, the Blade V8 features color-shifting paint and the Earth Day line from both 2021 and 2022 includes a water-based paint.

“We are trying to suck you in at all levels,” Schantz says about design. “When you see it on the wall, hold it by the grip and turn it in your hands, we want it to be dynamic and super interesting.”

The soft touch finish that Wilson engineers first developed in 2016 helps give the Clash V2 a unique touch, but also a color. Wilson uses a layer of silver paint topped with an anodized maroon. The way the light hits the frame accentuates the geometry of the racket and shows color in different ways, shifting from darker to brighter red. The embossed Clash logo works into the frame for an extra layer of texture.

To make it happen, Wilson had to design a fresh way to manufacture the rackets, from the coating to the drying processes. It was the same for the water-based solution Wilson created with partner Sherwin-Williams
SHW
. “We had to send people over to our factories and look at how the line is set up and how a racket is going to go through the line, getting manufactured using this new type of paint, this new type of material,” Schantz says. “Whenever we have an opportunity to tear down a manufacturing line and rebuild it to do something really interesting and unique, we take it.”

Schantz says they aim to give each line a distinct element, while staying true to the Wilson brand. For the Blade V8, a colour-shifting metallic paint changes from dark green to copper during movement. The Blade paint—still true to the franchise’s known green—highlights the unique X-Loop geometry of the frame, promoting the duality of the engineering with the duality of the paint.

“One of the overall stories you are starting to see is of dynamism,” he says. “We want your racket to be as dynamic as the game is. We don’t want you to pick up a racket and say it is green or red, we want to reflect your enthusiasm for the game.”

And that effort means Wilson is constantly looking outside tennis to bring in materials and features unique to the industry. “Every time we come out with something,” Schantz says, “we want people to say, ‘Woah,’ and get as obsessed with it as we are about making it.”

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