Little League International’s Creative Department features three Pennsylvania College of Technology graduates (from left): Natalie K. Lincalis ’23, Danielle N. Gannon ’22 and Amanda M. Cropper-Rose ’12. Cropper-Rose is Little League’s creative director, and Gannon and Lincalis are graphic designers.

Big work for Little League

Published 02.16.2024

Thomas Speicher

by Thomas Speicher

Writer/Video Producer

Spring 2024, Volume 33, Number 1

A youngster eagerly ascends the paved path leading to the mecca of youth sports. She stops at the top of the hill, positioned between two stadiums. To her left is a replica baseball, the size of a gigantic boulder. It’s emblazoned with a diamond-shaped, multicolor logo. The smiling child is directed to stand underneath the emblem for the inevitable photo. The image will serve as a time stamp for the family’s collection of memories from the 2023 Little League Baseball World Series.

That scene is repeated countless times near an array of eye-catching elements that greet the thousands of spectators who flock to South Williamsport every August for the series. The visual design – ranging from bright banners throughout the sprawling 75-acre complex to slick souvenir programs in fans’ hands – is the collective effort of three individuals who never donned a Little League uniform.

Pennsylvania College of Technology graphic design graduates Amanda M. Cropper-Rose (class of 2012), Danielle N. Gannon (2022) and Natalie K. Lincalis (2023) constitute the creative department for Little League International, headquartered above storied Lamade Stadium. Cropper-Rose is creative director, and Gannon and Lincalis are graphic designers for the world’s largest organized youth sports program.

They are responsible for executing the visual features and branding for Little League Baseball and Softball, ensuring all aspects consistently reflect the values and identity of an initiative founded in Williamsport by Carl E. Stotz in 1939.

One of the key items our creative team is constantly tasked with is finding a way to keep our historic brand both relevant and modernized in a society that is constantly evolving.

“One of the key items our creative team is constantly tasked with is finding a way to keep our historic brand both relevant and modernized in a society that is constantly evolving,” said Kevin Fountain, Little League’s senior director of communications. “The work that Amanda, Danni and Natalie have achieved in such a short time together is not only an inspiration for what’s to come, but also a testament to the tremendous professionalism, skill and creativity they all have, both individually and collaboratively.”

The team’s talent is tapped for much more than the organization’s marquee event, the Little League Baseball World Series for 10-to-12-year-olds that features 38 nationally televised games over a dozen days. They prepare promotional and marketing pieces for the six other baseball and softball World Series tournaments sponsored by Little League as well as branding earmarked for the local-league level, Little League Official Store, World of Little League Museum and social media platforms. They are the visual gatekeepers for an endeavor played by about 2 million kids (ages 4-16) in every U.S. state and 80-plus countries.

“Our Penn College graduates are employed throughout the country and internationally, holding positions at companies such as X (formerly Twitter), YouTube, Disney+, Penn State and the NHL’s Florida Panthers, to name just a few,” said Brian A. Flynn, assistant professor and department head of graphic design. “To have three of our alumni being instrumental in the overall look of an organization as impressive as Little League International is another indicator of the strength of our graphic design program.”

Amanda M. Cropper-Rose ’12 is Little League International’s creative director and is the designer behind the 2023 Little League World Series logo – but her favorite project is Little League’s Girls with Game celebration.

Cropper-Rose, of Hughesville, is the longest tenured of the trio. For more than eight years, she served in various graphic design positions before assuming the newly established role of creative director last April. Gannon, who grew up in Williamsport, became a full-time graphic designer in January 2023, following five months of temp work for Little League. Lincalis joined the department last June. The Muncy native was a graphic design intern for the organization the previous summer.

“The three designers excelled in different ways in our graphic design curriculum,” Flynn stated. “One may be more illustrative in their approach while another leans toward a type-driven style. Together, the three complement one another.”

Cropper-Rose agreed.

“We all have unique abilities and work best when we collectively come together as a team,” she said. “We try to keep it a free and open environment where we can bring ideas to the table and see what works the best. We’re tasked to think quickly on how we’ll communicate, promote or engage our audiences.”

The branding for Little League’s Girls with Game celebration is “hands down” Cropper-Rose’s favorite project. Begun in 2019 to honor the contributions of girls and women to Little League and encourage future participation, the award-winning campaign has grown to include a line of merchandise and stunning stadium signage for the Little League Softball World Series in Greenville, North Carolina.

Samples of the branding work devised by the Penn College graduates include signage and banners that are prominent during Little League Word Series events.

Samples of the branding work devised by the Penn College graduates include signage and banners that are prominent during Little League Word Series events.

Samples of the branding work devised by the Penn College graduates include signage and banners that are prominent during Little League Word Series events.

Samples of the branding work devised by the Penn College graduates include signage and banners that are prominent during Little League Word Series events.

New wrinkles have been added this year to commemorate 50 years of female inclusion in Little League and the 50th anniversary of the softball world series. Cropper-Rose, Gannon and Lincalis have contributed design elements for the golden milestones, dubbed the #GWG50 Campaign.

“I think seeing women being recognized in this space is an amazing accomplishment,” Gannon said.

“I’ve heard so much about how hard people here at Little League worked to initiate the campaign. It’s special that I get to be here for the 50th anniversary. It’s exciting for me,” Lincalis added.

“When you think of baseball, generally it’s male-dominated. I think it’s neat to be an all-female creative team, especially with the Girls with Game campaign. We’re able to put our own experiences and personal traits behind that more,” Cropper-Rose explained. “We’re supported incredibly by our male teammates, but there is a great sense of pride in our female-run creative department, especially in a male-dominated industry.”

The significance of three women collaborating to advance the brand of a worldwide sports organization isn’t lost on their former professor or their current boss.

“Having them be instrumental in the overall visual look of Little League should be inspiring to up-and-coming female designers who are interested in working in the sports industry,” Flynn said.

“To have an all-female creative team is something we are very proud of here at Little League, and we look forward to the work they will continue to accomplish together in hopes to inspire the next generation of talented female graphic designers and creative directors,” Fountain said.

The three designers were inspired by art at an early age.

Natalie K. Lincalis ’23 co-designed, with fellow alum Danielle L. Gannon, the souvenir program for the 2023 Little League World Series, along with environmental signage for the event.

“Art has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl. I have always loved the process of it, the joy of creating something new and being able to express yourself throughout the art that you get to create in graphic design,” Lincalis said.

Gannon’s mother motivated her to be a graphic designer. “She would paint these large pieces for our church or as gifts for family. Seeing the happiness it brought her and the people she made art for, I think that’s what sold me,” Gannon recalled.

Familial influence also directed Cropper-Rose to the field, thanks to a family-owned-and-operated supermarket in Downingtown, where Cropper-Rose lived until she was 15.

“Some of my earliest memories involve watching my dad set the weekly ads and helping my pop-pop choose the lettering for the vinyl roadside signage. Looking back, I realize I’ve always been a graphic designer,” she said.

The trio followed diverse paths to earning a bachelor’s degree in graphic design at Penn College. Lincalis initially majored in architectural technology. Both Gannon and Cropper-Rose enrolled at other institutions and focused on different subjects – music for Gannon and fine and studio arts for Cropper-Rose – before transferring to Penn College for graphic design. But all three share gratitude for their education, obtained about a mile away from the site of the first Little League game.

“Penn College does a great job teaching you the software and skills you need to know once you get a job,” Lincalis said. “The professors in this program do as much as they can to make sure you have everything you need for when you graduate.”

Lincalis has applied her skills in co-designing the souvenir program and creating environmental signage for the Little League World Series and related events.

Danielle L. Gannon ’22 designed the World Series program with Lincalis, developed the series’ brand guidelines and oversees the organization’s print shop.

Gannon designed the program with Lincalis. She’s also developed brand guidelines for the series and oversees the organization’s print shop. Like Lincalis, she devises graphics for Little League’s social media outlets.

“I use everything I learned from the graphic design courses at Penn College to do my job,” Gannon said.

So does Cropper-Rose, who has spent the past year transitioning from designer to manager of creative projects.

“I still rely on my Penn College education every day. The education I received covered all the bases, including the history, technicality and situational case studies that together form a well-rounded designer,” she said. “Penn College certainly set me up for success in the workforce.”

Flynn believes there are three fundamental reasons why the graphic design major produces such successful graduates: “It starts with our state-of-the-art computer labs and creative, inspiring open lab spaces. Secondly, our rigorous foundation year prepares students for their success in the upper-level graphic design classes. And lastly, our upper-level design classes are grounded in real-world graphic design practice.”

For creative inspiration, Cropper-Rose, Gannon and Lincalis examine “real-world” examples. Sports branding of college and professional teams, websites devoted to the design community like Behance and Dribble, and even graphics plastered on junk mail are sources to spark their ideas.

Transforming those ideas into a colorful reality fulfills them. Watching people interact with their handiwork at the Little League World Series stirs their soul.

2023 Souvenir Program, co-designed by Gannon and Lincalis

Little League estimates the 2023 series drew 393,710 fans. That number isn’t surprising considering the event is among the Travel Channel’s bucket list destinations for baseball fans, and Bleacher Report named Lamade Stadium one of the 25 most iconic venues in sports history. The Little League World Series is included among the Super Bowl, the Masters and the Kentucky Derby in the book “The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live.”

During the series, the designers’ duties shift to taking photos, managing photo assets and developing graphics for social media. However, they still have time to enjoy people gazing at the banners, leafing through some of the 10,000 souvenir programs printed for the extravaganza and purchasing Little League-branded merchandise.

“You work at headquarters year-round, and it’s peaceful outside. And then for 12 days, you see it come to life,” Lincalis explained. “It was a cool feeling to go out into the gift shop and see people walking around with the program. It’s the first thing I created that was mass-produced.”

“Having the little kids go up to your first big project, it’s a good feeling to see how happy they are. It’s what we’re here for,” Gannon said.

“When I see people interact with our designs, especially kids, I think of myself as a child and how proud I would be of myself right now to have my artwork seen at such a large level,” Cropper-Rose smiled.

And that artwork will endure. The diamond-shaped, multicolor design stamped on the enormous “baseball” that was captured in incalculable photos taken last August? It was the 2023 Little League World Series logo – created by Cropper-Rose.

“That makes me excited for the next generation,” she said, “and how we can inspire them to also go into design and be able to work in an industry such as this.”