Behind the Design: "Law & Order"

The movie "Tombstone," about famous Arizona lawman Wyatt Earp and his exploits surrounding Shootout at the O.K. Corral in 1881, formed the basis of our design for Riverside County's Major Crimes Unit - modern day lawmen taking on the most notorious of criminals in the Inland Empire, California's own "Wild West." 

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Riverside County, which begins about an hour east of the L.A. Metropolitan area, is a part of Southern California characterized by it's hot desert climate, sparsely dispersed population, and a traditionally frontier-like lifestyle that has earned the region the nickname "the Wild West" within the SoCal law enforcement community. As a result, when we were approached by the Sheriff's Department's Major Crimes Unit, the decision was made immediately to go with a distinctly Western theme - specifically, one celebrating the historic Western law enforcement tradition. 

The "Wild West" is a place and time in history that gave birth to an entire host of now-famous outlaws and lawmen, but among law enforcement, no story is more legendary than that of Wyatt Earp and the Shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881. While many films have documented the exploits of Earp and his lawmen, none have become more iconic in modern times than that of the 1993 film Tombstone. The imagery from the movie formed the basis of our design for Riverside County's Major Crimes Unit - modern day lawmen taking on the most notorious of criminals in California's "Wild West." 

The most well-known image from the movie is that of the 4 black-cloaked lawmen walking to the O.K. Corral leading up to the legendary gunfight. But by now, that image has been overused in popular culture, and we wanted something different that would be unique, but still recognizable. Thus, we chose the scene from the movie where Earp, his brothers, and "Doc" Holliday pose for a portrait for the composition - but for a bit more edge, we stitched elements of two different photos together, using parts taken from the movie poster, where the four lawmen are armed, to give a more ominous look. Also borrowed from the movie is the famous line spoken by Wyatt Earp, when addressing the town Sheriff on his arrival in Tombstone: "law and order every time, that's us." 



But that's all that was borrowed from the movie - the rest of the design is filled with symbolism tying the modern Major Crimes Unit to the actual legendary Tombstone lawmen. In the original scene, Virgil Earp wields a double-barreled shotgun - in ours, he instead carries a modern-day Benelli M4, a semiautomatic shotgun widely used by military and law enforcement. Above the center of the design, inside a circle, is a symbol known as the "Rain Cross" (shown below) - the official symbol for Riverside since 1907, and a reflection of the region's combination of Spanish missionary and Native American heritage. The silhouetted badge at the bottom is a hybrid between the modern six-pointed star used by the Riverside Sheriff's Department, and a historic Western Sheriff's badge, which bore circles at the tip of each point. 



Finally, in a historic finishing touch we are especially proud of, the entire design sits within a decorative frame. That frame, however, was actually copied from a genuine poster advertising the grand opening of the Stetson Hat Company's story in Tombstone, AZ in 1882 - the year after the shootout at the O.K. Corral took place.



The final design was filled with history and symbolism and came together beautifully, but for an Old Western design, it still looked a little to "clean." So to give it a touch of Western grunginess, we applied a vintage distressing texture over the entire design, giving it a rough and weather-beaten look that looks pure Wild West. 

We are very proud of this design because, in a single piece of artwork, it embodies all the design principles we strive for - visual balance and wearable simplicity, meaningful historical references, imagery that has relevance to the general public but also a deeper symbolic meaning known only to those within the unit, and a mix of elements that tie the overall theme to the unit itself. 

In every Unit T-shirt Division design, we strive to be not just graphic designers, but storytellers. That key component is what separates us from all the hundreds of other apparel companies out there, and what makes our products not just unit t-shirts, but symbols of the ongoing legacy that our customers are part of. 

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