Alumnus blends tradition with innovation to make marble marvels

Brian Madden Studio

The best players in the NFL received these custom, marble sculptures created by Brian Madden '11 (industrial design) for being named to the NFL Players Association’s Players’ All-Pro team.

As top NFL players unbox their awards for being named to the NFL Players Association’s Players’ All-Pro team, their appreciation of the artistry is evident. 

“That is so cool,” recently-retired Eagles center Jason Kelce said in a video on the NFLPA’s Instagram. “What is this, solid marble?” 

“What is this, countertop?” Las Vegas Raiders punter AJ Cole then quips. “This is phenomenal.” 

The surprise trophy kits for players being voted by the NFLPA as the best at their positions are, indeed, marble. And they were designed by Brian Madden ’11 (industrial design). 

Commissioned by the NFLPA to design a new award for its Players’ All-Pro team, Madden turned to natural stone, creating 31 hand-built trophies using nero marquina marble, inspired by a classic white panel football silhouette. Each was made with a personal touch, featuring Madden’s unique playbook illustrations representing the recipient’s team and role on the field. 

Madden is a multidisciplinary artist and designer known for his novel use of marble and remnant artifacts to create sculpture, furniture, paintings, and installations with an elevated, imaginative tone. 

“I explore concepts that blur the line between art, design, and craft, and I’m as inspired by the process of creation as much as I am by the finished objects themselves,” Madden said. 

His San Francisco-based creative practice is split between creating fine art and design commissions for global brands. Informed by his experience as an industrial and environmental designer, he leads projects to activate iconic brands like NFLPA, EA Sports, Google, Nike, The North Face, Target, and others.

“My true passion all along has been to dream up ideas and bring them to life, regardless of form or function,” Madden said.

While at RIT, Madden had a transformative study abroad experience that shifted his creative direction toward what his practice is today — one that welcomes dialogue between fine art and design.

“During a summer studying fashion and product design in Milan, Italy, I fell in love with all the natural stone and terrazzo throughout the city and it led me down a new path toward a more artistic flavor of design in my final year at RIT,” Madden said. “Thanks to mentorship from (Vignelli Center Director) Josh Owen, I began to lean into more of a blend of fine art and design thinking to create objects and experiences with their own stories.”

Madden regularly partners with fabricators, collectors, brands, and organizations to explore new techniques and bring imaginative concepts to life. His artwork celebrates moments in time, referencing cultural symbols and natural inspiration with bold, unexpected uses of material and color.

Before starting his own practice, Madden was a full-time designer for IDL Worldwide (now SGK), Nike, and Target. During that time, he also exhibited pieces related to sculpture, visual art, and fashion, along with artful design objects, in galleries. 

Additional fine art commissions and projects by Madden

  • A marble inlay mosaic floor tile installation for the Serena Williams building at Nike World Headquarters.
  • A 235-pound marble tree stump made of brown sequoia quartzite, verde marble, statuario, brass, epoxy, MDF, plywood, and redwood burl for a private collector.
  • “Six Months in Dogpatch,” a visual collection marking Madden’s first half year of artistic practice in his San Francisco studio. Each piece is an abstract landscape of natural stone and epoxy dust, carried by water thrown from tools during sculpture and award production. He dismantled and reframed the byproduct as the artwork itself. A large diptych from the collection was shown at The de Young Open 2023, the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco’s triennial survey of Bay Area art at The de Young Museum.

The NFLPA trophies Madden made are a slice of his NFL-related artwork. 

For the last three years, Madden also created custom awards for EA Sports’ Madden NFL video game franchise’s 99 Club, a designation for players achieving the highest possible rating in the game. The awards went to players like Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Travis Kelce.

Madden’s marble inlay and gold leaf award sculptures were protected by bespoke art-handling kits, and each award included a notch to display a custom medallion by jewelry designer Jason of Beverly Hills. And because the sculptures are in the shape of an end-zone pylon, he also provided each recipient with a custom field turf display panel so they could display their awards on the same surface they earned them on

The 2023 version was included in the game’s franchise mode, and they have made other notable appearances as well.

“My friends and relatives often send me screenshots of Travis and Jason Kelce's New Heights podcast, where you can see a couple of my awards in the background next to Travis,” Madden said.

Fine art installations on the RIT campus were among Madden’s early creative inspirations. He said public works by Josef Albers, Harry Bertoia, Aleksandra Kasuba, and Jose de Rivera “punctuated my days studying design.” Those pieces — as well as meeting Lella and Massimo Vignelli at the grand opening of RIT’s Vignelli Center for Design Studies — solidified Madden’s “love of the blurry space between art and design.”

“I loved the RIT industrial design program because I could explore and experiment with the hard and soft skills needed to build a life as a creative problem solver,” Madden said, “while constantly expanding my worldview through collaboration and communication. I wouldn’t be the creative I am today without my time at RIT.”

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