Design of Fox’s Baseball Tracker Graphic

Tod Vaziri, Jason Snell and others are bothered about the design of Fox Sports 1’s score box. Baseball has three outs each half of an inning, but the graphic on screen displays two circles for outs because the third out ends each half of an inning. Presumably, it’s not important for live sports to illustrate that there were three outs for a few seconds while the broadcast segways into commercials.

Does anyone who’s watching a baseball game not know that there are three outs per side in an inning? Probably not. That’s why this is not a major design foul. But still, it grates. Outs is a concept that adds up to three, but the outs graphic adds up to two. As John Gruber wrote, the better decision would be to show all three outs, fill in the third out at the end of the inning, and then fade out the entire graphic as you go to a commercial break.

The entire genre of the on-screen score box, which was introduced to America twenty years ago as Fox Sports’s Fox Box), is a fascinating design playground. Before 1994, American sports broadcasts didn’t feature a persistent indicator of the current score and game status. (The box apparently was invented in 1992 for English soccer.) These days, it’s hard to imagine a televised sport without it. The boxes vary by sport, obviously, but also by individual broadcaster—each one has its own idiosyncratic take on how best to present dynamic information in a small space.

As a study in design in practice, I agree with the criticism. The score box is misleading, because I’m looking for an indicator of three on a graphic that doesn’t represent 169 years of three outs. But I also understand the logic of Fox’s designers. Who doesn’t know when the third out has taken place? The play happens, then the players rotate on the field immediately after. That’s the sure sign that there are three outs.

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Joe Darnell

Joe is a UI and graphic designer with prior experience as the creative director for three media-based businesses. Joe’s passionate about web design and graphic design with about 15 years of experience in the media industry. Additionally, Joe is the host of the Top Brew and Techtonic podasts, both featured on iTunes.