Nuggets celebrate Women's History Month: Kelley Kocher's trailblazing path
A 1989 graduate of Indiana University, Kelley Kocher remembers a time when there weren’t many women in graphic design – especially in sports. So, she got creative.
“My maiden name is Hamm…I took a piece of foam rubber and cut it into the shape of a slice of ham. I spray painted it and put a fake bone into it, I wrapped it up with meat packing paper and my resume was inside. I wrapped it with cotton string and wrote like a butcher would write,” Kocher explained.
It was that originality that ultimately led Kocher to a graphic design role with the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls during its first title trifecta, working with the organization from 1990-95.
“I have three championship rings,” she quickly pointed out.
Interestingly enough, Kocher was not a huge sports fan when she joined the Bulls.
“I was their graphic designer for five years and I developed their department. I lucked out because I didn’t even know Michael Jordan played on a team, let alone the Bulls. All I heard was,
‘Oh he’s this amazing basketball player’ she said with a laugh.
For Kocher, the Bulls opportunity was a chance to showcase her skills after a few months of trying to land a position in graphic design. After getting away from sports for a bit and moving to the greater Denver area, Kocher would have another opportunity to work in sports, this time with Ascent Sports, which would eventually become Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Rapids and Mammoth among other entities.
After experiencing a championship culture in Chicago, Kocher admits she had to adjust to a Nuggets team that was rebuilding. Yet, an opportunity to build a new foundation and cultivate new and innovate content excited her and she’s excelled in her role as Executive Director of Creative Imaging at KSE for 23 years and counting.
During her time with the organization, Kocher has been incredibly mindful of trying to remain up to date with the latest trends and hire a team that has a wide range of experiences.
“I have a staff of eight people now and honestly, on a daily basis, I learn from them and I hope they learn things from me too.” Kocher said.
Andy Le, who is the Nuggets’ senior graphic designer, has enjoyed having a chance to learn from Kocher during his four years with the organization.
“She's been a great mentor for me as she's been in the design and sports world for so long. She's seen everything,” Le said. “The work that she has put in at KSE has been tremendous from her team's production on the Nuggets rebrand to the work they do in the arena. We're very lucky to have her.”
As Le mentioned, it was Kocher and her team who helped lead the creative direction of the Nuggets’ rebrand in 2018 and City Edition jerseys over the past two years.
“The proudest project that I’ve worked on was the Nuggets’ logo changeover…We had the new coloration, so we removed the light blue and did all five [new] logos. That was the year  that we came out with what we’re currently wearing. That by far was my proudest moment. I worked on all of the logos.
She added, “I worked closely with the NBA and Nike with that and that whole journey project, and it was just super satisfying. The fact that it got such great reviews, it was like ‘Yeah! We did it!’”
As the graphic design industry continues to become more diverse, Kocher offers this advice for women who are trying to follow in her path.
“Just opening your mind, that you don’t want to target one city. Being willing to look at teams all over the country,” she said. “Constantly following their social and following designers who aren’t necessarily in sports [team] design, but sports-related design like outfitters.”