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Custom typefaces were the big losers in Mundial and Götze is to blame


t was the first year of the 50’s when Brazil hosted the World Cup for the first time. Then, almost two hundred thousand people gathered in the Maracanã Stadium to watch their nation’s pride Seleção against Uruguay. It was an epic moment, as the world’s largest stadium, which resembles a spaceship, was meant to embody not only Brazil’s athletic ambition but also “the country’s place in the modern world.” Unfortunately, Brazil lost 2 to 1 in that match and its “stray-dog complex” has remained alive up to the present day, despite of the five World Cups that has won since then. Fast forward to today. Brazil remains a dog howling for domination. Deutschland had its payback time against Argentina and a young man, for many also an arrogant, became the golden German boy du jour. But if you are a typophile you probably won’t appreciate Götze’s sweaty victory. No, you are ok with just another trophy that has no typographic interest to it. You see, Germany’s jerseys had the same condensed typeface as every other jersey of any other national team Adidas was responsible for. The ribbon-like numbers with shadows at their lower parts and the name lettering with its typical grotesque design are not for sure the winning bet of the World Cup Design 2014. Herr Götze, Typeroom is here to remind you of every design lesson this Mundial has to offer. Please do read on.

Design lesson #1: You can make history by using Helvetica in two-color mode

It seems that in the world of football people get mad about this sans-serif typeface and there are two designers out there to prove it. Rick Hincks' absolutely minimal posters depicting the best goals ever, that are up for sale if you pay a visit to Rick Hincks' shrine, are something to remember. In these two-color diagrams of memories, that every football fan has to know by default, Helvetica is the only type element that demands our attention. In the same, distilled way, Criswell Lappin of the Wellnow Design celebrated 80 years of international football history. Stripped down to the bare essentials his vivid project shares with football the element of simplicity. 

image via theworld32 and Rincks Print Shop

Design lesson #2: You can require anything insane if your name is FIFA

Yes, of course you can. In case you thought that designing a World Cup football kit was relatively straightforward, FIFA’s 92-page Equipment Regulations suggest the opposite. With some of the strangest or strictest design guidelines, FIFA has managed to keep manufacturers’ logos toned down and that’s a plus. So, dear designer, please follow some of the most strict rules available out there
•     The size of the number on the back of each shirt used by Players in any men’s Match must be between 25cm and 35cm in height and positioned in the centre of the back of the shirt.
•    The number must be entirely visible when the Player’s shirt is tucked into the shorts.
•    The stroke width of the figure of the numbers on the back of the shirt used by Players must be between 3cm and 5cm.
•    The number on the front of the shirt must be positioned at chest level. The size of the number must be between 10cm and 15cm in height.
•    The Player’s name must be positioned above the number on the back of the shirt. The letters used for the Player’s name shall be between 5 and 7.5cm in height and must be separated from the number by at least 4cm.
Or else go where no one can hear you “scream”. The whole regulations can be seen here.

image via fifa

Design lesson #3: The earlier the Mundial, the better the poster design

“The World Cup comes around once every four years, and with it comes the official poster. Some of them are as iconic as a Gordon Banks save or Cruyff turn, and others are as boring as a goalless draw between Bolivia and South Korea. While recent editions have become increasingly corporate, taken as a whole they are a delightful slither of global graphic design history over the last 84 years. With the twentieth edition of the competition just around the corner, I recently embarked on my own World Cup poster project, re-imagining each tournament poster and hopefully improving on some of the originals!” With these words James Taylor re-designed the official World Cup posters from 1930 to 2014- with a vintage approach that is both fresh and contemporary. You can see his work here.

image via behance

Design lesson #4: You will be amazed at how football inspired magazines are so not dead

With Eight By Eight, design duo Priest+Grace have created what they call “the magazine the beautiful game deserves.” This quarterly publication is devoted entirely to soccer and its eye-popping illustrations by noted artists are the perfect match to a very basic typographic approach. Another case of exceptionally good football journalism is Howler. This football magazine was crowd-funded raising $69,001 and for its fifth issue, the World Cup edition, the cover was a typographic synthesis with an illustrated cup in the center.

image via howler

Design lesson #5: You will appreciate a team some 27% more if it has a customized typeface

World Cup is the biggest football event of the universe so it’s a good opportunity to pit rival typefaces against each other to determine once and for all which is the best. Today, many national teams use custom typefaces for their jerseys but in most cases, for the sake of fresh appearance, legibility is not the basic design guideline. The first notable attempt is from 2006’s World Cup abutting to 2014’s where much more teams had their own typeface. The following typefaces were designed exclusively for each country. Unfortunately, no one made it to the final.

Case Brody
Nike commissioned Neville Brody to design a custom typeface for the World Cup 2014 English jersey. As he said, inspiration was focused on the intersection between flair and workmanlike reliability. The result is a sans serif condensed, rounded typeface with tight spacing. Numbers are decorated with a diagonal pinstripe motive and slight stencil cuts to give an industrial aesthetic.

image via designboom

Fundição Brasil
Brazil was the organizing country for World Cup 2014. Nike is the responsible brand for Brazil’s jerseys, so they developed a unique condensed typeface inspired by the hand-printed posters seen on Brazilian streets. Numbers are bottom-heavy with thickness curt switching like those on marker-made fonts. Letters are more consistent with equal bottom and top weight.

image via designboom

The typeface Nike created for Portugal’s World Cup 2014 jerseys is a modern version of the traditional Art Deco letterings used on Portuguese signs. Both letters and numbers have the same design elements producing a condensed typeface with plain curves.

image via designboom

Case Crouwel
During World Cup 2010, Nike used a typeface with full square characteristics reflecting the De Stijl movement on Dutch jerseys numbers. For Netherlands’ World Cup 2014 jersey, Nike collaborated with the famous graphic designer and typographer Wim Crouwel. This is also the 125th anniversary jersey for Netherlands, so Crouwel -in collaboration with Floor Wesseling-  created an inline squarish typeface with retro aesthetic based on "Gridnik" typeface. Inline numbers were used widely in football in the 70’s.

image via designboom

Got a minute to spare? Relive the three best goals of the international soccer tournament 2014 until 2018 rolls around thanx to Stabilo.

By Yiannis Lampropoulos