The World Cup of Typography.

Scott Richmond


With the FIFA World Cup ‘Football’ (I'm hesitant to use the term ‘soccer’ for fear of offending the World Game aficionados) well and truly underway, it’s been interesting to see the impact this sport has on the design industry.

I must admit, I haven’t watched much of this tournament, however I’ve kept a keen eye on results – of course I have a vested interest in the office sweeps – and in keeping tabs on news articles from the rectangle pitches of Russia, I’ve heard the murmurings of some design faux pas.

So I did what any inquisitive creative would do and dug a little deeper. What I found was a sub ‘World Cup’ of sorts between two leading brands and the executions of the way their team kits are brought to life through design and in particular, typography.

The two leading brands in question are Nike and Adidas, with complete domination of World Cup uniform sponsorship. But while the two sporting giants are in bed with over 60% of the teams between them, (Nike 10, Adidas 12 out of 32 teams) the winner of this popularity contest is more than just a numbers game… it’s more like a numbers and letters game.

With some of the uniforms themselves taking more than three years to design (wouldn’t mind that contract hey!), some of the results are pretty impressive as you would expect. However it’s the craft of typography that captures my attention and on which I have based the winner of this contest.

Nike have gone all out and designed bespoke fonts for all teams wearing the Swoosh brand. There's some cracking designs, however here's a couple of my personal favourites.

With a unique style, the France 2018 World Cup font includes a beautiful touch of detail – the design features subtle hexagons, inspired by the geometric shape of France. The France 2018 World Cup jerseys also feature the phrase "Nos Differences Nous Unisset” (Our Differences Unite Us) inside the collar, housed in a hexagon.

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A stunning design and shape, the Brazil 2018 World Cup typeface violates the norms of regular, standard typefaces. Drawing inspiration from the country's vibrant and energetic lifestyle, each number of the Brazil 2018 World Cup font has a unique shape, and boasts a subtle zig-zag (home), or star-inspired (away) graphic pattern.

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Another notable mention has to go to the kit of Nigeria, which was iconic before it even took the pitch. Bright, edgy, and so cool, no wonder it's captured some attention.

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However, as much as it pains me to say it, my favourite kit has to be from the England team, purely based on the typography. A collaboration between Nike + Craig Ward, a British-born Design Director, known primarily for his pioneering typographic works, has resulted in a completely unique font. [Warning: type-nerd excitement alert]. Modeled in 3D, before being reconstructed in 2D, the font created by Ward incorporates the The St. George’s Cross into all the characters, making it dynamic, ultra modern and just so damn impressive.

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On the other side of the fence however things seem a little bleak in comparison. Adidas have thrown all their eggs in one basket, leading with just one custom typeface across all of their 12 team uniforms. It's beautifully crafted, with a very distinct look and a strong nod to traditional Soviet imagery. It’s raw and bold and to the eye of a designer, it’s got some serious sex appeal. However, it comes with some fundamental flaws – it’s just not legible when used on the back of a football shirt. Many letters can be easily misidentified, and some letters, like the Z, look exactly the same as numbers (2).

Form over function? Unfortunately I think this typeface has succumbed to the beauty and craft of type and failed to adhere to the simple ‘can I still read it' test – a major oversight in my opinion, especially when you’re typesetting names like DRAXLER... or is that OAAXLEA? DARKLER? ORAHLEA? DRAHLER? ORAXLER?

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So it's been entertaining doing a little research into this off-field battle, but there's no surprises for who I think takes the World Cup of Typography for 2018.

Well played Nike.

DesignScott Richmond