The history of World Cup designs: from French mascots to garish kits

As football fever continues to sweep the globe, we ask designers to tell us about their favourite ever World Cup designs, from branding and posters to kits and promotional videos.

Joe Ryrie, co-founder, Onwards

“Mexico’s goalkeeper Jorge Campos’ self-designed kits from USA ‘94 are permanently imprinted in my subconscious. Or perhaps more aptly, burnt into my retinas. Widely derided at the time for their garish eccentricity, they were oversized, over-designed, over-the-top and unlike anything any keeper had ever worn before. Probably not one for the purists, but if good design is about getting noticed, he nailed the brief. And walking through Dalston this summer, I now think he looked about 25 years ahead of his time.”


Manda Wilks, creative and community leader, Season Zine and Working Not Working

“Growing up as a ‘90s kid, the Italy, US and France World Cups will always resonate with me as an iconic time for football design.

I’m taking us back to 1998. France was chosen to host the World Cup for the second time in its history, The Lightning Seeds’ footy anthem was released, Zinedine Zidane’s headers were in their element, and Brazil ending up losing 0-3 at the final to France. And me? I played hours of FIFA on the Nintendo with my brothers.

For every World Cup, FIFA commissions creatives to recreate the glory and greatness of the game with cultural fundamentals from each host nation. I love the official logo in the French national colours, with the football rising over France on the Earth’s horizon. The official poster was designed by a student and the mascot is called Footix. Everything about France ‘98’s design is nostalgic to me but let’s not forget the beauty of the kit too – the blue shirt with tricolour Adidas stripes down the sleeves and collar. Winner.”


Pali Palavathanan, co-founder and creative director, Templo

“For me, Italia ‘90 is the last World Cup branding scheme to feel authentic. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s the first World Cup I remember watching as a kid or because it was one of the most thrilling tournaments we’ve ever had.

Since then, subsequent schemes have been hijacked by corporate interests and designed by committee.

Seeing Vittorio Picconi‘s logo with the Milton Glaser Stencil typeface and the geometric Mascot ‘Ciao’ immediately conjures up memories of Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma, Cameroon entertaining the crowds and Paul Gascogne in tears.

Because of the success of the tournament there’s a really strong emotional connection to the branding. I suppose it’s a bit chicken and egg. What came first? Great identity scheme or the great tournament?”


Matt Baxter, co-founder, Baxter and Bailey

“I hope you won’t mind allowing me a moment of self-indulgence. My favourite piece of World Cup-related cultural shrapnel is the seminal 2006 football single ‘That’s England Alright’ by Joe Fagin, a crafty reworking of Joe’s 1984 number three hit ‘That’s Livin’ Alright’ (itself the theme tune to classic ITV drama ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’).

The idea to release a single for the 2006 World Cup was cooked up by studio 300million, which Dom Bailey and I were partners in at the time. Some called it a monumental folly, others (us) called it a work of self-promotional genius. While I think Joe Fagin enjoyed the whole wheeze more than anyone, the fun we designers had releasing a chart single was huge. Sadly, the money we spent pressing and distributing a chart single was even huger.

A slightly embarrassing video can still be found in the depths of YouTube for those with a hunger for World Cup marginalia and an interest in comedy Saint Georges Cross wigs.”


Jane Bowyer, designer and illustrator

“I’m not a huge football fan, but one thing I like about the World Cup is the self-initiated work that comes from it — from wall-charts to animated gifs to exhibitions to beer mats. Two of my favourites from this year have been Sweet Left Foot, capturing the wonderful and wackiest moments of the World Cup in gif form and this poster by Idle Letters made up of 50 of the greatest ever World Cup footballers.”


Sam Farrow, creative and managing director, Farrow Creative

“It has to be Italy’s history of kits. Representing a nation globally renowned for style and fashion, Italian footballers are honour-bound to look good, even when they’re losing. Proving that great design never dates, since 1911 they’ve graced the game with their distinctive kit, from which they take their nickname Gli Azzurri (‘The Blues’).

Like all Italian national teams, they shun their flag’s green, white and red, honouring instead Italy’s pre-republican past in the blue traditionally associated with the Royal House of Savoy. And while collars, piping, fabrics, fit and other details have changed over time, the basic design has endured, and become a true football icon.”


What’s your favourite ever World Cup design? Let us know in the comments below.

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