Football stickers, pitch patterns and fan art: the defining designs of the Premier League

As the new season of the Premier League gets underway this weekend, we mark its 25th birthday by speaking to designers about their favourite pieces of design from its history.

Richard Scholey, creative director, The Chase

“For stand out graphics you need look no further than the goalkeeping kits of the 1990s, which make Grayson Perry’s outfits appear positively dowdy. Why anybody would think these look good is another question but I would imagine taking a penalty against anyone wearing one would have made your eyes water; maybe that was the plan.

In terms of the design I’ve enjoyed most, it would have to be the pitch patterns cut in to the grass, with the concentric circles emanating from the centre spot being my own personal favourite. In terms of design criteria they were highly original –creating quite a stir when they first appeared –strikingly graphic, demonstrated a clever use of materials, and were expertly executed. Not sure the linesman would agree though.”

Leanne Kitchen, designer, Johnson Banks

“My favourite piece of design from the past 25 years of Premier League is in fact 504 separate collectable designs, each as nostalgic, yet questionable as the last. Merlin’s Premier League official football sticker collection from 1998 included poorly chosen, cut-out photography, with deep drop shadows, accompanied by dodgy Nineties hairdos and thick moustaches. It’s the year that my home team of Barnsley Football Club were promoted to the Premier League, only to be relegated the following year. Surely the hearts of anyone growing up in the 1990s still miss a beat when they see these cards, because of the adrenalin fuelled memories of opening a pack and catching a rare glimpse of a ‘shiny’.”

Pali Palavathanan, co-founder & creative director, Templo

“The last 25 years of football has seen the gulf between clubs and their fan bases widen, leaving fans feeling disconnected and overlooked. The Premier League is now a multi-billion pound industry. Football clubs are run as well-oiled businesses first and foremost, focused on profit, and with fans being seen more and more as ‘consumers’ rather than supporters.

Being a big Liverpool fan – a club soaked in history – I’ve always been mesmerised by the flags and mosaics created by the fans themselves. They are used to tell the history of the club, pass down stories of old idols through the generations and sometimes convey political views. Most recently, the Jeremy Corbyn banner was unveiled at Anfield, as was the Justice for 1996 campaign.

It is the perfect democratic platform for people to voice their opinions and make themselves heard – so much more powerful than anything else the Premier League produces (apart from the football itself obviously!)”

Jack Renwick, creative director and founder, Jack Renwick Studio

“This question has been dividing opinion and sparking some passionate debate in our studio this week – from the iconic design of the 1991-1993 Arsenal ‘bruised banana’ shirt, to the exquisite craft and aesthetic beauty of David Beckham’s pants. Luckily no physical fights have broken out.

Being a Scot though, the Scottish Premiership is where my own heart lies and where brave and bold design really took a step up in 2015 with David Shrigley’s brilliant mascot design for Partick Thistle. ‘Kingsley’ the yellow sun ‘angsty fan’ delighted grannies, terrified children, intimidated players and caused general mayhem on the streets of Glasgow. But it’s clever design thinking and execution enabled a lesser known, but by no means lesser team, to grab headlines on a global stage. Described by critics as ‘a hastily penned monobrow, empty dead eyes and a jagged skull’ – what better visual cues does a classic piece of design need?! Genius.”

Gordon Reid, art director and senior designer, Middle Boop

“There’s so much amazing and equally terrible design to choose from in the Premier League’s rich history. I’m going to be totally biased though and pick a Crystal Palace kit, as they’re my team. I’m going for the 1998/1999 home kit that was worn during our brief stay in the top flight in that era. This particular kit was a bold statement by Adidas, as it was the first kit since the 1970s that didn’t feature the famous red and blue stripes (which are usually there to represent the five boroughs that make up the area of South London that Palace covers.) The Adidas stripes down the arms, the subtle change in the tone of the red – It’s a beautiful kit.”

Harry Smith, designer, Together Design

“Some kits have held a place in my heart more for the things that players have done in them than for how well designed they were. Temuri Ketsbaia attempting to kick an advertising hoarding to death in the 1997/1998 Newky Brown kit springs to mind, as does the sight of Eric Cantona vaulting foot-first into the Selhurst Park crowd in the stylish black away strip of the 1994/1995 season. However it was the sight of The King’s collar-popped version of the home strip from that season that captured my imagination, and kicked off my over 20 year obsession with the beautiful game.”

Fleur Isbell, senior designer, Wolff Olins

“Did I become a goalie for Downend Flyers Under 10s team because I got to wear the craziest, coolest, most courageous shirt designs? You bet! So bad that they are good, I just had to have the goalie kit. As a long-time Man United fan (originally because I liked red), Schemichal’s 1992-1993 RGB, Umbro, distorted line-attack shirt, complete with matching shorts was obviously a standout. They just don’t make kit like that now.

I like to imagine the designers back then pressing some “go extreme” button and all of the constrained ideas from designing the main kit all getting thrown together to create these fantastic, brightly coloured, pattern-tastic creations. And this design trend certainly wasn’t exclusive to the Premier League. After all, no one is ever going to forget David Seaman’s Euro96 number.”

Tessa Simpson, design director, O Street

“I’m originally from Manchester, and as you might imagine, the football culture has a strong presence in the city. One of my favourite pieces of design from recent times is the evolution of the Manchester City club crest. The new logo — described aptly as a ‘modern original’ — is strongly inspired by the classic badge design, which was introduced in 1960. It features a blue outlined roundel – an adapted version of the coat of arms of the city of manchester – and a clean, contemporary typeface. The simple design has a nice gravitas and nods to the heritage of the club, as well as benefitting from the input of thousands of MC fans.”

Hide Comments (1)Show Comments (1)
  • Phil January 1, 2018 at 11:09 am


  • Post a comment

Latest articles