Graphic kicks

What’s wrong with World Cup posters? There are precious few classics for the biggest audience-puller in the sporting world, a contest that has been going strong since the 1930s. Yolanda Zappaterra asked six designers to remember their favourites.

Is the Fifa World Cup bigger than the Olympic Games? For most, the answer would be yes. Familiarity with players, teams and the game, and the belief that, had we had the luck, opportunity and skill, we too could have been a Wayne Rooney, make the World Cup a heady mix that captures our imagination and excitement more than any other global event.

So why isn’t this reflected in Fifa’s graphics? While the Olympics have produced a range of iconic imagery, it would be hard to call to mind not just most of the World Cup posters, but even Fifa’s logo. Here, we ask designers to choose their favourite World Cup poster designs.

Robert Ball

Robert Ball, Design director, The Partners

Looking back at 80 years of World Cup posters, it’s surprising how unmemorable they are. I like a couple of them as cultural artifacts, especially the very early posters. If I close my eyes and think of the World Cup I can immediately access iconic images. Marco Tardelli’s unsurpassable goal celebration for Italy against West Germany, Gazza’s tears and the Hand of God caught in the perpetual blur of freeze-frame. Is it impossible to translate this kind of drama into the World Cup identity? The only image that’s come close in recent years is Nike’s picture of a demonic Wayne Rooney with the flag of Saint George daubed across his chest. Patriotism will perhaps always be a more fertile ground for football campaigns – who wants to be holding hands around the world when you can be stuffing Germany 5-1? And it’s heartening to think that iconic images ultimately aren’t created by the World Cup brand. They’re created spontaneously, joyfully and – if you’re English – heartbreakingly by the most important people. The poor buggers on the pitch.

Jitendra Purohit, Designer and design blogger, Mumbai

The poster I find the most appealing is Brazil 1950, with France 1938 a close second. The literalness of the ‘foot’ and the ‘ball’, and the images of the flags of all the countries participating in it, complement the main essence of the logo, and you don’t need to think twice to get it. In terms of capturing the essence of an era, Mexico 1970 is spot on.

Steve Price, Founder, Plan-B Studio

I think all the posters are quite dire. The 1954 Switzerland poster seems to be the only one that isn’t trying to prove too much, as does the quite simple (and therefore better) 1962 Chile poster. These seem simpler because they were. Less fuss, less mess, more graphical without the gimmicks and ’FIFA-fluff’. These graphical posters are the way posters should be; striking and rich with simple information. The Mexico poster from 1970 also ticks some of these boxes. The 1974 West Germany poster stands out for its attention to set the typography with some degree of sensibility. The worst has to be 1994 USA. It screams. Literally.

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