Design in the World Cup

Why I Watch the World Cup

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First and foremost, I watch football.

Whether that be a relief or a warning to the reader is up to the individual reading this post. I was born and raised in a country that is football-insane, and I am an unapologetic fan of the sport.

Every four years brings on that one particular summer event that pays homage to what is possibly the world’s most popular sport: the FIFA World Cup. It is a month where malls are out of football jerseys and pretty much every imaginable social gathering is completely congested with football fans watching the game from big screen televisions. Between matches, timezones of one’s current location and the city where the football tournament is hosted are carefully calculated, the resulting value determining the amount of sleep they’re willing to lose for a match or the amount of hours of nap time they should take before matches. I admit participating in this chaos, and I love it.

Most of all, my love for football is triggered by the global outreach of the sport that resonates with me particularly due to my third cultured upbringing. Football is a great example of a third cultured sport. I have not yet seen of another sport that can gather such a huge following and collective spirit in so many corners of the world. Even though the teams are that of nations, it is a sport that goes above and beyond the exclusivity of nationalism. The underlying message behind the World Cup is the continuous effort to eradicate racism, and even for the nations whose teams did not qualify, it is a sport where many strangers converge in front of a television and instantly become comrades in the interest of a common support for a team.

Another Reason I Watch the World Cup

I have recently grown to appreciate the various aesthetic aspects of the World Cup. Preparing for a world-wide sporting event involves the effort from various disciplines, especially that of design. Promotional material, interpretative collateral, team uniforms, and even the stadiums are dependent on these creative minds. So in between matches, I’ve been scouring the internet for various World Cup-related material that I feel offer an interesting insight into designing for sports events — or at least caught my attention over the course of the season.

The World Cup Predicted by Section Design (Paul Butt)

Design in the World Cup

This impressive infographic, called “The World Cup Predicted” is designed by Paul Butt of Section Design. It is a visualisation of the mathematical formula that tries to prove there is a closer relationship between a country’s performance in the World Cup and a country’s GDP, than a country’s performance and formation on the field. The graphic may not reflect the exact details of the remaining competing countries in current World Cup, but this publication design is both aesthetically pleasing and a refreshing look at team performance in this football tournament.

“The World Cup Predicted” was published on the June 2010 issue of WIRED UK.

South Africa 2010 Mosaics by Charis Tsevis

Design in the World Cup Design in the World Cup

Visual designer Charis Tsevis of Tsevis Visual Design conducted a personal experiment to explore the use of patterns and mosaics inspired by African culture. He takes a particular look into the art of the South Ndebele people, who have very strong artistic roots.

The above two mosaic portraits are that of USA’s iconic player Landon Donovan and South African midfielder Steven Pienaar. Donovan’s portrait consists of a colour scheme inspired by the Ndebele mural house decorations, whereas the vibrant portrait of Pienaar proudly displays the colours of the South African flag. There are a lot more portraits of the same motif on Charis Tsevis’ Flickr photostream set, “South Africa 2010”.

2010 World Cup Radial Bracket Poster by Hyperakt (Deroy Peraza)

Design in the World Cup

The designers at New York City-based studio Hyperakt made a poster to document the outcomes of this year’s participating teams. This poster is part of a creative funding initiative called Kickstarter, in order for the design to gain enough funding through donations for printing and distribution. Unsurprisingly, due to the global outreach of football — even among the design industry — the quota has been reached.

However, prior to printing, the poster design will continue to be updated based on the match outcomes. I assume the design has already been updated once. Towards, the end of June, the poster flanked the presumption that Argentina would bag the Cup. But due to their defeat of 4-0 against Germany last Saturday, more favour rests on Germany as champions this time around.

This project will be funded on July 25.

Spanish National Football Team’s New Away Kit

Design in the World Cup Design in the World Cup

The Spanish National Football Team’s newly designed away kit has been creating a buzz among some World Cup fans online. Most of the reactions that I have read are quite strong, whether they be for or against the new design. My own reaction is not exempt of the same intensity, but I am definitely one of the people who is impressed by the new threads.

Designed by one of my favourite sports brands, Adidas, the away kit deviates from using the flag colours as dominating hues and instead uses dark blue with red and gold trimmings. The result is understated yet classic and regal, the long sleeves add a unique additional accent to the ensemble. I was immediately impressed when the Spanish team walked onto the field with this new uniform during their quarter-final match against Paraguay last weekend, and though not featured on this post, I am also a fan of the presentation kits worn by the benched players.

“Quest” Commercial by Coca Cola

Design in the World Cup

Though not strictly design, I feel this needs to be included, too. Between halves in matches, I constantly see an advertisement called “Quest”, and am once again impressed by the giants that are Coca Cola. World Cup after World Cup they make successful advertisement campaigns, and this year’s production is phenomenal. I like the story behind it: a simple South African boy who comes to realises the value of his own potential in order to fulfill his dreams.

The animation of the commercial is exceptional, and the colour scheme chosen emphasises the warm and fuzzy yet encouraging underlying morale. But it’s precisely the type of feel-good I enjoy. (The commercial is available on YouTube.)

Six World Cup Days Left!

This coming Wednesday will be the match between Germany and Spain, and tonight — well, early Wednesday on my side of the world — will see the Netherlands and Uruguay go head to head. For tonight, I’m hoping the Netherlands emerges victorious, and for this Wednesday’s match, I’m torn between the two. I like both teams very much, but as I write this post, I am supporting Germany for this Wednesday, only because I am looking forward to seeing a Netherlands-Germany showdown for the World Cup finals. (Nothing like a match becoming both historical and political, no?) Nonetheless, I am very excited for what’s to happen as this tournament comes to a close.

What About You?

Do you watch football? If so, what teams do/did you support during this year’s World Cup?

(All images are credited to their respective owners. Click on any image to go to its source.)


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  3. Maria Celina

    @Krysten: It’s great to see you open to appreciating football through your husband, Krysten. Which team(s) did your husband root for?

    @Rose: Rose, thank you very much for appreciating the design approach to the World Cup. I’m happy you enjoyed the post!

    @Charles Ravndal: I did email you back on that, Charles, and I have yet to reply to your follow-up email. I should have the time to do so this weekend. Also, it was great getting to know you better via Facebook chat a few days ago. I’m comforted to know that despite the numerous places one can get lost in this planet, through our indirect connections, the world is smaller than I thought. I continue to wish you much luck and direction on your book.

    @Teddy: Thank you for the tweet-mention of this post, Teddy! My father is a golf person, my mother doesn’t subscribe to sports in general, and I think my brother is just obsessed with being involved in sports without settling for anything in particular. My father joined me in watching some of the matches in the 2006 World Cup, and for this year, started watching towards the Quarter-Final. It’s made for very nice conversations. Football is by far the only sport I love to watch, and also have some experience in, having played midfielder twice in girls’ team back in a whole other life.

    Regarding the “Radial Bracket” poster, the current version now shows the correct team placements, as they updated the poster after every match, if necessary. I agree, however, that the poster is easy to understand, and works for a successful infographic.

    Believe it or not, it is through your comment that I decided to make a post outlining my personal thoughts on the World Cup. I was torn between doing an inspiration post on a designer I read about a couple weeks ago on The New York Times website or doing a post-World Cup reflection for some days, and your comment helped. Perhaps the post will be the antidote — or the first of many antidotes — to my current World Cup withdrawal.

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  5. Teddy

    I don’t really watch soccer until it’s the World Cup season. I suspect it’s because my family, especially my dad, isn’t a big fan of the sport and we didn’t subscribe to a sports channel until a few years back. Nonetheless, I did follow the progress of most of the teams through this year’s World Cup and I have to say I’m a little hooked to it already *weak smiles*

    Out of all the works you have showcased, I adore the “Radical Bracket Poster” the most. It is simple, not overly complicated and extremely easy to understand. Their predictions are eerily accurate, except for the winner being Germany part.

    Now the World Cup is over, what do you feel about it? I hope you’re coping well with the withdrawal symptoms, like my many other bigtime soccer fan friends ;)

  6. Charles Ravndal

    Even though I am a sports minded person (I played football and also flag football), I am not really interested watching it on tv or live. But if I am involved in it then that’s another story.

    In terms of design, it fascinates me how they can evolve an existing design like a logo for example and incorporate something that it reflects the host country’s image.

    Btw, I am really eager to learn what you think about my book’s chapter 1..

  7. Rose

    Wow, what an amazing entry.

    I love so much of this, especially “World Cup Predicted” and “Quest”


  8. Krysten

    Yay for World Cup fever. I never had much appreciation for the World Cup until I met my husband, who is obsessed with soccer. So I watched along with him this year and the amazing patriotism felt by others countries is just AMAZING. Despite the fact that I don’t completely understand soccer I totally enjoyed it AND it was fun to bond with my hubby over it.

  9. Maria Celina

    @Gum: You mention something about tweeting, Gum. Do you have a Twitter account yourself? I’d love to follow you on that site, if you do.

    @jannie: I believe we had a brief conversation about football on Facebook, am I right, Jannie? The last Netherlands victory was against Brazil last Friday, and the Spain defeated Paraguay last Saturday. The semi-final teams are Germany, Uruguay, Netherlands, and Spain. Tonight, Netherlands will be playing Uruguay, so we’ll see if the Dutch emerges victorious again.

    I’m glad that you mentioned the military quality of the Spain away kit. I also sense that too, perhaps because of the regal appearance of the design. The dark blue makes it look like they’re part of a battalion or a government organisation that serves the country. (Though it’s not surprising, as their association name actually has the word “royal” in it.) I really wish that I could find a video start of the Spain-Paraguay match that happened last weekend, because the presentation kits worn by the benched players are simply amazing. I’ve always loved Adidas, and they impress with their recent kit designs for the Spanish team.

    Yes, it’s called football here. It’s called “soccer” in the general North American area, right? I believe that in general, areas with very strong European influences from the colonial times retain the term “football”. Sometimes the terminology of “football” and “soccer” can turn political. For me, “football” has always made more sense, as it’s a ball that is being manipulated with the foot, hence “football”. But I understand that the Americans have another sport whereby the name is also adopted.

    I’m also excited for the final outcome, and it’ll be yet another four-year wait.

    @Marie: I agree with you, Marie, on the effect of sports drawing in the attention of many corners of the world. Patriotism does happen, especially for countries whose teams did qualify for participation, but for those who have a deep love for the sport (most likely from European enculturation), it goes beyond one’s love for their own land. I did hear that Canada did extremely well in the Winter Olympics, so congratulations to you guys!

    @Kristine: That’s great to know the World Cup fever has hit your university, Kristine! The current underdog is probably the Netherlands, because it’s been a while since they made it to the semi-finals. This season has truly been a feast of surprising skills from many underdog teams — namely Ghana and USA. Yes, the American team is considered underdogs by many, and the reasons behind it tend to be more political than athletic.

    There were also great falls of many crowned names of football such as Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France and — excuse me while I feign weeping, England (though they haven’t had much to show since 1966, I’ve always supported them). I hope to see these surprises happen in the next World Cup. It is these deviations that keep the game exciting.

  10. Kristine

    I’ve seen a few games of soccer, but I’ve never gotten around to really knowing the sport and the many teams. That’s unfortunate because I’ve really enjoyed playing soccer at the beach during the summer program!

    I should really watch the last few games, though. It seems so exciting! It seems like everyone at the University has their eyes glued to the computer screens or television just to see the teams go at it.

    I’m not rooting for anyone, but I do hope that the underdog (whichever team that may be) wins!

  11. Marie

    I’m not a fan of football, or sports in general – the only thing I watch is hockey playoffs, since I live in a city that lives and breathes hockey. Even though I’m not a sports fan, I do admire the way that it draws the entire world in. I have never seen more unity or patriotism than during the World Cup or the Olympics (Canada went crazy patriotic during the Winter Olympics).

  12. jannie

    i haven’t watched world cup before. like i said, it would be interesting to watch and see many different nations play soccer/football. it’s so cool how it’s called football in other parts of the world. :)

    i like how you incorporated the design concept of the world cup in your post. those south africa mosaics are cool. i also like spain’s uniform. it’s very sleek and almost military cadet-like.

    speaking of world cup, i heard the netherlands won the latest match. i thought it was the last match, but that’s great there is six more days left. i wonder who’s going to be the overall champion. :)

  13. Gum

    I haven’t watched any World Cup tournament. With everyone twitting and talking about it, I feel the urge to learn about football/soccer. I never got the chance to know the game since it’s not popular in my home country so I barely know anything about it.

    But given that I can see how everyone is talking about it, I admit, I’m starting to get interested in knowing the game.

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