Typography plays an integral role in the world of football shirts.
Many of the best kits have been blessed with a font that elevates an already beautiful design. Sometimes kits are paired with a typeface that’s more on the... bizarre end of the spectrum. Either way, the letters and numbers on the front and back of shirts tell stories as colourful as the patterns of the kits themselves.
In recent weeks, we’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Football Type 2, a book which is undoubtedly the most comprehensive piece on shirt typography that’s even been put together. The project is as informative as it is beautiful, and we spoke to the creator Rick Banks to find more...
Q: Can you give us a brief overview of Football Type 2?
A: It’s the sequel and revised edition to Football Type — an award-winning book celebrating typography and football.
From a patchy beginning as strictly identificatory aids, shirt numbers have grown in significance, with players gaining such attachment to the digits on their backs that they become part of their individual brands. The business of designing fonts reflects that and Football Type 2 is a celebration of that creativity as well as the historic stories behind the numbers.
Q: What kicked off the original Football Type project? Was it a spur of the moment thing, or something that was years in the making?
A:Like all good projects, the idea started when I was chatting in the pub to a colleague about how I got into design. I remember trying to copy the lettering from Umbro’s 1993 condensed slab serif, in particular Peter Schmeichel, in the back of my school books. This fuelled my passion to progress a career in design from an early age. So the launch of the Football Type series of books sits particularly close to my heart.
Like Football Type 2, the original book took around 2 years to make.
Q: Did you always envision a sequel for the original Football Type, or was Football Type 2 born out of necessity?
A:No, I was originally very against it. I always think I should be coming up with new ideas, not re-hashing old ones. Plus there was that ‘dreaded sequel’ mentality too. However, the more years that went on and the more emails I was getting about the original book, I thought it was a good idea to reprint the original content and update it with lots of new lovely additions.
Q: Do you have any favourite typefaces in the book?
A:Paul Barnes’ duotone lettering for England in 2012 is a beautiful example. His use of using two different reds had never been done before and was very memorable. And I love the fact that there was a holistic approach to the typography and kit design. The duotone matched the 2 shades of red in the collar.
Mart Anderson’s bold typography for the Estonia FA, again in 2012, is another highlight. Based on the Estonian tradition of stone-carving, the angular shapes look simple but are in fact based on a strict system of rake angles — each adjacent letter fits together in a mosaic-like fashion to form a complete pattern. While the new typography was instantly recognisable to Estonians, it was new and fresh on the world stage.
Of course, I’m going to have to plug our recent design for the MLS too!
Q: Are there any developments you'd like to see in the typeface world?
A:I’d like to see clubs and brands commission more type designers. Thankfully, since publishing the original book, I have seen this happen but there are still lots of type that still gets done in-house or by marketing agencies.
Huge thanks to Rick for taking the time to speak with us!
Also, as was hinted earlier, Rick was the man behind the latest MLS font! It's a big week for MLS, as they celebrate their best shirts past and present with an all-time bracket. Read our thoughts on some of the best shirts that sadly missed out on consideration.
If any of these typefaces have reminded you of classic shirts, why not pick up a vintage shirt from our collection in store. Browse our shirts here.