The first Football Type book was a bible for anyone interested in the unique cross-pollination of football and type design. Published in 2013, it was “as comprehensive a collation as could be” of the history of typography on football kits, writer Denis Hurley explains in the book’s introduction. Since then, an exponential increase in new fonts created for clubs, as well as more historical examples coming to light, drove the book’s creator Rick Banks – founder of type foundry Face37 – to embark on a sequel, expanded to reflect these new stories.
The book starts with the era between 1920–1960 looking at the early years of shirt numbers as purely practical elements, then moves on to the 70s, when brands and clubs first began to really consider the aesthetics and personality of kit lettering. In glorious detail, it explores each decade thereafter and the eclectic visual archive of football type design around the world, with large-scale imagery of the letterforms and plenty of nostalgic photography of the kits in use on the pitch. Banks and Hurley examine themes and trends throughout the years, and where clubs and brands have tweaked existing fonts or commissioned bespoke ones to channel their team’s identity through type.
There are also informative case studies on memorable moments of the genre, such as the official Premier League typeface introduced in 2007, designed by Sporting iD, and the La Liga uniform font created in 2017; the Umbro font banned for lack of legibility; and the Bruno Maag typeface for Tottenham Hotspur that helped create a market-leading brand.
As a designer, Banks says his first experience of typography was seeing the 1993 Coca-Cola Cup final. “Obviously, when I was eight years old, I didn’t know what typography was,” he says in the book, “but I remember trying to recreate ‘Schmeichel’ in Umbro’s condensed slab serif in my school books. After pleading with my mum, she kindly bought me a replica top with the Danish super stopper’s surname printed on the back. When she gave it to me, I remember nearly crying my eyes out because the letters weren’t the correct ‘official’ font — it was printed at a local greetings card shop. Thankfully, 25 years later, my mum understands my fanatical attention to detail.”
Earlier this year Banks spoke to It’s Nice That about his bespoke typeface for Major League Soccer’s 2020 kits, another milestone in the designer’s lifetime dedication to football typography.
“This was a dream job for me as football and typography are some of my biggest passions,” Banks says. “At the end of the day, a well designed bespoke font helps identify a brand. It works away tirelessly and seamlessly, even when other brand assets such as colour, logo or imagery aren’t around. It is a badge of distinction, a bold statement of individuality. And I can’t wait to see what next season will bring.”