Major League Soccer reveals 2020 kits, with a new bespoke typeface by Rick Banks

To mark the league’s 25th season, MLS asked Banks to redesign the names and numbers for all the clubs’ kits without being just “another vanilla condensed sans serif”.

Date
6 February 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

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Last night, Major League Soccer (the top men's professional soccer league in the US) unveiled all 26 of its new kits for the 2020 season, its 25th – and therefore the cause for a redesign. The league’s creative team got in touch with Rick Banks, who runs Face37 Foundry, to create new lettering for the names and numbers on all the clubs’ kits, reflecting the league’s unique position in global football.

“The MLS is a modern, progressive and innovative league that is underpinned by being edgy, embracing technology and innovation,” Banks tells It’s Nice That. “They wanted this progressive mantra to be reflected in the lettering, and were keen not to follow other football leagues around the world. They wanted something with originality, character and had strong ideas behind it — not another vanilla condensed sans serif.”

The bold, graphical typeface comes in three weights, MLS Streets, MLS Stands and MLS Pitch, and is inspired by the Penrose Triangle (or Impossible Triangle) and Necker Cube, Banks explains. “It’s a simple optical illusion that makes you look twice. And then look again. It seems impossible, but there it is, like some magic skills on the pitch. When layered on top of each other, the three weights create a “tri-line, something never before seen in football shirt lettering. This creates an energetic, 'swooshing' optical effect, representing the movement and energy in the game, like a Beckham free kick or an Ilsinho step over.”

Also, where possible, the angle of the number terminals follows the points of the three stars that appear on the MLS logo. Versatility was an important part of the brief, as the type needed to be used in many different configurations to suit different applications. MLS Streets, for instance, is featured on shirts and shorts, while the other weights can be used, at the discretion of the league, on banners around stadium and for online and social media use.

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Rick Banks/F37: MLS typeface

When it came to designing the kits, there were plenty of technical considerations. It had to be produced in a single colour, but work across all the different clubs’ colours. The kit manufacturer dictated restrictions on dimensions, along with terminals that had a 2mm cornered radius. And, bearing in mind the international spectrum of footballers in the league, the font also needed to have broad language support, including a range of accents, ligatures and small caps “to cover any eventuality we could think of,” Banks says. “We also crafted a specially condensed font for longer names (the Latvian player Andriuškevičius immediately springs to mind!). We hate when fonts get stretched for super long names, like Alexander-Arnold’s Premier League shirt.”

Not only that, the design needed to work “beyond the jersey” on products and marketing material, so it had to be a kerned OpenType font, “not just a bunch of vectors,” Banks says.

But the biggest challenge, he concludes, was coming up with an idea that would please everyone. “After collating all the lettering for my books, Football Type and Football Type 2 (out later this year) it was hard to design something that no one else has done before. But we think it’s super unique. We don’t think any other football league uses a layered font across a variety of comms. And the feedback on Twitter (following some leaked images ahead of the launch) has already been fantastic.” The type will be rolled out across the coming 2020 season.

GalleryRick Banks/F37: MLS typeface

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Rick Banks/F37: MLS typeface

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent the last ten years working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on news@itsnicethat.com.

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