Craig Ward's Nike World Cup Kit for England Started with a Surprise
The World Cup, the biggest quad-annual football event (second in all sports only to the Olympics), is right around the corner with all eyes poised to turn towards Russia to watch the games. It’s the pinnacle of play for many of the athletes involved, but even as a few dozen players will be called to play for each team, many fewer designers have ever put their market on the kits. For this World Cup, Nike invited Craig Ward to create a bespoke typeface for the England uniforms, an honor rarely offered. “It’s a pretty wild thing because I’m only like the third designer in history to touch the England kit. It was me, Neville Brody, and before him, it was Peter Saville,” says Craig. “Traditionally whoever is doing the kit just chooses a regular font for it. So, it was no small beans on a personal level.”
The request came from an unexpected place: a message on LinkedIn that Craig caught just an hour before the pitch meeting. But the request also came very early: Craig’s been working on his final design for years. “I started it literally spring 2016, and it was like 19 rounds of work over the next 18 months,” Craig says. “Sometimes it would go weeks and weeks between feedback coming in so it felt a little long just because of the nature of the process but it was pretty wild to see it go out a couple weeks ago in the Friendlies.” Putting a typeface on the backs of England’s players is no small feat. Not only do the designs have to look good, but they also have to meet the legibility standards of a handful of unions, ensuring that the jerseys provide the information needed by coaches, players, referees, and many more.
But Craig is known for his inventive typography, so there was a balance to be struck. “The brief was what you’d expect – Dynamic, Contemporary, Sporty, and British. They really wanted it to feel very English,” explains Craig. “I started by doing a little research on the classic British fonts like Gill Sans, Johnston, Flaxman which is the New Scotland Yard typeface. They’re all geometric and clean.” Not only that, but Nike also asked that Craig somehow incorporate the St. George’s Cross, the contemporary flag of England and the central red cross in the flag of Great Britain.
Craig used the cross as the base for a lot of two-dimensional designs but then started looking at the problem from another angle. He brought the exploration into a new dimension. “We hit on this idea of using the cross as a sweep around a curve and modeling it in 3D,” Craig explains. That’s where the intruding lines come from: they show the movement and shape of that cross moving its way through space.
England has played two games in The International Friendlies with the new kits so far, and you won’t be surprised to hear that they’re playing well. “Undefeated! One win and one draw so far,” says Craig. And obviously, we know what to credit the success of the team to: Craig’s amazing typeface. “It’s all about those dynamic, geometric typefaces, of course it is,” he says with a laugh. “First thing they see when they get into the changing room is their names, their numeral – and that kerning is sick.”