The beginning of the end of the templated kit design

By Matthew Ockelford

Football kit design has always been a fantastic way of bringing creativity to the masses. These kits help clubs create magic memories for their fans, they solidify the clubs identity as well as give the fans a unique image and voice.

Kits of past years

For some the very image of a kit conjures memories of specific moments in time, the 1996 Fiorentina kit for example vividly reminds me of Gabriel Batistuta running at terrified defences. No doubt a part of what makes me remember this is the fact that Nintendo’s Mario took up a third of the kit. Lazio’s beautiful 1982 home strip is another celebrated design, the stunning kit featured the clubs crest abstractly represented across the front. While on the international stage Mexico’s depiction of the Aztec god Quezacoatl on their 1996 home strip was a massive highlight of creativity within this industry. However this all changed in 2016.

Introducing the template

American giants Nike produce a substantial amount of the football strips worn worldwide, put into context the 19/20 Premier League season saw Nike accounting for 15% of the kits designed (behind only Adidas and Umbro).

Therefore when in 2016 Nike decided to standardise the technology and design of their kits by creating the Vapor template, the industry became awash with similar, sometimes identical kits. With this the world of football lost a substantial amount of the visual creativity that fans adored, and naturally there was a fairly large backlash from fans. Many clubs lost what separated them from others (some teams practically had the same kit), and through this one move football kits transitioned from a considered and anticipated work of art to just a necessary requirement.

When the last World Cup came round though, amongst the sea of similar kits, one in particular captured the hearts of football fans worldwide.

Vapor Template

Enter Nigeria

In a random bold move Nike allowed Nigeria more creative freedom in the design of their kit. Whilst still based on the template, Nike’s designers performed a deep dive into what it meant to be Nigerian, with a goal of distilling this information into a look. This resulted in a kit which was inspired by the countries culture and heritage. It was bold, brave, unique and captured the hearts and minds of football fans worldwide. It even broke records, with three million pre-orders being registered prior to release, and at $85 for the top this proved incredibly lucrative for Nike.


The end of the template?

Possibly with this in mind, it seems Nike may be abandoning this template, in a recent twitter discussion Nike’s senior Director of Global Communication Heidi Burgett stated the following,

“We’re ditching the templates. For the 2020 kits, Nike designers had 65 chassis options available to them across varying necklines, sleeves, cuffs, badge placement, etc. From hand-drawn prints to custom fonts, each team’s look will be its own”.

Alongside this, fans were treated to future kit designs which had fans of both football and design purring with delight. The designs are bold, ambitious and relevant to the clubs and countries they represent. They look flashier then Neymar pulling off a triple elastico, while simultaneously giving fans something that resonates with them.

Having an identity is something to be embraced and cherished, this move away from the template is a move towards giving fans their identity back however, it also takes the chains off the creative team and lets them showcase what they’re about.
Happy designers = happy fans = more shirts sold. What’s not to love!

The importance of understanding your client

The Nigerian kit proves that truly successful design, isn’t just about using the correct colours and fonts. It’s about understanding the history, target audience, goals and achievements of the client. With this investment in time you can create work that is faithful to the consumer at a much more intimate level. This results in design with personality that people can relate with and build attachments to, design that people can fall in love with and that people will remember. This design stands out in a sea of templated competitives, whether they’re football clubs or companies.

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