shirt numbers


FA Premier League
UEFA Leagues
Olympic numbers

Euro 2008

UEFA final

For the upcoming tournament Euro 2008, Adidas and Puma have introduced new shirt numbers. Some examples can be seen on www.footballshirtculture.com.
In the Adidas numbers (e.g. Germany, Greece) we recognize the same basic forms as in the typeface Walker that was designed by Matthew Carter for the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis. But in the Adidas numbers all beginnings and endings of the strokes are rounded, which remind me of the sausage numbers that were introduced by Nike in 2000. As in the number 1 the flag is chopped of, it looks like a real Frankfurter.
Puma has renounced the numbers designed by Dalton Maag in 2006. When we look at the new numbers (e.g. Czech Republic), it appears that the strokes also have rounded beginnings and endings. Were they made by the same designer who's responsible for the Adidas numbers? Or can we conclude that there's a real sausage fashion? Or is this tournament sponsored by the international meat industry?
For the rest the Puma numbers look like many other bold condensed constructed typefaces. They don't have their own character. And each figure is cut in two or three pieces by little incisions. I suppose that they are drawn by a butcher who couldn't resist using his chopping knife.

For the Dutch team Nike has slightly adapted the toilet paper numbers. The diagonal strokes have been removed and the horizontal stroke on top of 6 and bottom of 9 are chopped of. They almost look like the basic constructed figures that I have drawn a while ago for a lecture about shirt numbers. I used this drawing to demonstrate that they are not suited to be used as shirt numbers. Obviously Nike has a different opinion - and a bad taste.


In the printing industry there has longtime been a rule of thumb for people who didn't understand typography: 'When in doubt, use Caslon'. William Caslon lived from 1692 till 1766, so he has never seen a football match. But his figures are legible and elegant, and far better than all the so-called modern designs that are introduced on football jerseys. 'When in doubt, use Caslon' should become a rule of thumb for desperate football teams and designers without typographic interest.


PS. It appears that Puma renounced the idea of one single typeface for all 'their' teams, just as Nike did. Besides the above mentioned sausage type for the Czech Republic, there's another typeface on the Puma shirts of for instance Italy. It's a condensed sans serif typeface. But the designer couldn't resist to demonstrate his computer skills. So he applied a blur filter and a halftone rasterizing filter, resulting in almost illegible figures. As these filters haven't been applied before by other shirt designers, some football teams think these figures are the result of a creative process. On the contrary, this is an attempt to surpass Nike in the lack of interest in shirt numbers. But, obviously football teams don't care either.
I suppose that thanks to Nike and Puma we have reached the rock bottom of shirt number design in June 2008. The situation can't get any worse. But saying this, I realize that in the past designers have surprised me several times with their unbelievable ideas.


Figures from Walker by Matthew Carter


Figures based on two rectangles


Figures from Caslon semibold