The dog ate my homework!

Every day I get emails from stu­dents who have a project to fin­ish. They ask me about my work, my opin­ions and often want me to send them my fonts as that would make the design of their the­sis much eas­ier. More often than not they ask about things they could have found out about if they had only spent a bit more time look­ing around or by going to a library, instead of just check­ing the first page of a Google query. So I tell them that I will answer proper ques­tions that are directed at me and that con­cern my work, my expe­ri­ence or even my opin­ions, but that I will only do so once they’ve done their home­work.
Just the other day I got a request from a stu­dent who is inter­ested in the typog­ra­phy on foot­ball shirts. Great topic, and one that has been writ­ten about a lot. But he obvi­ously hadn’t looked any­where before writ­ing to me. He even asks me why this »infor­ma­tion is lim­ited and dif­fi­cult to get hold of?«.
But read our cor­re­spon­dence for yourselves.


Dear Mr Spiek­er­mann,
My name is Rajeev Saroy and I am cur­rently study­ing Graphic Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Wolver­hamp­ton. The final year of my degree requires me to write a dis­ser­ta­tion on a topic of inter­est related to a major sub­ject within my degree. Foot­ball is a very big part of my life and I have always ques­tioned the typog­ra­phy on foot­ball t-shirts. This is the sub­ject that I have cho­sen to explore and inves­ti­gate.
I am hav­ing great dif­fi­cul­ties in gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion around my cho­sen sub­ject and I have put together a few ques­tions that I would like you to answer in as much detail as you pos­si­bly can.

1.     Who designs the type­faces that are employed on foot­ball t-shirts?

2.     Why is this infor­ma­tion lim­ited and very dif­fi­cult to get hold of?

3.     Why is it that many foot­ball teams can­not choose their own shirt num­bers and fonts?

4.     In the Eng­lish Pre­mier League, all teams are obliged to obtain the same type­face. Who autho­rises this?

5.     Type­faces and the arrange­ment on foot­ball t-shirts is spe­cial job for graphic design­ers. How many design­ers have con­tributed towards this that you are aware of?

6.     If type­faces are not designed by Graphic design­ers, who has cre­ated them in the past and who has it been approved by?

7.     Do FIFA, UEFA and the FA have a set of rules and reg­u­la­tions, which restrict the true form of type? Is it due to these rules that type is deformed, chopped and changed?

8.     Once a type­face is cre­ated, who approves it?

9.     Is typog­ra­phy neglected on foot­ball t-shirts? If the answer is yes, why is this? Is it down to mega cor­po­ra­tions or is it due to the lack of typo­graphic knowl­edge by foot­ball organisations?

10. Are there any con­tem­po­rary typog­ra­phers that can con­tribute their skills towards type on foot­ball t-shirts?

11. Can new/existing type­faces replace ones that have been manip­u­lated?
If there are any issues or views that you would like to men­tion, please feel free to do so.
May I thank you for your time and co-operation.



Dear Rajeev,
most of your ques­tions can only be answered by the peo­ple in the foot­ball busi­ness. How should I know who approves the design? Why do you ask me why this infor­ma­tion is dif­fi­cult to get hold of? Aren’t you the stu­dent who is sup­posed to do the assignment?

Could it be that you haven’t done your home­work? Surely this is some­thing the FA or FIFA will answer. Those are scary bureau­cra­cies, but I’m not going to tackle them on your behalf.

There is plenty of infor­ma­tion out there, on the blogs, on The mak­ers of kit, like Puma, Umbro, Adi­das et al com­mis­sion this stuff, of course, because they make it.
One designer in Lon­don has actu­ally designed type for foot­ball shirts (Puma?): Bruno Maag, of Dal­ton Maag.

Ask him, but do more of your home­work first. If foot­ball is a very big part of your life, then get off your arse and look around. Of course it’s dif­fi­cult, but it is also dif­fi­cult for me to spend part of my spare time on a sat­ur­day answer­ing emails from kids who haven’t even looked at the infor­ma­tion from the asso­ci­a­tions, the mak­ers of kit.

Being a stu­dent means learn­ing to learn, not sim­ply writ­ing an email and hop­ing that some­body else will do the work for you. There was a world before Google.


  1. Excel­lent post. It will appear in all my dis­ser­ta­tion lec­tures hence forth and for­ever more.

  2. Oh yeaaah, and it gets even more annoy­ing when it’s the same sort of ques­tions from so called journalists.

  3. Well put! There indeed was a world before Google.

    I often hear about promi­nent design­ers get­ting bom­barded with emails and out of curios­ity, how many of those do you get daily?

  4. Great response, I am a design stu­dent armed with few years of indus­try expe­ri­ence and it gets on my nerves when­ever I come across a fel­low stu­dent akin to Rajeev and his approach to his research. I only could wish that my response to them were elo­quent like yours, ha.

  5. It is sad to real­ize that for most of the stu­dents nowa­days (and I’m also talk­ing about Mas­ter stu­dents), “to research” means to look in Wikipedia. And use only the infor­ma­tion that is already there, not giv­ing a damn whether is com­plete, accu­rate or even true.

  6. Claudia M

    What the hell? If I knew ES answered emails when I was a stu­dent, I would’ve fired some Q’s at him when I did an assign­ment about his work! :D
    Espe­cially because Google wasn’t so hot back then, and all I had were a cou­ple of books from the library. Since I had no expert opin­ion to fall back on, all I had was my own.

    Now, I have noth­ing to ask or that needs answer­ing. Except maybe how to deal with Mephisto-clients, and deliver with­out los­ing your soul. But I’m not sure if any­one in this busi­ness has an answer to that one.

  7. Claudia M

    Andrew, thanks, that made me laugh! Prob­a­bly has a “twist” end­ing though. Not to men­tion that I have only agency work expe­ri­ence, and from the reviews, the book seems geared at free­lancers and sim­i­lar inde­pen­dent work­ers. Agency work/clients can be dif­fi­cult to man­age, espe­cially when you are forced to do things against your bet­ter judg­ment. Add the accounts peo­ple to the mix and it’s easy to become trapped in your per­sonal designer’s hell. I’ve met many design­ers in sim­i­lar posi­tions, and none of them really have an answer. Except per­haps grind your teeth, do what needs to be done, pass go, col­lect $200. But that’s also the rea­son why I know so many design­ers who no longer want to be in design. Sorry for the spiel.

  8. Claudia M

    Have to say though, I think I will get that book.

  9. Valu­able info. For­tu­nate me I found your site unin­ten­tion­ally, and I’m stunned why this acci­dent did not hap­pened in advance! I book­marked it.

  10. One of the best responses i’ve ever read.. :)m/
    And I would say a great rev­e­la­tion too..“There was a world before Google.” :)

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