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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Claudia M

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

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

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *