Conran…on the World Cup…and yes, something for the weekend

With the World Cup kicking off this afternoon Conran’s resident footballing aficionado, PR Manager Mat Riches, shares his design-related thoughts on the posters that, over the years, have depicted that most beautiful of games.


The Rise, Fall and Rise again of the World Cup Poster

Conran and football may not often be used in the same sentence but believe it or not we have our own team at head office, complete with Conran blue kit, and once a year we get enough interest to field a full five-a-side team with perhaps a sub. And with the World Cup about to start there’ll be at least four of us watching the games together after work too.

Historically, one of my favourite things in a World Cup is the official poster – capturing the essence of the host nation and setting the theme for the tournament. They were a bit before my time, but the early years were dominated by Art Deco works of art and beauty. One of my very favourite’s was  Guillermo Laborde’s effort for host nation Uruguay in 1930, and a framed replica adorns my wall at home. A cool, contemporary and angular typeface, a goalkeeper plucking the ball from the top corner…magic. Best of all, there’s not a sponsors logo in sight.  Italy in 1934 is dominated by the fasces, the symbol of Mussolini’s Partito Nazionale Fascista, while the overtly proud France 1938 poster was a regrettable reminder of the jackboot, however powerful the image.

Switzerland’s  in 1954 was a classic and the opposite of Uruguay in 1930 – this time the ball sailed past a hapless and slightly gormless goalie which was a brilliant portent for a tournament that featured scorelines of 8-3, 7-5, 9-0, 7-2, 4-4, two 7-0s, three 4-2s and a 3-2 final. Sweden in 58 and Chile in 62 lacked imagination and disappointed but it was England in 66 who really lowered the tone, with our much loved World Cup Willie punting the ball in to row Z. Thankfully Geoff Hurst was a bit more accurate, even if the pigs bladder might not have quite crossed the line.

A golden age followed with typography and logos taking centre stage and we got a run of classics through the seventies with Mexico 70, West Germany 74, and Argentina 78 all capturing the spirit of their particular part of the decade. Miro’s dreamlike swishes for Espana 1982 would have brought a smile to Picasso’s face and it rounded off an excellent run of artistic brilliance – at which point the focus groups and marketing men and took over, and the whole thing went downhill faster than Eddie the Eagle.

Mexico 86 was quite frankly a photographic pile of tosh the brains behind Italia 90 decided that it wasn’t even worth trying to capture people’s imagination. I can’t even bring myself to talk about the candy coated USA 94 one and in France 98 they commissioned a twelve year-old from Biarritz  to do it during detention.

Was this the end for the official World Cup poster? Did it still have a future? Thankfully, Japan and Korea in 02 picked the bar up out of the mud and raised it once more, with a simple hieroglyphic inspired poster where the symbols actually spell out “it’s a game of two halves Brian”. Possibly.  Germany 06 lacked inspiration but contained no offence and the future of the genre teetered in the balance.

Step forward South Africa 2010 with a brilliant effort that I think stands up to any of the classics from the seventies, if not the early Art Deco favourites of mine. It must be noted, in stark contrast to Uruguay 1930, the bottom fifth of the poster is entirely devoted to the sponsors, including the official beer, official credit card, official restaurant, official airline and no doubt official washing up liquid.

But let us not be churlish, this is the first World Cup ever to played in Africa and the official poster symbolises the important role of football in the history, tradition and culture of the African continent, the power of the beautiful game to enrich lives and give people hope. Okay okay, that’s a bit melodramatic and more than a bit condescending…but I like the poster very much.

If you’re following the World Cup, enjoy the games, whoever you’re cheering for, Brian.

click here to see the posters


Tips for a great weekend? I guess there’s nothing to do but stay in and watch the football…!

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Filed under Conran Columns: Tips for a great London weekend, Uncategorized

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