Lack of Engishness in English Football

As I have already stated, I began to create this typeface Grass Roots as a visual response to the fact that there is a lack of English talent coming up through football youth systems and too many English clubs buying players from abroad. The style of the typeface was deliberately meant to be slightly rudimentary and juvenile in appearance as it was representing unrefined players who are still quite young.

This has resulted in the letter forms being quite playful, and very soft in appearance, the x-height is quite big which has increased legibility and the serifs are in many places inconsistent which gives each letter an individual quirk to it; however, they still have enough consistent style to to become recognisable as part of the same font.

Now that I have a basic style for my typeface I have began to look at how I can refine it and improve my typeface design skills, particular letters deem to be slightly narrower or shorter than others, which is down to optical illusions generated by the shapes within certain letters.

This is demonstrated in this illustration from the book Lettering Design, By Michael Harvey, The Bodley Head Ltd, 1975, which states on page 31,

In a normal line of lettering the lack of horizontal strength in pointed and curved letters makes them appear too short.

This is clearly visible within my design, where I have gathered feedback that states that the ‘o’ actually appears thinner due to this phenomenon. To remedy this I returned to my initial Illustrator drawing and increased the weight of the letter so that it protruded beyond the x-height and baseline.

Small changes and details like this are essential to generating a well balanced typeface, and are remedies to many optical illusions which can occur when letter forms are poorly designed.

These are some detailed changes that my tutor and I have made to the typeface in order to improve it visually.

From this tutorial we also discussed how I could incorporate this idea of a lack of Englishness / Britishness in English football, so It was suggested that I look at different styles of typeface from around the world and see how I could perhaps incorporate other national styles into an otherwise English looking typeface.

To find some examples of international typeface designs, I took the current Manchester United football squad as an example. The club is represented by players from Brazil, France, Ireland, Portugal, Ecuador, Africa, Bulgaria, Italy, Serbia, Germany, Holland, South Korea, Poland and Norway. This drew up some major issues to consider when creating a typeface that is quintessentially English but has foreign influences upon it. For example, not only is there the issue of accents with european written language, there are also cyrillic letterforms to contend with and also far eastern letterforms which all need to be incorporated. If I was to create a typeface with all of these elements within then it would be a complete amalgamation of completely different shapes and styles which would make the typeface unrecognisable as English at all, which is in a way the issue I am trying to highlight, but the results would produce a typeface that is inconsistent in style, impractical and illegible which goes against everything I set out to do in this project in the first place.

Despite this, I took the typeface Caslon, which is recognised a traditionally English typeface, and edited aspects of the letterforms, with styles that I have found from other nations.

This is the result of the experiment, I chose to use an Italic version of Caslon as I thought that this would perhaps be the most suitable way of attempting to maintain a consistent style throughout the typeface, which in fact only exhibits characteristics of a select few styles that I have found. Represented are Serbia with the dissected a, d and o. Germany with mono stroke e and Ireland by the flamboyant flicks on the h, d and l.

Already though, the typeface looks unorganised and inconsistent which granted, could work as a potential concept and highlights the issue I am trying to portray, but doesn’t unleash any recognised attempt to achieve legibility and practicality.


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