Name: England X Ward
Designer: Craig Ward
Release Date: The typeface is not being officially released, but the World Cup kicks off on June 14th.
Back Story: In 2016, Nike offered the Lincolnshire UK-born, Manhattan-based graphic designer Craig Ward a commission to design a custom typeface for the English Football Association’s 2018 World Cup Kit—that is, the uniforms—worn by the British team. His answer, unsurprisingly, was an immediate yes. “My font spelling out the players’ names and numbers is now a part of football history! I was blown away and hugely flattered to be asked, as the only other designers to have touched the England kit are Neville Brody and Peter Saville,” Ward says. “The design brief was to create something that felt dynamic, contemporary, and English. Connectivity was a theme—there was a desire to create something that unified the country and they were really keen to feature the St. George’s cross in some capacity. That was a curveball as it’s so specific, but it led to some really interesting first stage exploratory work.”
The designer began by examining the clarity and geometry of classic English typefaces such as Johnston and Gill Sans, as well as Edward Wright’s Flaxman (which was created for the International Concrete Poetry Festival in 1967, and later immortalized as the lettering upon Scotland Yard’s famous sign). In all of them, he noticed how condensed versions of the letterforms lost some of their inherent geometry. “I really wanted to create something dynamic that hinged on the cross icon,” says Ward, “so I modeled and animated the core of the type in 3D software. I started with a simple grid, drew single line paths for the letterforms, and added a cross as a sweep around the path, which went on to inform the inline aspect and the twists in the letters.”
Why’s it called England X Ward? “It’s drawn by me for England’s team… :),” Ward explains, patiently.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? The alphabet’s start in 3D modeling gives a distinctive set of inline, outline, and fill options to the otherworldly, purely geometric letterforms. Little quirks like the high-waisted N and the oddly angled terminals lend a ton of personality. “Parts of the type actually quote aspects of other fonts to feel a little more familiar,” says Ward. “The W is inspired by a very specific cut of Johnston—one of the original drawings, to be exact—and the flare of the alternate R is a nod to Gill. I also included a perfectly circular O should they want to use it.”
What should I use it for? As England X Ward is proprietary to Nike and the World Cup, the rest of us will have to admire it on the British team’s football shirts.
Is it scary to design a font for a beloved sports team? We’ll let Ward tell it to you straight. “It was a lot of pressure, I won’t lie. Something like a billion people watch the World Cup, and more than 3 billion will watch the finals, so the amount of eyes on your work is literally half the planet,” he says. “Additionally I’m nervous as any design put out on a national level is frequently divisive and draws a lot more attention than your average project. Besides that, I’m from a family of football obsessives so I knew there would be extra scrutiny from that side as well.” He reports that the family seems to be enjoying the bragging rights and (as yet) have not offered up any design critiques.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Ward says he prefers to keep things all in the family, mixing the different fill options together in interesting combinations.