INTERVIEW: DAN NORRIS

INTERVIEW: DAN NORRIS

“Football just isn’t what it used to be, is it”… are often the words uttered by the ageing football fan. They miss standing areas at grounds, smoke filled pubs with sticky carpets, a piping hot pie and a match day programme all for no more than a few quid. The graphics are all now corporate, polished and shiny. Over simplified, rounded and with little character. Shirt production costs see a focus on the digital print rather than the glory years of flocking for the badge and sponsor. ‘Sigh’.

But fear not – there is one man who is determined to remind us of the origins a football club’s humble beginnings and reminding us of a simpler, (probably crapper) time. But in these strange times, of face masks and toilet roll bulk buying, we’ve never probably needed Dan Norris more.

Dan, a graphic designer working in London with a love of pop culture, film and football has been focusing his attentions on the world of football iconography. A passion for visual storytelling – Dan is reminding us all of the days of cheaper turnstile entries and the days before betting company sponsorships. One re imagined crest at a time.

We caught up with Dan, to tell us more about his on-going work that aims to grab the attention and lives in the memory for supporters across the globe.

CK: First things first, Dan – who do your support?

Dan: I’m a Queens Park Rangers Supporter - it was hereditary passed to by my Dad and I thank him regularly!

My generation of supporters (80’s/90s kid) have experienced the highs of being London’s top team in the  premier league and the lows of entering administration. I’m grateful now the owners and management are striving to move the club forward in a more sustainable way after our recent ill-fated forays into the Premie League.

 

CK: How did the project come about?

Dan: I was spurred into action by Home — 36 Days of Type a community page on instagram that sets a yearly challenge inviting designers, illustrators and visual artists to share their view on the letters and numbers of the alphabet.

So I decided to take part with the theme of football badge typography - setting myself the challenge of redesigning a different badge everyday in alphabetical order from Arsenal to Zenit Saint Petersburg. After after a few days I realised what a monumental task I’d undertaken but it was also the most enjoyable personal project as I got to know all these clubs better by rummaging through their visual archive online and then having the brief to create my version of each. Exhausting but very rewarding.

Once I completed the set (including 11 numbers from famous premier league players shirts) i decided to carry on the project and by completing a redesign of each club that had featured in the premier league since its formation in 1992...but without the challenge of doing one a day!

 

It has become a regular weekly routine to re-imagine a badge and I find it almost meditative and definitely the most enjoyable design work of my career.

CK: What is it about football badges/iconography that interests you the most?

Dan: I love both football and design so football badges have always held a special appeal to me as an important part of the connection between a supporter and their club.

A clubs badge is a medal of honour and they belong to the supporters as much if not more so than the clubs themselves. Each clubs badge is a direct link back into their history - telling stories of  where they’ve come from and where they want to go and I find this visual story telling fascinating.

 

 

When I’m reinterpreting  a badge I start from a place of truth - laying the foundations of the new design on the solid structures of the clubs heritage and visual DNA.

Most clubs have a rich history of design iterations to draw inspiration from,  sometimes a previous badge version holds a visual quirk that makes it distinctive and worth exploring further.  Unfortunately in recent redesigns clubs have watered down the elements that make them more distinctive and I try to bring back that element of personality that is unique to them.

The Arsenal badge is an example of this where the latest iteration has lost its majesty and feels almost like a TOMY toy version of what went before. The new design was created at a time when the visual trend was for a simplified rounded style but I much prefer it when a redesign retains a level of gravitas, Aston Villas new badge (especially the engraving by Christopher Wormell) is a great example of building on the clubs heritage whilst layering in craftsmanship and authenticity.

CK: If you could totally redesign any football clubs badge/crest – whose would it be?

Dan: I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the club I support - Queen’s Park Rangers a few years back on the reimagining of the club badge.  The club has a genuinely fascinating visual history, the identity has had many manifestations over the years – too many.

 

 

The badge had become unnecessarily complex with the poorly considered redesign of the Bernie Ecclestone/Flavio Briatore era; a faux hereldic design laden with clichéd elements. I felt the identity needed to present the clubs core values with impact, brevity and immediacy – it is a visual distillation of who we are.

Past identities have been built on a central monogramme of the initials Q.P.R.  so we took a step back to the classic badge design from the eighties to build on strong graphic foundations allowing us to develop a badge that was built on a truth that really connected with the supporters.

CK: Have any clubs approached you for input? Or has it remained at commissions only so far?

Dan: I’ve had the dream job of designing the badge of my club Q.P.R and have a few projects in the pipeline for smaller clubs and possibly in the USA in the near future but  I’d love to do more official work with clubs - to supply them with alternative versions for clubs shops merchandise so hopefully this may progress in the near future so watch this a space.

CK: Is there a team's badge you could constantly reimagine?

Dan: I did lots of versions of the QPR badge as part of the redesign process - before reaching out on social media to the club and officially getting to work with them. Many more iterations were created and supporters were involved from the start of the process with a selection of badges eventually put to a fans vote.

The launch was a massive success because the club worked with the supporters from the start - something clubs are doing more often now.

 

 

CK: How have fans responded to your work?

Dan: Overwhelmingly positive - very rarely a few will question a detail or design choice but mainly the reactions have been great with quite a few supporters getting my renditions of their clubs badge tattooed on them which really is a sign of approval!

 

CK: Do you have a lot of fans coming to you asking you to re-draw their team's crest/badge?

Dan: Yes! Mainly on instagram, I appreciate that they have taken the time to make contact so will try to get around them (my list grows longer every day). I’ve just completed reinterpreting the top five clubs from the top five European leagues and I think I may venture further afield next so hopefully many more fans will get to see retro futuristic versions of their clubs badge in the coming months.

CK: Where can people reach you if they want to see more of your work and get in touch?

Dan: I’m on twitter:@DanKNorris and Instagram: @danknorris and you can buy prints from my store here

 

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