A revolution in football programs has begun. It's one that takes us back to the mid 60's and through to the early 80's. Our leaders? 1 Shilling... and they're reminding us why football's visual culture of yesteryear deserves to be talked about again!
What happened to good design? Because, let's face it... football programs on match days are generally very, very, shit aren't they. That's not to say that some clubs aren't doing their best to revive a more considered match day book. But on the whole, they've become local corporate business directories, with ads for everything you can squeeze in. And the manager's note has them pitched as English literary geniuses!
Thankfully though, there are two designers who have made it their mission to remind us all what footy match day programs 'used to', and 'could again' – look like. Gloriously thought out pieces of graphic design, from all parts of the UK. From Barnsley to Brighton. Berlin to Munich. A cool visual culture that truly represents the fashions and thoughts of the supporter community. They are Matthew Caldwell and Alan Dein.
Cult Kits caught up with Matt, to chat more about their project and how they're starting a revolution in the football program design scene. So bring your scissors and sellotape!
CK: First things first, who do you both support?
Matt: I was born into a family of Aston Villa fans - just too late to see us lift the European Cup, but just in time to see Martin O'Neill lead us into European football, before a slow and steady slump into the championship. I'm not ashamed to say that I cried when we won the play-offs and returned to the Premier League in 2019!
CK: How did the project first come about?
Matt: So my dad has been religiously collecting football programmes since he became a season ticket holder at Villa some 50 years ago. Each programme has been immaculately stored in claret coloured leather folders - the season's date is marked in gold text on each of their spines. It wasn't until I was in my mid-20s however that he trusted me to look through them. Being a Graphic Designer I was blown away by the sheer mass and beauty of every single one of them. I thought to myself, 'these aren't anything like what we get served up today. There wasn't a Carling advert in sight - nor were the covers glossy'. They were simply created yet strikingly cool. Graphic design before the iMac took over! From then on out, I started collecting my own and the @1_shilling Instagram account was born!
CK: What’s your earliest memory of buying your first match day program?
Matt: I don't have one distinct memory - apart from maybe when my dad freaked out one season when the programme went up in price by 50p. Besides that, programmes have always been part of my match-day ritual. Pie, pint, programme, piss... then you go get comfortable on the terraces.
CK: Why do you think modern programs have adopted such a boring and corporate style?
Matt: I don't think that a corporate style has necessarily been adopted - I think that football programmes have been relegated down the average football club's 'important list'. Once upon a time, you'd see as many fans splashing out 1 shilling on a programme as you would having a pre-match-pint in the local - and in some instances programmes were even used as the official ticket! But this is because, back then, the match day magazine was an essential source of information, long before SkySports alerts and Roy Keane memes. Today, programmes are more of a novelty - an optional topping to an already satisfying match-day experience - thus, I believe less emphasis, time and money is put into crafting the same level of quality into modern issues. You also have to bear in mind that football clubs are run like businesses. Oil barons, Princes and Hollywood actors all speak with a corporate tongue, and if something is a bit of a risk, doesn't quite show their betting sponsor in the right colour, or have enough Caribou Energy Drink adverts for kids to drool over, then they wont be satisfied!
CK: Do you think it’s long before we see a return to the more graphical look and feel of the 70s and 80’s match day program?
Matt: Clubs love a 'throwback programme'. They've all done it, and every once in a while it softens the blow of a defeat to Watford in the pouring rain! But resorting back to the aesthetic of the 60s, 70s and 80s for an entire season wouldn't be right in my eyes. Clubs need to find a way to use the programme to carry the voice of today's fanbase, and communicate their club's attitude in a braver and more honest way. I think that there is a possibility that we could see a surge of interest in the design of programmes again - particularly after seeing the recent demand for retro kits! Everyone wants a jersey without adverts slapped all over them, with striking, loud patterns and brave typography - and clubs are starting to recognise that! Maybe the programme will follow suit, or perhaps it will just take on a completely different media and arrive in your inbox an hour before kickoff?! Whatever happens, change is afoot!
CK: Are there any clubs who you think deserve credit for their match-day programs?
Matt: Maybe Peckham Town FC who's programme I have designed every week for the past two seasons ;) Other than them, I like Everton's new covers - there is some cool, distinct consistency happening there. Norwich and Grimsby have had some smart ones recently where local illustrators get involved. Another that I remember, is when I visited Loftus Road and the back of their programmes were the 'away team version', the cover was QPR's. Lower down the leagues (way way lower), Eastbourne Town creates some super fun designs - created by Alex Brown. Get down there and join in with the chants of the Beach Head Ultras!
CK: What do you hope will come from the project?
Matt: All the profits from the book after production and distribution will be donated to the Huntington's Disease Association (HDA), as it was Huntington's that claimed the life of pioneer programme designer John Elvin. His work was what inspired Alan and I to delve deeper into this previously untold story! We also hope that this book acts a reappraisal for all the other designers who feature - who for some reason or another have been left behind by design history. They are often the ones solely responsible for an entire club's visual culture - so we think they deserve a thank you!
CK: If you reach your funding goal, when do you hope to release your book?
Matt: If and when we reach our target of £7500, the books will be sent to buyers in May 2022. The hope is the book will make some good half time reading during this season's FA Cup final! Although I won't be watching - Villa were knocked out in the 3rd round!
CK: Do you have a favourite program that you feature in the book?
Matt: If I had to pick one programme that I would put on my wall it would be the Coventry City vs Bayern Munich programme from 1970, designed by John Elvin. That's why we made it into a poster and turned it into one of the Kickstarter rewards - check it out! Anyway, what I love about the design begins on the front cover. The unmistakable silhouette of Gerd Müller commands the page and the typeface 'Neil Bold' compliments it beautifully. Then you turn the pages and every spread is set like a work of art - with high contrast imagery and aggressive german blackletter typography. It brings me so much joy to look through - and the fact Coventry beat Bayern on the day makes it even cooler!
This book champions the unheralded artists, finally cementing their deserved place in design history. Spread across 200 pages, 20,000 words, 100 images and 11 chapters, 1 Shilling takes you on a nostalgic journey into the archives of football programme design. You can pledge your support for 1 Shilling - The Book project here. Join the revolution!