With just over a month to wait until next season starts, fans of English football can today at least get a glimpse of what will be dancing between players’ feet come September. Mitre has unveiled the new English Football League season 2020/2021 ball with graphics designed by agency Uniform, a striking blue and pink pattern featuring undulating rows of parallel lines around three of Mitre’s V-shaped logo marks, coined the ‘Delta’.
Unlike most other ball graphics, the pattern hasn’t been designed per panel but instead as one cohesive artwork that envelops the ball and meets in numerous places. A repeat pattern is never simple to create, let alone on a spherical canvas. Uniform’s creative Richard Pay has designed 20 or so footballs in his career, and has some insights to share about the process.
“The process definitely has its limitations,” he explains. “Imagine designing a poster that has no start point, no end point, no top, or bottom, no edge. Just seamlessly connected all the way around. That’s what designing a football is like. The design needs to transition from one panel to the next, all the way around and back to itself.” Sounds complicated. Richard also worked on the FA Cup ball and compares the two: “For that ball, each panel was designed on its own, so they worked together as a pattern; whereas this design had to be designed as one piece, and meet up around the Deltas. It was pretty mind-boggling… when I first started designing footballs I found it all really complicated, but since I’ve designed a few now, I think I got a bit over-confident this time!” he laughs. Still, he enjoyed the challenge, and felt this approach was key to the visual concept and brief of “flow state”.
This concept is based on the idea of the focused mental state players get into when playing football, and goes against the majority of sports messaging. “Most brands focus on constant progression and being the best, and a lot of young players tend to go off the sport because of that pressure mounting on them,” Richard explains. Mitre’s message here is different: that thanks to the technology behind the ball’s structure, players can focus on playing the game they want to play. “Football can be great for mindfulness in that players can get in the zone and connect with the sport,” Pay continues.
Uniform’s graphic therefore depicts this “flow state,” and the “hypnotic state you can be in when you play football,” Richard concludes. Its detailing is designed with the all-important pitch visibility in mind, too – distinct at a small size, when constantly on the move.