It was a great honour for me to find out that the Nike football kit design team are fans of my True Colours books and have actually used them as reference when researching and pitching new kit designs and I was absolutely delighted when the design team agreed to an exclusive interview for my site:
Could you introduce yourself please and what your jobs/responsibilities are at Nike?
Stewart Scott-Curran, Apparel Graphic Designer for Licensed Gameday. I work together with the Product Designer to generate innovative concepts and solutions with specific regard to Club and Federation kits.
Could you give a few examples of some of the kits that you have designed?
A few of the kits we have recently designed are the 2008 National Team kits you may have seen on-field at the European Championships (Holland, Croatia, Turkey and Portugal being a few examples of these) and the Club kits for the season 2008-2009, including Arsenal, Manchester United, Celtic, Barcelona, FC Internazionale and Juventus amongst others). We currently design apparel for a total of 42 different Clubs and Federations.
How did you get first get involved in football kit design?
I have always been passionate about sport in general, and football in particular. When I was young I used to spend a lot of time drawing the football kits of my favourite clubs. So the opportunity to be part of the design team for the world’s most innovative football brand was too good an opportunity to miss.
What is the basic procedure for designing a kit? (eg timeframes, initial concepts, design approvals, prototypes etc)
The time from initial design concept to the launch of the kit is around 18 months. The first stage is research. We visit the clubs, talk to athletes and arrange meetings with supporters groups. We find out what is important to each of these groups of people in terms of technology, design aesthetic and what the core values of the club are. We use these valuable insights as inspiration tools for our designs.
We develop our designs internally for approximately 2 months, exhaustively refining details until we are at the stage that we are ready to present our ideas back to the Club.
We travel to the Club with a series of early designs on paper boards which also include options for graphics. We usually don’t produce any samples until we get feedback from the decision makers.
After a few months of work and several garment samples, we head back to the Clubs to get the final sign-off . Once rubber-stamped, preparations begin for the kit’s launch. Sample shirts were produced to show retailers and a marketing campaign is devised.
How much input do the club/players have into kit design?
The athlete is at the core of everything we do and player and team feedback is fundamental. We spend a lot of time working with the athletes and hearing what they have to say. We use this information to help us generate innovative and inspirational design solutions which give the athlete a performance benefit.
What is your favourite kit that you’ve designed – the one that has been the most rewarding to work on?
I have many personal favourites. One of the great things about what we do is that every kit has it’s own unique design challenges and opportunities. However, if pressed, I would have to pick the FC Internazionale centenary away kit of season 07-08 as a personal favourite. I think this is a great example of what can be achieved when you speak to the right people and work closely with the club. I think we ended up with a kit that pressed all the buttons in terms of a unique aesthetic, authentic details and innovative performance. It was a fitting shirt for the club to be wearing during their centenary celebrations.
What is your favourite kit of all time?
This is a frequent topic of discussion in the Nike Football design studio. The simple design and clean execution of classic kits is always an inspiration. From that point of view, I think the red current kit we did for Arsenal’s last season at Highbury was amazing. However, as designers, we are always looking to the future and getting excited about what is coming up. So I would have to say that my favourite kit is always ‘the next one’.
What, in your view, are the essential elements of a good football kit?
A good football kit strikes a balance between innovation and inspiration. It must be comfortable for the athletes to wear and not offer any distractions on-pitch. Football matches can be won and lost by the smallest of margins and if we can give the athletes any performance advantage over their rivals then we are doing a good job. However, the kit must also connect with the fans. We do this by adding authentic graphic details that really express the Club or Federation’s DNA. We always strive to strike a balance between pure performance and this emotional connection.
As you both come from the UK, how difficult is it design strips for other countries/ cultures?
We spend a lot of time visiting the Clubs and Federations and talking to the athletes and the fans. By fully investigating the culture around a National Team or Club we can really get a feel for what their unique core values are. Of course we also have a lot of help from our colleagues who work within the countries and who communicate with the Clubs and Federations on a daily basis. Together we can really gain a lot of valuable insights into what makes the Club or Federation tick. If we do our research properly, then we usually get things right.
Nike seem to come in for some criticism from some football kit messageboards that say their designs are too plain and simple. What are your views on this? (My personal opinion is that kits are designed for a purpose on the field – not to please football kit fans – and that most football supporters actually prefer simpler, timeless designs)
One of the great things about Football Kit design is that there are so many passionate opinions out there. Our aim is to produce the best football kits in the world. We know by talking with the athletes that they are looking for a comfortable kit with zero distractions so they can focus on what they do best. We strive to produce something that gives a performance benefit to the athletes and creates an emotional connection to the fans. We feel that the simplest and most intuitive solution is usually the best and I think we are generally very successful at doing that.
The latest Arsenal home and away outfits have created quite a stir amongst football shirt fans. Can you tell me any more about these designs and how they arose?
When it came time to design Arsenal’s home and away kits for season 2008-09, we realised that it would be 20 years since they had won the title in such dramatic circumstances at Anfield on the final day of the season. When speaking to the fans about the many great moments in the Club’s history that really resonate with them, the 1989 title win consistently comes out top of the pile. We thought this was was worth celebrating and that the story would lead us to some very interesting and unique design solutions. We talked through our designs with the Club and together we came up with something that we feel conveys the spirit of the achievement with a very modern and unique aesthetic.
I know Nike often take a conceptual approach with many of their shirts – can you give some examples of these please?
Some recent examples of this approach would be the Manchester United shirts of 07-08. We felt that at that point in time the Club were open to doing something different. A football shirt that we had never seen before. We went away and brainstormed what this could be. We finished up with a kit that really conveys a sense of speed, style with substance and unique quality. All of which adjectives are synonymous with Manchester United and deeply rooted in Nike’s DNA. It has ended up being the most successful United shirt we have ever done.
Stewart, thanks very much for the interview, its fascinating stuff, you quite clearly have possibly the best job in the world! I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.
(c) 2009 John Devlin. No part of this article may be reproduced without permission.