On Romanian Football: Design Identity

Jean Popescu
Mar 9, 2018 · 6 min read

A couple of months left until UEFA Nations League. A new European football competition is due to commence in September 2018, immediately after the World Cup.

The purpose of this tournament is to replace international friendly matches in a more organized and more meaningful way. A friendly, casual, competition that has it's own pro's and cons. Which give us, the fans, something to cheer up while waiting for bigger competitions to start: such as World Cup or European Championship.

This is the first official competition where the Romanian National Football Team it's going to make the debut of the new badge. Launched in November 2017, and looking like this:

Before the rebranding, the national football team was sharing the same visual badge (on the left) as the Romanian football federation. The new badge came as a surprise. It’s been received with mixed feelings from the fans, and fellow designers.

The Romanian football federation saw an opportunity here and they took it. It sounded like a great idea to rebrand after years and years spent in obscurity and no progress. They decided it's time for a fresh start, so they hired a new coach first. If the Football Federation has probably a new vision and plan, which I am not aware yet, we will see it unfold with the start of the European Nations League in autumn. We can see some changes now, like this new crest and the rebranding of the Romanian Cup.

Personally I think that the Romanian federation started to mingle with marketing strategies by hiring agencies for the first time and giving them full confidence. But they do not really know how to do it properly or they lack direction. Everything new that comes up nowadays from the Romanian Federation of Football does not really identify with anything meaningful. There is no connection with the fans, and merely just some ideas that weren't in-depth researched and are not tailored to the football fans.

Anyway this is something odd, as such creative endeavors are very rare in official institutions from my native country so we have to embrace them even if they are “ugly”. Especially in football organizations change is welcomed, because we have our top league declining in value every year. This is making club officials or owners not invest more time than necessary in operations such as a visual rebranding. All of the crests from the Romanian top tier league can be made in Paint.

Going back to the badges and designs. Below you can see the official designs of each important competition in Romania. All of them were released in 2016–2017, except the the Football Federation logo and the Professional League badge.

A new football design language pop-ups in Romania.

Sadly, as a designer I see a lot of inconsistency in design communication.

In Romanian Football Federation logo (the first one above) we use the tricolor motif. The national team was always nicknamed "Tricolori". And we as a football nation we do emphasized that very well through that design in particular.

The new badge for the National Football Team has a different motif. The new badge is split in five parts. They symbolise five historical regions from the country. According to the football federation the reason they did like this is to celebrate the Great Union Day of Romanian states: which is the union of those 5 historical regions in what we call today the modern Romania.

The Cup badge design has another motif: the eagle. The eagle appears in the official coats of arms of Romania that goes way way back, while we were still a monarchy.

We see another motif in the top tier league: the wolf. A shutterstock wolf wrapped around a ball. The wolf is related to the original Romanian ancestors, the dacians(a BC civilisation).

In the second tier league there is no motif, but personally I believe and hope that the direction was the tricolor motif.

Tricolor, eagles, wolves, shield shape, round shapes, solid colors, gradients, 4 types of balls, bold font, italic font, blue font, black font, white font… Is it hard to decide who we are? Is it hard to set a standard? It seems so.

I decided to look at France football badges. To compare:

Football design language in France.

Consistent motif: the gallic rooster.
Consistent fonts: no italics, never wrapped around a shape.
Consistent gradients.
Consistent colors with small exceptions.
Shapes are not consistent most of the time: different roosters or the hexagon shape.

I am disappointed to see our rebranding efforts ended at this. Disappointed to see that we still lack in departments like creativity and design direction.

There is too much confusion going on and we can't decide as a nation to what we identify ourselves with: is it eagles or wolves? Are we dacians or a united nation? A proof of concept is found in my first article wrote on Romanian football: Identity.

In the Romanian Football Design language we see each competition with their own design elements.
In the French Football Design language we see the same design elements in all competitions.

Solution:
An in-house creative agency to be started by the Romanian Football association. Being in charge of research, concepts, design of football affairs in Romania. Make sure that a football design language is imposed and respected at a national and at a club level. The main task would be setting a design standard.

The United States Soccer Federation is the perfect example, in my opinion, of consistency in football design language at a club and national level, look and learn from Major League Soccer (MLS NEXT):

  1. How they managed to build such a complex system of design that is consistent among club crests and competitions.
  2. How they identified their main motifs of designs and then apply it.

With the MLS booming, a rebrand was certainly in order. MLS’s original cartoonish logo was registered as a federal trademark on February 18, 1997. The cartoonish elements are gone in the new logo. In their place stands a more mature red, white, and blue shield meant to invoke feelings of national pride in both the United States and Canada, where the league’s 19 clubs reside. The most interesting element of the new logo is that it can be customized across all MLS clubs with the primary colors of the teams featured on the shield.

https://www.mlssoccer.com/next

On Romanian Football articles:

Transfers
Identity
Design Motifs

Other subjects:

Telling a Sports Story with Instagram
Interactive Football Installations: concepts and ideas

If you have a recommendation of a book that I have to read or if you have a project in mind about football or sports in general write me at:
hello [at] jeanpopescu.com

Jean Popescu

Written by

UX Designer that does not write about design. I mostly write personal opinions on football.

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