Jul 10, 2006

I'm an admitted soccer neophyte, so feel free to filter what I have to say here through that lens. That said, I enjoyed the World Cup more than I expected to, particularly yesterday's France-Italy final. And I have a couple of notes about it (broken up into two posts to make the direct linking easier).

The World Cup is, by far, the most aesthetically impressive sporting event I've seen. While American leagues consistently subject us to nefarious goings-on like this and this (the list could go on, believe me), the World Cup gives us gems like these:

click for larger versions

The winner, though, is France. This is one beautifully executed piece:

Everything about it - the simplicity, the balance, the use of color - is fantastic. What really sets it apart, though, is the typography.

The name is set in Bauhaus, and it's an interesting choice. The font itself is a 1974 product from the International Typeface Corporation, which redesigned and added to some of the original Bauhaus concepts. Among type folks it is known that this is not an historically accurate representation of those "universal type" ideals, and it has often been used insensitively (the title credits for Roseanne and this abomination from ESPN are two such examples). As a result, to use Bauhaus now is generally considered a purely stylistic choice, and it is tough to do it well.

But I differ from some of the more strident opinions here. I think Bauhaus typography, even as it is somewhat inaccurately represented by the ITC font, is still serviceable and proper in the right context. The French jersey is a perfect example.

The idea behind Bauhaus type was to put the school's ideals of modernism and universalism in service of a new, more pure typography. Herbert Bayer, the man behind the movement, said that "the typographic revolution was not an isolated event but went hand in hand with a new social and political consciousness and consequently, with the building of new cultural foundations." In the context of the World Cup, an event that brings together a cross-section of world cultures like nothing else, this typography is a natural and intelligent fit. Using Bauhaus doesn't feel "retro" or "kitsch" here - it actually feels right. Nothing about that changes the font's checkered history, and it probably won't ultimately do much in service of the larger good, but that doesn't make it any less great.

There's much more that could be said, but I'm not an expert. If you find it interesting, here are some suggestions for further reading:

Much of my information on Bauhaus type came from this book. It's a little academic, but I'd recommend it nonetheless. And if you're interested generally in the aesthetics of sport, there is no better place to go than the esteemed Uni Watch blog. Soon to be a permanent link, I consider it mandatory.

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