Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. We got chance to sit down with Chris Payne to learn more about football brand design!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role, and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Chris Payne and I am a football brand designer. I design logos for football clubs around the world, helping them improve their brand and reputation. When football club directors/media managers/marketing directors feel like their club needs to evolve its logo and freshen up the football club’s brand, they come to me, which is a true honor and a huge responsibility. I am very proud to work in the industry that I love and play a small part in the history of football clubs.
I have worked with clubs all over the world, but in England, I helped rebrand: Eastleigh Football Club, Hitchin Town Football Club, Alfreton Town Football Club, Taunton Town Football Club
Overseas, I have designed brands for; Monterey Bay Football Club, New Amsterdam Football Club, Napa Valley 1839 Football Club, NC Hailstorm Football Club, Flower City Union
What do you do in your current role?
I am a freelance designer who works very closely with a football club for the time it takes to research, strategize, design, and launch their new logo and brand. (It’s like being a footballer who joins a club on loan for some time, and then does all that he can to ensure that he leaves the club in a better position than when he started) It’s proper exciting as each football club is beautifully different, and I get to work with amazing and passionate people at all the different clubs I work with.
Initially, when working with a football club, my role involves researching the club and getting to know the community and the place that the club represents. I learn all about the club’s history and previous visuals styles. I ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research. It’s a long process, but a fascinating one, as I LOVE learning about football clubs and their stories, both on and off the pitch.
As a football fan myself, I understand that there’s a lot of nostalgia and special memories attached to football clubs, so with each and every design that I create, I always embrace the football club’s history, traditions and cultures, whilst modernizing the brand. Another part of my role is to work with the club’s directors to understand their future vision for the club. It’s important that we are aligned and on a vision and I can help them progress their football club.
There are many parts to this role, but in reality, redesigning the logo for a football club is just the tip of the iceberg in what I do. Obviously, it is the most critical part of the process, as it’s the club’s primary identifier and will always make the headlines and mean so much to the fans. However, I provide much more than the logo to ensure that the football clubs have a distinct look and a scalable brand.
Beyond evolving the club’s logo, I also design key identifiers for the club, including secondary logo designs, custom typography design, brand patterns, brand guidelines, brand launch videos, club graphics suites, social media templates, merchandise design, etc.
A lot goes into making a club successful with its brand. The logo design is obviously vitally important. You must get it right; however, the logo must fit into a broader design system.
What does a normal week look like for you?
Honestly, it varies from week to week. There’s no standard week in designing branding for football clubs, as one days I am designing custom typography for a club, another day I am speaking with the clubs directors and pitching ideas, other days I am working with merchandise manufactures to ensure that the designs are perfect, and other days I am directing short films to launch the a new logo.
There is however, so routine to the process in which I work with clubs, that process is usually split up into three parts:
The first part is information gathering, which involves speaking with football club directors, marketing managers, and the fans. Then I research football clubs’ history and learn all about the club, their traditions and culture, and communities that they represent.
The second part is the creative side, and the design part. This is where I sketch out various ideas, digitally design logo concepts, and see how they work across all scenarios and use cases. A lot of sketching out ides happens before I move to design on the computer. Often in the creative part of the process, I will also work on video assets and see how the football club’s brand assets can be animated and scale. Additionally, I’ll create custom typefaces and brand patterns for football clubs to make their brand unique and stand out.
The third part is all about testing the designs. I look to see if the designs are scalable, ensuring that the designs work on all mediums, from digital media to print media. I test to see if the designs are functional when replicated at large sizes (For example, outside a stadium) vs. a small size (for example on a fan’s social media feed), etc. There’s a lot of testing that goes into the design.
There’s certainly no normal week, and there’s always a lot going on, but I LOVE every minute of it. It’s great working with really good football people and talking about football and design (my two passions) every day.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
From a very early age, I knew that I wanted to work in football. The original dream was to be out on the pitch, dictating play like Pierlo, or doing 3-4 stepovers, like JJ Okocha, but sadly, that didn’t quite work out.
However, even after realizing that I wouldn’t make it as a professional footballer, I never lost my love for football. I am somewhat obsessed with it. I love going to games, watching games on T.V., reading about the game, listening to podcasts, talking about the game with my mates, and now designing for the game.
I am equally as obsessed and in love with good and intelligent design. I was a designer for many years before I became a ‘Football Brand Designer’. I long dreamed of designing a logo for a professional football team to fuze my two passions together (football and design).
The career as a ‘football brand designer’ started because I got in touch with Alfreton Town F.C. and offered my services to them. At the time, they had a logo that wasn’t creating an emotional connection with their fans, so the club owners wanted to refresh the club’s look and feel. It was perfect timing.
I went into the design process keen to impress, and in researching the football club and its community, I found out that the town of Alfreton was named after King Alfred the Great, which I thought was interesting. Then, in researching the club’s history, we found out that the original logo for the Alfreton Town Football Club featured a king within its design. And so we decided to bring a modern and stylized design of King Alfred back onto the club’s logo.
Read more about this rebrand here: https://www.footballbranddesigner.com/behind-the-scenes-redesigning-alfreton-town-f-c-s-logo/
Alfreton Town Football Club’s brand launch was a huge success! The fans and the community embraced it straight away. The club looked much more professional, and their reputation grew. It was like the club was reborn with new energy. The club financially profited from the new design, with merchandise sales almost doubling.
Off the back of the success of Alfreton Town F.C.’s rebrand, more and more football clubs approached me, wanting me to help them rebrand their club. Football clubs in England and America started calling me to see if we could work together.
It’s kind of crazy how popular the designs have become. Still, I believe it’s somewhat deserved, as I work extremely hard for each club that hires me – as it’s a true honor to design for them and play a part in their club’s history. I work long hours and pour all my energy and creativity into the project and ensure that the football club gets a brand that their fans and community can be proud of.
These days, it is always exciting to wake up, check your emails, and find that a football club is interested in working with you.
I’ll never lose my obsession for the game and passion for good design, and that has helped me end up where I am right now.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
My number one focus is to create unique logo designs that have an emotional connection with the fans.
Designs that are simple, though striking, and embrace the history of the club and its community.
It is a HUGE responsibility to design a logo and brand for a football club. There is a lot of pressure to get it right. We have all seen football clubs that have rebranded and got it wrong, and it can be pretty bad.
Having been through this process of designing quality brands for football clubs, and seeing fans delighted with the final designs, I now know what works well, and what should be avoided. I have a process that brings success.
A football club’s logo means so much to many, so I focus on working extremely hard and following my process to ensure that the fans embrace the new logo and brand.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?
Any day that we launch a logo and brand for a football club is a joyful day. It is the result of many months of hard work and behind-the-scenes meetings, reviews, designing, and collaboration.
It’s a great feeling to see passionate fans of all ages react with excitement and positivity to something you and the club have created together.
To be specific, launching Eastleigh F.C.’s new brand was a great day. The new brand was launched during the pandemic, so it was nice to give some joy to the fans.
To launch the football club’s new logo, we created a 3-minute short film that told the history of Eastleigh Football Club through its past identities. (the original logo in 1946, the old logo which was introduced in 1980, and now the new design in 2020). It was a history piece. We brought in actors to play key roles, and mixed in some old match day footage to add energy and momentum to the film.
Learn more about Eastleigh F.C.’s rebrand here: https://www.footballbranddesigner.com/designing-eastleigh-football-clubs-new-logo/
The reaction was unbelievable. The fans and the footballing community loved it! Not only the new logo, but also how we launched the new logo and brand, we showed that we care about the club’s history, but this is about progressing and evolving the club.
To be honest, there are loads of other favourite and memorable moments that I could mention, but that Eastleigh F.C. launch was really special.
What do you think is next for your industry?
I think many football clubs are waking up to the fact that their logo (and brand) is one of their most important assets. Sadly though, there are still many football clubs that haven’t looked at evolving their logo and brand are falling behind other teams.
Many clubs have logos created over 50 years ago, in an era when the club’s logo was only seen on players’ shirts on a Saturday afternoon.
These days the world has changed. Football is a 24/7 business, with TV on demand, social and digital media changing the football fan’s experience.
Modern fans expect their club and their club’s directors to be looking to progress the club in all areas, and the football club’s brand is a part of that. Fans want to see that their club is moving with the times. Fans want the club to have good quality progressive branding (that respects the club’s history), fan want great merchandise that they can proudly wear, and a strong presence on social media. They want to buy shirts, T-shirts, hats, and scarves.
Yet, some clubs still have logos designed 50 years ago (or more), and haven’t got around to updating the clubs brand, so I believe what is next in this industry (and is actually happening right now) is more clubs looking to refresh their identity and move with the times.
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about enough or focus on enough?
There is a lot of focus on the design of a football club’s logo – and rightly so, it’s the face of the club. It should be designed with the utmost care, precision, and intelligence. However, these days a football club’s brand and visual identity is more than the logo.
Football clubs should have a great logo design and a well-thought-out design system.
When we designed the Eastleigh F.C.’s logo, we also created a solid brand system that included custom-designed typography. This typeface is used across all assets, from marketing to media, merchandise to match day graphics.
The custom typeface was also used in the logo design, as it was inspired by the markings on the side of Spitfire airplanes (the club’s nickname is ‘The Spitfires’).
This typeface, ‘Eastleigh Sans’ relates to the local area’s long history with Spitfire Airplanes. It is unique to the club and enables the football club’s brand to be local, relevant, and stylish. The typeface. alongside other brand attributes really tie the club’s brand together.
This is just one example of branding done right. I get why the focus is always on the football club’s logo design. However, I always think it is a mistake when clubs launch a new logo without considering the more comprehensive brand and how its complete identity will fit together. I believe more focus should be put on the football club’s broader brand.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Work hard and do good work consistently. If you do good work, people will notice you, and you will get more work.
Never settle for designs that are ‘good enough.’ You have to remember that what you are creating for a football club will be cherished by so many fans and people who you don’t know; you owe it to them to make what you are creating relevant, stylish, and functional.
You must work extremely hard and each and every project and make intelligent design decisions. Collaborate with the club’s directors and research the history of the club. Get to understand the traditions and culture of the club. Think about the entire brand system, and push yourself to create the best possible designs for the football club.
Yikes, sorry that was more than one piece of advice – but I hope it’s helpful.
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