How DesignStudio redesigned the Premier League

We chat to Stuart Watson, creative director of DesignStudio, to find out how the agency refreshed the global giant's identity.

Whether you like it or not, football is unavoidable in England and in no form more so than the Premier League. Not only is it important to the English identity – and to the sprinkling of Welsh teams who play in it – but is also the world’s most watched league, viewed in over 730 million households. 

After deciding to lose sponsorship from the 2016/17 season onwards, the league needed an equally fresh and innovative rebranding that worked across audiences and platforms. That's when DesignStudio were given the colossally signficant task. 

Despite rumours that the league’s ferocious lion would be ditched, DesignStudio has given the twentieth century imagery a modern twist. It has switched the navy and white for a burst of colour, the ‘corporate’ font for a friendlier one, and the full-bodied lion for a simple, bold lion’s head. 

Executive Creative Director of DesignStudio Stuart Watson tells us how the design agency took a brand steeped in history and catered it to a mind-bogglingly diverse global audience.

Mimi Launder: How did DesignStudio get the job?  

Stuart Watson: “We were asked to take part in a creative pitch in September 2015. The pitch really was a labour of love. A lot of work was created in a short space of time but we had an instinctive understanding of what direction to go in. This work ultimately informed what you see today. We won the pitch and we’ve been working with Premier League ever since, about five months now.”

Image: 2015/16 league brand (top); 2016/17 (bottom)

ML: How was it to redesign something so iconic?

SW: “It was certainly the cause of some sleepless nights but we had a strong relationship with the client where there was a lot of trust. That helped. Other than the pressure we put on ourselves, it was very much like any other project.

“The brief was also very clear: the Premier League had to change for a number of reasons and not having a title sponsor next season was the catalyst for this.

“As part of the process we listened to the fans, who told us that the lion was loved. Over 90% felt very fondly towards it and this research informed our design decisions.”

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ML: Why did you decide on such a simple, bold design?

SW: “Every decision we made was based on the brand strategy, to answer the brief. The current identity simply doesn’t work. Technically, we needed a system that could scale from a 25px icon to outdoor advertising, standing out on matchday and coming to life on TV. We also had to build in flex for a wide audience that on the one side inspires school children through exercise and, on the other, works with policy makers and politicians. 

“And on an emotional level, the Premier League needed to feel part of the conversation, they needed to talk about the work they do all over the world in a human way and become a warmer, more approachable organisation.”

ML: And what about the bright colour scheme?

SW: “We used colour from the very beginning of the process to signal change and bring a new energy to the work we were showing. We wanted a colour palette that was unique to the Premier League so we were careful to stay away from club colours and we wanted a broad palette to allow us to be relevant to whomever we are talking to.

“The idea is to update the palette every cycle to keep things looking fresh.”

ML: How did you decide the font?

SW: “The current Premier League font only exists in uppercase, which means they can only shout at people. We wanted to put this right so we chose a font that was human, made for storytelling and didn’t distract in any way. That’s what got us to FF Mark. We’re now working on a bespoke cut of this with Monotype.”

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