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The History of the World Cup in Posters

When FIFA needed posters for its new World Football Museum, it turned to Jonas Bergstrand of the Stockholm agency Problem Bob. Football may be a game, but it’s taken very seriously by FIFA—and the sport’s legions of fans. Bergstrand gave the assignment the thoughtful attention it deserved, spending months designing posters to represent the nine World Cup tournaments between 1930 and 1970. Below, he explains the process for the 1962 and 1970 posters.

In many ways, graphic design is a matter of being resourceful with limited assets. There are always limits of different sorts that affect a design: time, budget, source material, creative freedom, etc.

I enjoyed a generous mandate in terms of creative freedom. Together my client and I worked out a functional balance between conceptual storytelling and historic facts. The posters’ main job became to present zeitgeist. Individual matches were given less importance. Such data was to be provided elsewhere in the museum. 

After a briefing with FIFA, I did an inventory of the photographic material I had at my disposal. I also conducted further research regarding key circumstances for each tournament. Since I was in charge of making nine posters that would be shown consecutively in the museum, I could plan the flow of the whole series.

The 1962 POSTER

In the early 1960s, photo distribution wasn’t as global as it is now. My assignment was restricted to what could be found in European archives, and since the 1962 cup was played in Chile, my hands were somewhat tied. I quickly realized I couldn’t rely heavily on existing photos to tell the story of 1962.

In 1962, football took a turn towards more physical, and often sinister, play. Garrincha—the player who dominated the tournament and pretty much won it for Brazil—was different. He was an unpredictable dribbler both on and off the pitch. Unable to conform to rules, he was often as brilliant on the pitch as he was a disaster off it. He was, however, always a man of the people and his lifestyle did not change all that much with rising stardom. He was forever a local boy from Pao Grande in Rio de Janeiro.

This homespun quality of Garrincha also suited the 1962 world cup from a conceptual point of view. A major earthquake hit Chile in 1960 with devastating effect, which meant an already fairly poor country faced a monumental task. In spite of limited resources, Chile managed to pull things off. The tournament was perhaps not as glamorous as the tournaments that followed, but things worked.

I decided to construct a seemingly multi-dimensional illustration of Garrincha that would capture him and his dribbling skills while saying something about disarray, chaos, and the ability to reconstruct.

I gathered the photos of Garrincha and quickly cut them apart and reassembled them in Adobe Photoshop CC. I then brought this rough guide into Adobe Illustrator CC.

I drew each shape of the multi-dimensional illustration on separate layers. I wanted the vector drawings to be very precise with a minimum of anchor points, so I created them with the Pen tool and a mouse. It was more like bending wire than drawing, but it gave me the results I was after. Once I finished the basic vector drawing, I exported it into Photoshop. 

The vector drawing in Photoshop.

In Photoshop, I trimmed the photos of Garrincha one by one (more carefully this time) and multiplied them onto the illustration. It was tedious, time-consuming work, but not difficult. Depending on the image, I used different methods to select the bits I wanted; for example, if the subject was crisply outlined, I drew the selection with the Cursor, much like you'd use a pair of scissors on paper. If the subject was out of focus or I wanted a smooth edge, I’d use a bit of feathering. 

To emphasize the homemade feel, I imported photos of textured paper into new layers and multiplied them on top of the Garrincha photo layers. I think this tactile, old-school aspect makes the figure come alive.

When I was satisfied with the photographic textures, it was time to colorize the greyscale illustration using a Color/Saturation adjustment layer.

The paper textures.

The 1970 POSTER

The 1970 World Cup was the first to be televised in color. From a narrative point of view, it made sense for the 1970 poster to reflect that innovation. However, most newspapers of the day still relied on black and white photography, which meant my source material lacked the vital quality of being in color. For example, Pelè, who was named the player of the century, appeared for the last time on the World Cup stage in 1970, so I knew I had to feature him in a big way. But by far the best shot of Pelè was in grayscale.

I faced the same problem with the photo of the Brazilian captain Carlos Alberto lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy. While the trophy lifting is always an iconic moment, 1970 was historic. Because it was the third time Brazil won the World Cup, that particular trophy was theirs permanently. But in 1983, the trophy was stolen and has not resurfaced, making this photo—available just in black and white—especially important.

My only option was to manually colorize the images in Photoshop. That’s not so complicated technically, but making all of the hand-applied colors look good together was more of a challenge.

For the portrait of Pelé, I used a fairly wide variation of warm and cool skin tones so that the colors were consistent with the light. The hairline can be tricky when colorizing a portrait, but in this case, hair and skin tones followed pretty much the same palette so I didn't have to pinpoint colors of single hairs. A portrait of somebody with thin stings of wildly dyed hair (Lady Gaga or David Bowie, for instance) would be more difficult.

The Pelè photo before and after applying color in Photoshop.

When it came to the image of Carlos Alberto lifting the trophy, I had to do a bit of research so that details like billboards, handrails, and clothes were reasonably accurate.

I wasn’t striving for completely realistic colors. Most of the 1970 matches were played in the afternoons, meaning that the broadcast had a certain feverish heat about it. I wanted the poster to have an almost dream-like look to it. 

To put the illustration together, I had to first take it apart. I wanted all key objects on separate layers so I could manipulate them easily. I applied Hue/Saturation adjustment layers, giving each object its own set of colors. Then I could erase different parts of the object in different layers to get an elaborate spectrum of colors. (This technique is good for skin tones that have many different colors—just use plenty of feathering when erasing.)

I also frequently painted color in an empty layer and set the Blend mode to Colorize. The layer beneath picks up color from the layer above, and the effect is quite believable.

After colorizing every object, I could focus on the whole image again. I played up the dream-like look by adding new layers fully or partially filled with a color, then applying different blend modes to the new layers.

PUTTING IN THE TIME

From a technical point of view, all the posters that I made for the FIFA World Football Museum are quite basic. By repeating simple commands and maneuvers many times over, I produced what I hope are compelling designs. Adding textures, cropping photos, and adjusting colors are not difficult tasks when working digitally. It is time-consuming, though—sometimes to a degree where it gets downright boring. Graphic design and illustration have in many ways become easier to produce, but there are still no substitutes for time and stubbornness. Those two are, as always, vital ingredients in any design worth looking at.

For more about the making of the nine posters, visit “The history of the World Cup” on the Problem Bob website.