21/04/2020
Insight

Stylish collection of beautifully graphic football programmes are a snapshot of design history and club culture.

We talk with DixonBaxi designer, Matt Caldwell about his obsession for collecting highly graphic, wonderfully eclectic football programmes. Each a moment in time, capturing a snapshot of history and football culture.

Rochdale vs Southport, 28 February 1976

Tell us a bit about your role at DixonBaxi.
I’ve been a designer at DixonBaxi for around 4 months now. As a part of a team, my job is to invent new ways for brands to express themselves across every kind of service and platform, always striving to push the meaning of branding to new territories whilst making people smile.

You have this amazing collection of football programs. Can you tell us about when you first started collecting them and why?
My obsession with football programmes and more specifically football, all stems from my Dad who has held a season ticket at Aston Villa for 50 years. I was practically born wearing claret and blue. One Christmas I was visiting my family home when I decided to check out his immaculately stored Villa programme collection — a wall of leather-bound folders all bursting at the seams. As I opened one of the folders I was struck by how effortlessly beautiful the design of the covers were and how perfectly they captured 60s/70s football culture. As well as the Bovril adverts, the endlessly simplistic designs, bold typography, and simple print techniques reminded me of how simple football once was. I knew I had to start my own collection and that is when I set up my Instagram account @1_shilling.

Have you discovered who all of the designers are?
Unless you contact a club-historian, most of the designers of these gems have been lost to history. However, many credits to production are placed on the base of the programme’s reverse, set in 6pt type. Only in a couple of circumstances can you see examples where the name of a designer has been credited. That said, the name of one young designer almost always appears on their programme’s credits area. His name was John Elvin and his work for West Brom, Coventry City and Chelsea set a new benchmark for programme design-quality. Despite this, some fans weren’t convinced about the big changes he was making. He responded to the criticism with “Try something highly different and you are bound to cause some argument, but the controversy was part of football”.

Luton vs Carlisle, 25 November 1972

Matt’s third favourite. AstonVilla vs Derby, 29 March 1969.

How has the design changed from then to now?
Sadly, football programmes have gotten rather dull. Advert heavy and design weak, the majority seem to have lost their way in representing what the beautiful game means to fans. Hopefully, this article can inspire some sort of revolution!

What are the biggest differences in football and teams from then to now?
Without a doubt, the biggest difference in football from then to now is the money. Never today would you see empty advertising slots in a programme and you’d never dream of seeing your team’s captain on the bus ride to the stadium (no really, that did happen). For many fans, the money side of the game can be alienating and although attendances have never been higher, a lot has to be said for the rise in popularity of grass-roots football. I think most fans would love to see a return of the genuine connection players once had with supporters when they were working-class heroes.

Which programme best reflects the spirit of the club?
I think that has to go to Barnsley’s 1972 cover, which features an illustration of the club mascot ‘Toby Tyke’, an upbeat looking bulldog running onto a pitch, ball-in-arm. I think Toby represents football for the people of Barnsley at the time. Despite it being a bleak era for the club who were sat at the bottom of Division 3, Toby would always be there on a Saturday, bounding onto the field with enthusiasm, hoping to brighten the spirits of the hard-working mining community that watched on.

What font or masthead design makes you smile the most?
One that stands out is a centre spread in a 1970 West Brom vs Leeds programme which reads ‘LUCKLESS LEEDS’ in bubble type. It seems that Leeds must have been going through as unlucky a patch as they are today — although they did finish runners up of Divison 1 that season.

Barnsley vs Plymouth, 15 January 1972. Featuring an illustration of the club mascot ‘Toby Tyke’.

The second favourite in the collection. Wolves vs Everton, 6 January 1968.

And Matt’s all-time favourite. Coventry vs Bayern Munich, 3 November 1970.

What are your top 3 favourites and why?
For sentimental reasons, my third favourite is Aston Villa vs Derby 1969 — the first Villa programme my dad collected and also the inspiration for the ‘1_Shilling’ logo.

Second has to be Wolves vs Everton 1968. The cover looks like it should be advertising a Dieter Rams Braun product rather than representing a football match in Wolverhampton! Beautiful.

But my favourite programme is a John Elvin original — Coventry vs Bayern Munich 1970. The high contrast image of Gerd Müller on the cover eventually became the logo for John’s design studio, and why not. Placed delicately over the words ‘European Sky Blue’ this cover captures the excitement of the fixture which hasn’t come around many other times in Coventry’s history. Every page is designed like a poster. It’s hard to believe he designed it single-handedly from a terraced house opposite Coventry’s old Highfield Road stadium.

Which current program do you think is the best designed?
Although modern football programmes aren’t the same as what they were, Alex Brown’s work for the 9th tier club Eastbourne Town comes the closest to building a considered, consistent approach to a programme with minimal graphic elements. Other good examples of note: Norwich City recently collaborated with a different local illustrator for the past two seasons, and ‘The Square Ball’ is a branded fanzine for Leeds fans which features well-written articles and a simple design approach.

What’s next for the collection?
I have a few things in the pipeline for the collection. Of course, I will continue to share more beautiful football programmes on my Instagram but more interestingly I will be launching a book later this year. ‘1 Shilling Mate’ will discuss the football programme revolution of the 1970s and how it brought about a forgotten design movement. Written by myself and BBCRadio4 presenter, historian, author, and avid programme collector Alan Dein, the book will go live on Kickstarter in the coming months and will raise money for two charities close to our hearts. Watch this space!

Rangers vs Motherwell, 21 April 1976.

WestBrom vs Leeds, 26 September 1970.

Hull vs Middlesbrough, 23 September 1967.

Benfica vs Juventus, 9 May 1968.

Check out the Instagram feed:
@1_shilling
Instagram link