There’s no doubt about it, football and design go hand in hand. From big-scale club rebrands which spark design debates to small-scale passion projects for the fans—the design chemistry is undeniable.
Eager to combine his two areas of interest, Shillington London graduate Adam Sharratt launched his very own Football publication, Top Corner. A sophisticated blend of premium editorial design and football trivia, Top Corner is every bit a must have item for designers and football fanatics alike.
Now on its sixth issue with an annual in the works and a podcast available on iTunes, there’s no sign of Top Corner slowing down anytime soon. Read on to hear how Top Corner started, what Adam has planned for future issues and of course his time at Shillington.
You studied on the part-time course and now work in London at Surgery & Redcow. How did you find the journey from graduate to designer?
I think compared to most my experience was slightly different. I had a big push to try and get an internship straight after I graduated, but it wasn’t until I got a second wind a few months later that I got somewhere. What I took from it was looking at what your strengths are and use them to stand out. I’m not the type of person to be banging on doors and getting into agencies based on talking a good game (Although my poor colleagues may beg to differ!). Instead, when I found a placement I wanted to go for I found out who the Creative Director was and sent a little package to them—a print I’d made, a well typeset CV and cover letter. I printed it on some great stock and finished it with a branded stamp I made courtesy of Blade Rubber Stamps and a mid-century paperclip from Present and Correct (a great treasure trove for any designer).
Working on something like Top Corner must have taken you a lot of time. How did you balance it alongside your full-time designer job, without jeopardising the quality?
Being organised helps. Shillington is great at hammering home the point of getting the basics like setting up your grid and especially type styles so you can be creative and consistent on the fly. The other part of that is that we’ve got a google docs spreadsheet set out with every issue for the next 12 months. Theme, article titles and status are all in there so we can always stay a couple of steps ahead. The main benefit of doing this in my spare time though is that it’s always in the back of my mind. I’ll have ‘x’ amount of spreads to design a month, usually each with a different style and mostly with a visual metaphor, but they usually come organically through the month, rather than sketching out spread after spread. Having that luxury of time is quite a breath of fresh air after having a day in the studio. Saying that, my editor has a habit of changing articles at the last minute so there have been some nerves the day before going to print!
There’s been quite a lot of crossover between design and football, with designers often using their skills to promote their love of the game. Do you have a favourite instance when the two really clicked (apart from Top Corner of course)?
There seems to have been a realisation of how much football and graphic design are linked, especially if you look at branding as football teams are probably some of the most recognisable brands in the world. For instance, Liverpool only switched to their now synonymous all red kit in the 60’s in order to appear more intimidating to the opposition.
Maybe managers are the creative directors and the players the designers?
A debate for another issue perhaps! In terms of specific examples, I love the book football type and is exactly the kind of thing I would have loved to have created. In terms of publications, Libero and Paneka were the first I saw that excited me about the potential for football magazine and of the current crop I’d say Mundial stands out.
Can you take us through the work that’s gone into Top Corner? What made you initially want to begin such a project and what’s been the best part of working on a venture like this?
The idea had been around for years, but one night I sketched out the logo and everything started moving very quickly after that. The broad strokes for type, colours, image treatment and illustration style etc. were all set out in around a week I’d say then a lot of hard graft into properly crafting and editing everything. What’s great is that it’s always evolving though so you’re constantly adding layers to it. In terms of why we started it I think it’s a mix of pure fun, putting discussions that would normally be confined to the pub down on paper and making something visually that we’re really proud of. The best part is coming up with an idea that’s maybe slightly out there but gets right to the heart of the story and going with it. And that could be typographic, image or illustration based. Publications like Bloomberg Businessweek and the New York Times Magazine are a big inspiration for the way I’m trying to go about that.
Interest in podcasts has absolutely soared in the past few years—becoming increasingly popular in the creative industry in particular. Top Corner has now joined the audio ranks with the podcast of its own. Can you tell us a bit about this?
Well firstly I’d like to say that I can’t take all the credit for the podcast, it’s the brainchild of the Top Corner editor Elliott Sheaf. When we started Top Corner we very much wanted to have articles which were almost timeless so someone could pick up a copy at any point and it would still be relevant. With the podcast we can go into more topical discussions. This is usually that week’s results, but actually my favourite episode was where the guys had a look at racism, homophobia and politics within football.
Personally I love the podcast medium and it’s great for what we want to do with it.
I still can’t really believe that anyone in the world can search Top Corner on their podcast app and we’re the first thing that comes up and people can start listening to us. We knew the audience was there because of how the magazine was received so it was an easy decision. The next stage, just like the magazine, is getting some great guests involved, which is coming very soon.
Top Corner now has a whopping six issues—each detailing an enlightening theme from the football world. What topics can we expect to see covered in future issues?
It’s pretty crazy how much content we put out in that small amount of time. We’re actually just about to put out an end of year annual, which has the best bits from all six issues as well as four new articles from guest writers. Can’t wait to get my hands on it. As for next year, the first topic is going to be focused around the crazy ups and downs of football in the good ol’ US of A. We’re hoping to do one on football video games after that, but that’s actually a subject we’ve planned to do since day one and it keeps getting moved back as it’s such a vast subject area that’s almost verging on a bit of a cult for some. Oh, and if that’s not enough we’re changing format next year and having a bit of a soft editorial redesign to go with it so I’ve definitely got my hands full.
How important are personal projects in design? Would you encourage other graduates to keep themselves curious by starting a passion project?
Oh definitely. It’s great to be your own Art Director for a change and you can use it as an opportunity to try out new styles as well as focusing in on a particular subject matter than you may not usually cover. There’s never been a better time to see the things that are in your head actually get out onto paper either. We print Top Corner through Newspaper Club, I’m designing a book that will be done through Blurb and there are so many great resources for screen printing and risograph etc.
As part of our global network of Shillington Graduates (Shillumni), what’s one piece of advice you’d give to our graduates who have just stepped into the design industry?
Be open to everything and throw yourself into everything. I haven’t been in the industry very long and I’ve already designed some odd things. I think a bespoke novelty oversize cheque might be at the top of the list. I also never envisioned that data visualisation would turn into a large part of my skill set, but when the opportunity arose I went with it and it’s led to lots of other ventures.