Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Six of the Best: Arsenal

Perhaps we've said it before, but we often find it all too easy to overlook the wonderful world of match-day programmes here at The Football Attic, and for that we can only apologise. Few things provide a lasting, tangible snapshot of the football world like the humble programme, let alone its undoubted ability to liven up the most miserable of visits to watch the team of your choice.

So let's celebrate the match-day programme and, more specifically, the work of the graphic designers and printers that created so many wonderful and memorable covers.

In this feature, we'll pick a club at random, then choose our favourite programme cover design from each of the last six decades for that club. We'll explain why we like our choices and invite you to give us your choices too, but that's all we're doing - simply admiring the artwork.

So as if to suggest an alphabetical approach to all this, let's begin with the match-day programmes of Arsenal...

Arsenal programme,
The 1960's

I love this design. The first thing you notice about it is the big white circle (a ball, if you will) showing the match details and so on, but then you notice the red background which is actually a tinted selection of Arsenal-related photos. Finish the whole thing off with the club name running around the circle and you have a very nice eye-catching composition.

This cover was first seen during the 1968/69 season and, save for a different selection of background pictures, continued right through to 1970/71. As a bridge between the 1960's and the 1970's, this worked really well as it didn't use a typeface or imagery that associated itself with one decade or the other. Nice work.

Arsenal programme,
The 1970's

Though it only lasted for one season, this was my favourite Arsenal programme design of the 1970's. The contrast between black-and-white action shot and plain red upper section is dramatic and works really well, while the seriffed header font is dignified and clear.

The two stripes look good too, although it is a little misleading in making you think that the stripes featured on Arsenal's kit somewhere. As all you kit aficionados will know, Arsenal's kit remained constant right the way through the 1970's and certainly didn't have anything as garish as a double stripe anywhere on it.

In summary, then, this wasn't the most eye-catching design from the decade, but it was smart and reflected the end of the post-glam era in a suitably understated way.

Arsenal programme,
The 1980's

If any decade is guilty of fashion crimes, it's the 1980's, and some of Arsenal's programmes at this time simply look a bit too 80's, frankly. This one, on the other hand, looks cool and vibrant.

Thanks to the introduction of full colour printing only a few years earlier, this programme design uses a photo from a recent match as the dominating element. No bad thing, either - it brings the excitement of the game sharply into focus. With a modern headline font that's not too quirky and all the important details down near the bottom, everything's neatly compartmentalised and easy on the eye. What's not to like?

Arsenal programme,
The 1990's

To be honest, it's unclear what the background is on this cover. It's a sort of navy blue/burgundy/gunmetal mish-mash of a pattern, and yet it's not really important in the grand scheme of things. What's important is that it provides an interesting backdrop to the action photo that appears on top of it.

It's also a great contrast to the very nice gold 'Arsenal' lettering that features near the bottom of the cover. The lettering itself is taken straight from the club badge of that era, and it would subsequently be coloured silver on the official programmes during the following three seasons.

The fact that it was coloured gold here might have something to do with the fact that this was the season after The Gunners had won the League and FA Cup double. Further proof of that incredible achievement can be found in the trophy images that appear in both of the bottom corners. To complete the ensemble, a computer-style typeface indicates the match details and price (by now a whopping £2). Money well spent, however, given the lavish production values of this late-20th Century design.

Arsenal programme,
The 2000's

Fast-forward ten years and you find all the intricate detail stripped away to leave a very nice, simple, clean composition. By this stage, Arsenal had updated their badge (which now appeared in the top-right hand corner) and the typeface from it was used, as before, for the main title.

The ever-present match photo filled the full width here and would have taken up the full height too were it not for the red bar across the bottom. If you can pick out any negative from this design, it's the fact that the commercial age was now demanding three corporate logos be displayed - one each for Emirates, Nike and the Barclays Premier League - but at least they were tucked away nice and small in the bottom-left corner where they wouldn't be too distracting.

In many ways, this is as neat and stylish as you could ever ask for... but when the second decade of the 21st Century arrived, it was all change again...

The 2010's

OK, so the decade is still in progress and has barely started, but out of the four seasons that have begun up to now, this design is the pick of what we've seen so far.

Looking more like a brochure than a programme, there was now a thick white border around the front cover providing a pleasant contrast from the colour overload of previous efforts. There was also no mistaking the title of the programme as it was now appearing top-left, as is somewhat traditional for magazines of all kinds.

A squat sans-serif font displays the match details in an unambiguous fashion, including a four point bullet strap below the main title. Then there's those all-important logos which have been parked neatly along the bottom edge - perhaps the result of some over-clinical styling. At least you can't argue with the clarity of detail on the cover, and it's interesting to note that this season's design takes this concept and gives it a more complicated appearance. Bit of a shame that...

Anyway, there it is - our choice of the best Arsenal programmes from six decades. We'd be interested to hear your views about which ones you like or dislike, and as ever we invite you to leave us a comment below or contact us via Twitter, Facebook or via email at admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com.


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