It’s always interesting for us to see how, from a design perspective, a host nation interprets the World Cup. Last week we listed our 7 favourite World Cup posters. This week, expanding on our football fever theme, we thought we’d rank the logos of the World Cup, worst to best (in our opinion), from 1978 – 2018.

The reason we’re starting from 1978 is because before then, the logos and posters were one and the same. They only became distinguished from ’78 onwards.

There are 11 in-all, and hopefully you’ll agree with our choices. If not, feel free to let us know what your personal favourites/most disliked are!

 

11 – Italy 1990

There’s too much going on here in terms of the quasi-optical illusion aesthetic. It looks like something that should be viewed through the old paper 3D glasses with the red and blue lenses. It’s got an old fashioned appearance, and certainly hasn’t dated well. This is especially true of the slanted font, which seems at odds with the visual style of the football. It’s a little bit fussy and a little bit abrasive, and seems an odd choice from a country that’s renowned for style.

 

10 – Germany 2006

Unfortunately, this logo doesn’t seem to capture the essence of the tournament in the same way that many of its predecessors and successors do. The theme they’re working on is one of joy and global friendship, which is a nice theme, but taken at face value the visual falls a little flat. It comes across as childlike, and for anyone who’s not aware of the context, it might come across as ingratiatingly twee. It’s very colourful, and there’s a lot going on, but it almost seems like too much.

 

9 – Mexico 1986

This one looks to have been heavily influenced by Mexico’s 1970 World Cup designs, but with a modern twist. Its incorporation of the colours of the Mexican flag works well, but the two images of globes on either side of the football seem slightly too literal. There’s a clear message of unity being portrayed here. And it’s obvious that they’re trying to symbolise the coming together of East and West through football, but it’s a very on-the-nose approach without much subtlety. It also gives the logo a clunky, chunky vibe. Slightly heavy-footed.

 

8 – South Africa 2010

Despite its poster making it into our all-time top 5 last week, South Africa’s logo effort was somewhat less successful. There’s a nice thematic link between the logo and the poster in how they both abstractly depict the shape of the country. But beyond that, the logo itself is too fussy, and, when directly compared with he poster, it seems to be of a much different, older, era. It’s looser, more cluttered, and seems to be lacking the same simplistic quality. It features the same World Cup symbol as the Korea ’02 and Germany ’06 logos, but doesn’t incorporate it directly into the design. Instead the symbol is placed in the corner, and as such appears more like a compulsory add-on.

  

7 – USA 1994

Classic American style. It’s perhaps surprising that they didn’t incorporate the stars into the design of the ball, but the overall aesthetic typifies the colours and lines of the USA. There’s no actual flag here, but the curve of the red lines are very indicative of one. The diagonal blue lines, on top of the red, make the visual slightly cluttered and jarring, though it’s clear that this aspect of the design is a nod to Spain’s 1982 logo.

 

6 – Russia 2018

Very similar to Brazil’s 2014 logo, this one uses the shape of the World Cup trophy as an outline and incorporates visual elements within that represent the host country’s culture. The design combines elements from Fabergé eggs to Sputnik, and shows two human outlines with their hands held up (which could possibly be a nod to the legendary Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin). It’s a nice, bold logo, though the font is a slight let down.

 

5 – Korea/Japan 2002

This is the first iteration of a “FIFA World Cup” logo, which features a stylised image of the trophy as its centrepiece. As opposed to previous World Cups, this one, in its design, seemed to present the tournament as more of a brand. It was less focussed on presenting the two host nations’ colours and, for the first time in a long while, it didn’t feature an image of a football. This logo spearheaded a new generation in which the hosts cultural values and idiosyncrasies were distilled through their designs.

There’s also a nice touch in the design of the two 0s in “2002”, which are presented as an infinity symbol. This could be seen as a symbol of the cultural and commercial merging of the two host nations for the tournament.

 

4 – Brazil 2014

Inspired by a photograph of three hands raising the World Cup trophy, this logo’s intention was to portray diversity and modernity. It’s just like Russia’s 2018 logo in shape. But within the borders of that shape things are much different. It’s more abstract in terms of its cultural offering. There are, of course, the Brazilian colours present, which inherently project fun, positive, carnival-esque vibes. But beyond that, taken at face value, its quite abstract. The hands won’t necessarily be interpreted as hands by everyone, and the font (like Russia’s) isn’t the most visually pleasing. But what it lacks in depth and cultural content it makes up for in simplicity and vibrancy.

 

3 – Spain 1982

This is one of the most simplistic logos on the list. A football and a flag. It exemplifies the style of this era (where each host nation designed a logo consisting primarily of national colours and a football). The placement of the flag is very clever, suggesting a trail of movement behind the ball, which lends an aspect of energy and movement to the logo.

 

2 – France 1998

A simple colour structure and layout here. We can see a portion of the ball rising over what looks to be the curved outline of a country (possibly France?). It’s a nice visual, and cleverly encapsulates the global facet of the tournament, suggesting, perhaps, that much like the sun football is about to illuminate the world.

What’s also interesting to note here is how similar the typestyle is to the Air France logo of the time. Whether or not there is some sort of link can’t be said, but it’s curious that Air France were one of the national sponsors of the tournament. . . .

 

1 – Argentina 1978

Topping the list is Argentina’s logo of ’78. It’s very simplistic, and was the first logo to usher in the “national colours + football” trend. The blue stripes almost look like two abstract hands holding the football, which is a creative flair that goes against the grain of the other logos of that time.