Nike constantly strives to employ color in original and innovative ways. As Nike Football launches a new collection of boots and third kits designed for some of Europe’s leading clubs, vibrant colors are used to create striking designs.
Martin Lotti, Nike’s Creative Director for Global Football provides insight into how his design team approached the development of these kits and how they use color to make a bold statement on pitch.
What was your inspiration for these new third kits?
I wanted to create a design that drenched the players from head to toe in color. I remember being inspired by an art exhibition on London’s South Bank where a room was flooded with these neon lights to create an immersive sensation, and knew, in these kits, the shirt, shorts and socks all had to be the same color.
What do you believe is the impact of these third kits?
I love these kits because they are unexpected and refreshing. They are also both simple and intriguing. The best ideas can be the simplest ones. I like the term “complex simplicity,” which works with these kits. They look simple from a distance, but the closer you get, the more complex they become. I can’t wait to see them on the pitch.
How does color work in this new range of third kits?
Our intention here was to amplify color as much as possible. We wanted to produce the brightest possible colors and really tap into their vibrancy. On the darker kits, the side stripe plays a bigger role with its brightness, and these kits look brighter at night against the grass and under floodlights too. Under a dark sky these kits will look electric, as if powered by batteries.
What is the role of the side stripe in these kits?
It runs along the side of the kit, so when the player is standing straight it is an unbroken line, but as soon as they start moving it follows the movement of their body to produce a feeling of motion.
How will players benefit from such colorful kits?
We hear from our players that brighter colors make them feel faster and empower them. There is a very real psychological aspect to these colors. The two-tone aspect of the front and back also has a role — the idea of an opponent seeing one color in front of them, but when they are beaten they will see a different color on the back of the shirt. I hope it will inspire players to leave their opponents in the dust.
What do players say about the benefits of vibrant color?
I can remember hearing Zlatan Ibrahimovic say how the color of a kit makes him feel powerful. Players want to stand out, and color gives them a psychological shift.
Do you consider the fans as well in the design?
Of course, and we believe the brightness of these kits will trigger a visceral reaction in fans, and inspire even more pride in their team. We also want to give them a different experience at night. These kits will be worn in the evening, under the floodlights, and we wanted to cerate a more dramatic feel for the players and fans in the stadium and at home.
How did you tune the colors to work well under floodlights?
We tested this kit in different conditions, and also how it would look on television. We believe this kit will look brilliantly bright in night games. This brightness will help players see each other even better because we included the lessons of visual acuity from other products in the designs.
Describe the process of zeroing in different colors?
We work hard to get color right. We look at many swatches under different lights and in different conditions, and consider how the colors will appear against grass. We consider which shades look good on various skin tones. And the relevance of color to the teams is key to ensure that each club maintains its own identity.
How do these kits reflect the modern game?
I believe the intensity of the colors mirrors the intensity of the game now. The game is getting quicker and these kits are designed to highlight the players’ speed.
How important is color to football kits?
Color represents both tradition and newness. Color is crucial to any kit; it is the most visible symbol and inspires players and fans.
Do you have more freedom when designing third kits?
With home kits you have to respect tradition, and to some extent that goes for away kits too. But with third kits you can be a lot more adventurous. This is where you can produce some new and different excitement and energy. It is a blank canvas to create a new story, challenge people and spark some dialogue and debate. We enjoy surprising fans and players.
What are the leading principles in kit design?
There are four elements we focus on. Performance always leads, and we first and foremost look at how we can elevate the athlete. Second, is the style, how it looks and fits. Next is the soul, looking for the soulful details that inspire and speak to the player and fan. And fourth, we look at the entire design through the lens of sustainability in our materials and manufacturing choices.
How do you first approach the design of a football kit?
We listen to the clubs, and try to strike a balance between looking to the future, and remembering the past. Each club has a broad fan base and we want a kit embraced by everyone old and young.
How do you find the inspiration for your kits?
It is so important to connect with the actual clubs and know everything we can. We travel a lot and visit the clubs to meet with a broad range of people. We speak to die-hard fans, journalists, writers, former players, current players, youth players, the chairman, the manager, and of course, the kit man is crucial.
What are the best ways to absorb the culture of a club?
We go on a journey where we try to discover as much about the club as we can — any little nugget can be useful or spark and idea.
What attributes must designers have to produce these kits?
The ability to tell a story. You have to appreciate the romance, heritage and spirit of the club, and possess a real love for the game, its players and the fans.