Diploma Project Close-Up: Interview for TWELFTH magazine

This is the first post about my diploma project I finished last summer in the last semester of my three-year studies at ECAL. I already put the main parts of it online here and Markus Reuter wrote a charming and extensive review on his website.

Nevertheless — Until now I couldn’t find the right time to recapitulate and sum it all up properly and in my own written words. So when Kevin Pedron from Italy lately approached me with a bunch of thoughtful questions about the project for his new magazine project called TWELFTH (a quarterly self-published magazine about football with the purpose to tell stories, let fellow designers express, using football as a common subject) I was thrilled to dive deeper into the subject again.

So here is the interview. I hope you enjoy it!

Kevin Pedron: First of all, would you mind introducing yourself, where are you at the moment and what you are up to?

My name is Hugo Hoppmann, I’m a 23-years old multidisciplinary graphic designer from the beautiful city of Cologne in Germany. I studied three years visual communication at the ECAL in Lausanne/Switzerland where I graduated this summer.
Now I’m back in my hometown working full-time as an art director for Meiré und Meiré, which feels like post-studies, but on a very professional level. We are currently working on the second issue of INTERVIEW.
Apart from this “day-job” I write and create a lot these days always trying to push my own projects further.

Since we are here to talk about football, let’s dive into the Piqto United reality. How was the team born? With which purpose?

In 2005 I founded a small t-shirt label named PIQTO (Read the whole story here).
My friends were always super supportive. All of us were wearing PIQTO pretty much to every occasion. And suddenly the name of the label became sort of a synonym for our friend-circle and in our neighborhood we were even getting called The Piqto’s
Parallel to that (and even way before that) we always played a lot of football on a regular base. Around 2007 — after having played several tournaments and matches under the name “Baui Bolzer” — we wanted to go a step further and build a more professional identity for our very own football club. So we decided to become PIQTO UNITED. This was in spring 2008.

Today we are proud of our unbeatable team-spirit but also of the openess to new players and the support for younger team members. Apart from our regular training we are also playing in a ambitiously managed local football league called “BunteLiga”, as well as competing in all kinds of football tournaments in and around Cologne.

When did you decide to develop your diploma project around a football team? And obviously, why?

The first weeks of the final semester were quite a journey finding the right subject for the diploma project. I initially wanted to continue with my personal magazine project Better Mjstakes, making a “real” issue with ad’s and stuff …
But finally I decided to drop this idea (with the intention to revisit it in the future) as it probably would have turned out to be focused much more on my journallistic abilities than pushing my graphic design skills further. So for my last semester as a student I then tried to find a subject were I could once again dive deeper into my graphic design universe and explore and create something totally new.

Having chosen Piqto United as my subject provided a lot of freedom and allowed me to be very productive in all fields wether conceptually with the whole art direction, or practically with the whole design package including an extensive visual identity, editorial design, typography, photography, webdesign, …

And it had another important advantage: I knew that throughout the whole process of the project (working mostly in Cologne) I would always have the support of my close friends e.g. for all kinds of experiments, wether modeling or helping me out with certain action steps in the production.

The whole project was an attempt to rethink a (football) club’s identity and to improve the whole “identity experience” asking: how do you really identify within your team?
Intern according to the team-spirit in regard to the individual’s position within the group, and extern in how you and your team’s identity can “influence” your environment.

Another important thing for me always was to have a certain realness for my project. I wanted my diploma to have a true purpose also outside of the university frame. I always want my work to serve real people. And I want my work to be useful and to be used.

Could you tell us more about the steps that led to such a wide identity system?

I think I always loved the idea of a “complete package” in visual identities. I remember that since a very young age I was fascinated by the graphic consistency of brands. How everything could visually fit together. One thing that comes to mind are sub-brands of the big sport brands, creating for example special logos and typefaces for new lines or collections for certain products or players.
When everything comes from “one hand” there is a different feel to the whole experience. Everything is united. And especially in the sports frame I think that the members of a team can feel that too. They feel the importance of what they are wearing and representing.

One of the “entrance exercises” to be accepted for studying at ECAL was to create a work on the theme community. Back then in summer 2008 I presented the first logo I had created for PIQTO UNITED, which gave me also the great possibility to “close the cycle”.
So in the end of my studies it really showed quite dramatically the development and progress I have made during the past three years at college from creating one crest to building a whole visual “universe” around the subject.

I’m particularly interested, as an aspiring type designer, about the creation of the corporate typeface called PU Brueder. Why did you feel the need to create a new typeface? How relevant is PU Brueder to the entire project?

In relation to what I have said above about the complete package of a visual identity it was simply a logic thing to do and even one of the very first steps of the overall work.
The typeface was the foundation.
I wanted to create a stable, bold, and quite linear grotesk type with some sharp details.
From the beginning the numbers played a huge role as they where very present throughout the project and had to be powerful and visible for example on the back of the jerseys.

With examples in Paul Barnes’ Crepello (used on Italy and Uruguay jerseys) and Yomar Augusto’s Unity (Germany, Spain), type design finally made its way on professional football shirts. According to your opinion, how much relevance is (type) design acquiring in the world of professional football?

Naturally I was always interested in the visual language of football jersey including the typography. It was great to see that in the past years the typography took a much more professional direction with “real” type designers creating special typefaces for the occasion.

I remember for example the “Olembe” typeface by Paul Barnes for PUMA (more info here) used for most of the African teams which was inspired by the expressive bodypaints and collages of the African football fans. In the font the brush stroke texture was still visible to show the hand painted origins of the letters and numbers.
So in a way the players wore the fans inspired creations which I thought was a beautiful act. And I think that thoughtful design connects people.

The design of the jerseys was an another side of your work that really blew my mind, and probably even more important when the team is on the pitch. How did you come up with that idea? Is it allowed by regulations?

It all began when I talked with my friend Vincent Delaleu about how I could push the whole football thing further. The conversation went from gangs and brotherhoods to war paintings and metamorphoses in the plant and animal world …

Without wanting to exaggerate I still remember clearly the following night when I was still awake in my bed, my head full of thoughts and weird ideas. As usual I had to get it out of my head somehow so I turned on the light again and started writing and scribling and suddenly had this concept of multiple players forming one motif together.

My first idea was to create some kind of spooky face like here — but then I tried to come up with something more simple yet more powerful and ended up with the crosses, also considering in-match situations like freekick-walls and goal-celebrations … which eventually ended up in the whole HAKA idea.

At the presentation day in school four of my friends and players of PIQTO UNITED came down to Lausanne and we performed our self-composed and HAKA war dance live in front of the diploma jury, director Pierre Keller, my teachers, and all the other students … It was the perfect start for my follwing presentation!

(When it comes to the regulations I think the jerseys wouldn’t (yet) be allowed by the FIFA because officially every jersey has to look the same. But in our league it is no problem and we are playing every match with them.)

Did your work help the team gain anything? From popularity to self-confidence, from opponent’s respect to fan base devotion?

You named it! No – seriously, when we played the first tournament it was kind of magic. We made a team photo and went into the formation buildung three really huge crosses together for the first time … I still remember the look on the faces of the other teams!
The thing is: We also visually represented a very strong unity. We embodied a group of friends who really mean it. Who are really living it. Who will fight for the team no matter what. It was one of the best tournaments we ever played.

And of course something like that strenghtens the team-spirit and motivation. The players are literally feeling to be the part of something bigger. The core concept is to underline the importance of every single player within the big group. This is the project’s big metaphor: If someone’s missing it’s not working.

Last question, do you consider your job with the PIQTO team finished or still an evolving project?

PIQTO UNITED is an ever evolving project and we have big plans for this year. Stay tuned! Allez Piqto!