‘Story behind the original logo’
The original Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football logo was designed by Louis Mackay. Here he talks to www.kickitout.org about the history of the logo, the colour scheme and the design ideas behind it.
How did the ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ logo develop?
In 1993, Herman Ouseley (now Lord Ouseley), then Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, where I was the graphic designer in the Communications Section, had announced his plan for a campaign against racism in football. It was an idea that immediately won a positive response within the organisation, as it soon did with a wider public.
Many people understood that such a campaign was needed, but could also see — in the context of such a major element of popular culture as football — that it had a lot of potential. It could even win support from people who were not normally particularly sympathetic to the CRE, but equally had little sympathy for the racism that was manifestly festering on football terraces, where it was not just a spontaneous expression of individual prejudice and ignorance defying the most basic ethics of sport, not to mention far-from-despicable notions of ‘common decency’; it was also a potentially murderous collective malignity being orchestrated by violent far-right organisations and hooligan networks.
Even though there were many supporters’ groups doing their best to highlight the problem and combat the racists, the complacency and inaction of football clubs and organisations was doing nothing to help them, or to protect the good name of British sport.
My brief was to come up with a logo and a poster, and eventually a design for a magazine and various other materials for the campaign.
The campaign did not yet have a name or slogan, and it was almost by accident that it acquired the one it has. At an early stage, I was discussing what was going to be on the poster with Louise Ansari, the CRE’s Campaigns Organiser, who was responsible for developing the whole campaign. I said, off the cuff, ‘ OK, we’ll have the main header in due course, but here it’s going to say something like “let’s kick racism out of football”, and here there’s going to be a short paragraph paragraph explaining what its about, and …’ Louise snapped her fingers, and said, ‘What a great slogan’. So although I came up with it, I was spontaneously paraphrasing its general message and hadn’t yet given thought to proposing a workable slogan; it was Louise who recognised it and grabbed it as it flew past. Of course, paraphrasing a general message in everyday language is often a good way to start working towards a good campaigning slogan.
We did discuss it with our close colleagues before putting it to Herman. Some were a little uneasy about the word ‘kick’, which could perhaps have been taken as a violent word – and there was also a resonance with the xenophobic ‘kick them out’ phraseology of the Powellites and others who, especially in an earlier generation, had argued for the ‘repatriation’ of immigrants. But ‘kick’ was a natural, everyday word that had a particular value in the context of a kicking sport like football, and it was racism, the mindset, that was to be kicked out of play; there was no suggestion of violence towards individuals.
We wanted clubs and football organisations to accept their responsibility for making clear that racist behaviour was unacceptable, and to enforce rules to that effect. But if supporters didn’t accept those rules, then the clubs should eject them by cancelling their membership. ‘To kick out’ is perfectly well understood as a colloquial phrasal verb in that sense of ‘to expel’, with no suggestion of physical violence. As for the echo of repatriationist phrasing, we decided that was a positive thing – we were seizing our adversaries’ language from them, making it our own, and turning it back on them, by redefining what was anathema, what had no respectable place in our society. Herman liked it and it stuck.
What was the thinking behind the actual design?
It was developed fairly quickly, and without any conscious reference to any other design. It seemed clear early on that the design would probably have to be largely typographic, though it obviously needed visual indications of the football context. This context came first — and, although I did do some designs using a football as a motif, the suggestion of a football field, with a boundary between what was in and out of play, soon looked more useful as a concept.
A question was, how much detail do you need to indicate that it is a football field? Showing a whole field with all the white line markings would involve too much fine detail to work in a logo that had to be usable at small scale. The corner quadrant on its own did the trick — it was instantly comprehensible to anyone who has ever played or watched football. Giving a slant to the angle of view, helped to create a sense of 3-dimensional space – as though the field were seen from a position high in the stands, near a corner, where cameras are often positioned.
Racism is a vicious and and wounding thing, so I manipulated the outlines of the letters with which the word was spelt to make them vicious and spiky — something you wouldn’t want to pick up, and this, as well as the different colouring, set the word apart from the other words in the slogan.
It was then apparent that those other words were, by contrast, the good guys, and that they could be arranged in such a fashion as to so suggest that they were active and in solidarity with one another in ejecting the vicious and spiky racism from the field of play.
Using letters with an italic angle corresponding to the skew of the viewed ‘field’ and ranged right against the boundary line, gave the words a rightward dynamic, which suggested their action in forcing ‘racism’ over the touchline — out of the game.
What was the thought-process behind the colour scheme chosen?
The green field and the white line came naturally from the context. Although the ‘outside’ colour has sometimes been white (for example, when the logo has been used on shirts), it was originally black, and there were reasons for this. Firstly, to a football spectator, whether watching from the stands, or watching a game on TV, the area outside the floodlit field generally appears darker, not lighter by contrast, and the darkness makes the green a brighter, rather than a darker, colour relative to its surroundings. So the darker exterior was natural in this sense. Secondly, the flat blackness suggested a void, obscurity, outer space, the ‘cosmic elsewhere’ beyond the space-time continuum, where racism might best be consigned.
I didn’t worry about adding this possibly ‘negative’ sense to ‘blackness’ because all those things were easily understood cross-culturally, and in any case, I had made white the negative colour by using it to colour the spiky racism (in my view racism is not exclusively a ‘white’ phenomenon by any means, but in this case, white racism was generally the issue).
The third reason was that there needed to be a contrast between the colour of the word ‘Racism’ and the colour of the space it had been pushed into, and as one was white, the other could well be black. Another colour was needed for the ‘good’ lettering, and yellow worked well with this, not merely because it is a primary colour that suits the sporting context, but because yellow is the colour that has the greatest intensity of hue in print while also being light, so it stands out with much higher contrast against the green than, for example, any printed blue or red would have done.
Did you ever think the logo would become as iconic as it has?
The short answer to the first question is no. I’m very pleased to have had a part in a campaign I consider to have achieved a great deal — but its achievements are down to the hard work of a lot of people at the CRE, at Kick It Out, and also in clubs and football organisations, over the 20 years since Herman came up with the initiative, and Louise and her team, fully backed and energised by the CRE’s Communications Director, Marjorie Thompson, first got it going (the campaign, and Louise herself, were both honoured with PR Week awards in 1994).
I am proud that the logo has become well-recognised – but it is, of course, regrettable that twenty years later, there should still be a need for it, because racism has not yet been eliminated from sport in Britain, let alone in other parts of the world where things often look a good deal worse — in the absence of similar initiatives involving not just grassroots movements, but also commitment and action from national and sporting authorities and organisations.
Are many people aware of the fact you actually developed the logo?
Apart from some former CRE colleagues and KIO staff, and maybe a few design clients who may have noticed it on my own website, I imagine not.