Can Kit Design Be A More Transparent And Collaborative Process?

Ever since Arsenalinsider released the design for the away shirt for the next season there has been a great deal of chatter about it, understandably so. I was surprised by the strong negative opinion generated by the design.

The reason for my astonishment is not that I find the shirt amazing or anything like that. I am largely indifferent to the design and colours. It’s the same for me when it comes to any kind of apparel. There are very few that I really like and a similarly paltry number that I truly dislike. Most of the garments fall in the couldn’t-care-less segment as far as the design and colours go. So I was surprised that so many people feel such strong emotions towards the design of a t-shirt.

Now if someone says it’s not just any shirt but will represent Arsenal for the whole season there would be a point, but not a strong enough point for me to find the design stupid or awful. One reason, I suspect, is that I haven’t been in the middle of thousands of people wearing the same shirt and perhaps that experience might have a significant impact my opinion.

For now I am just surprised at the reaction and I hope there are others who share the sentiment. I’m not telling anyone whether they should like the shirt or dislike it, just expressing my opinion.

More interestingly, these thoughts left me wondering about the kit design process. I have read somewhere that fans’ opinion is taken into account while designing the kit but I don’t really know the details. I guess it’s one of the disadvantages of being far away from the majority of fans and the club.

It could be that representatives of the AST and other fans give some inputs to the club in this regard but it’s difficult to understand given the disappointment that has been aired on more than a few shirt designs in recent years.

I’d certainly love to see a more collaborative and transparent process. It is understandable that Wenger would not want to discuss the players he is interested in or the specific details of the tactics he wants to use. But is there any need for secrecy in kit design?

I don’t know how it is done, but my guess is that some Nike designers work on it without much interaction with the fans. Of course, the designers could be Gooners, but based on the designs some might doubt that very much.

One reason for keeping the design under wraps could be the risk of imitations flooding the market before the real kits are released for sale. I find it difficult to speculate how many people insist on buying originals and how many don’t mind if they can get a cheaper fake. So it’s not possible for me to estimate what kind of a loss might be incurred if the process were more open. Perhaps it is big enough to justify the current approach.

If suspense is not an essential ingredient in creating the kit designs, I’d like to see the club release a few options and allow the fans to vote on it. I don’t think any club does this so there might be a good argument against this idea but apart from the one mentioned above I can’t think of any.

Another option could be that the official supporters clubs select some representatives who are artistically inclined – amongst the millions of Gooners worldwide there must be a few who have a special talent in this field – and these people can work with the designers in confidence. At least that way fans will know who to blame if the kit isn’t exciting!

If Arsenal don’t mind the radical, the whole process could even be turned into a contest for the fans. The artists amongst us can come up with their creations based on certain criteria that are sacrosanct – like the predominantly red and white home shirt with white sleeves and so on. These criteria can be created based on past experiences with kits from the club and fans’ perspectives. All the supporters can then decide which design should be selected.

One potential complication in all this might be the clauses in the contract with Nike but I’d be surprised if the manufacturer will object to greater involvement from fans because it should lead to higher sales and might even lower their design costs.

I think this would be a fantastic way for the club and the fans to come together. It won’t have too big an effect on the football side of things (hopefully!) but it will certainly give the fans a stronger connection and sense of ownership. This could be another pioneering initiative from The Arsenal.

I have just typed out some thoughts here. I don’t know if others have already discussed this with the club or not, I haven’t thought through what other complications might arise, and I don’t honestly know if this is feasible or just a pipedream. But I’d certainly like to know your views on this.

10 Responses to Can Kit Design Be A More Transparent And Collaborative Process?

  1. CharlieGooner says:

    Never having been at the Emirates (the Grove), never having been surrounded by thousands of Arsenal fans, I can still argue that this is a crummy jersey. I think one of the primary reasons I’m upset with the design is that it is not only the one that represents the team for a year, but it also the 125th year commemorative jersey! This is one of the shirts that is supposed to recall a glorious history and frankly, it’s crap! The best that can be said is that it looks like something the Tiny Totts would wear…

  2. Philip23 says:

    Personally I think people who where the shirt in everyday life have a right to be disappointed. How can we be sure this is the shirt? I personally own both this seasons home and away shirts as I find them to be the best made in a long long time. If the shirt looks remotely like that one shown I will not be purchasing one next season. So i’m sure there are millions out there like me who don’t go to the games yet buy the shirts to support the club. I expect sales to drop hugely if that is the away kit!

  3. GF60 says:

    Desi. You say that red with white sleeves is sacrosanct for the home kit. Equally, especially given how many successes in the 125 year history have been achieved with it, yellow and blue should also be sacrosanct for the alternative kit.
    I can only echo Charlie’s comment that the leaked design (if true) would be suited to the slough of despond up the road.

  4. JJ Pittman says:

    How does one get to see this new kit? My wife thinks the current away kit is bad luck, so she’ll be happy with any change! Understand some of the reasons for attempt at secrecy, but agree more with “marketing” reasons for including fans(biggest potential market) in the process. Ignorance, arrogance or stupidity? Hey, we’ll all support those Gooners anyway, I reckon!

  5. westlondongoon says:

    ”I am largely indifferent to the design and colours. So I was surprised that so many people feel such strong emotions towards the design of a t-shirt.”

    Then you, my friend, do not understand the Arsenal.
    This ‘t-shirt’, as you call it, should be as much a part of our tradition as our home, ‘t-shirt’. That’s what was so special about the Redcurrant shirt….it was the club recognising it’s history.
    That same history, shows our finest moments being played out in a yellow shirt and blue shorts. As good a reason as any to keep those colours as our 2nd strip, and it makes us a recognisable when we play away as when we play at home.
    Also the sound of 5,000 Gooners echoing round away grounds with a chant of ‘yeeeelloooooooooow’ is something that is singularly Arsenal.

  6. ak47 says:

    pretty much indifferent myself but if thats the away kit then thank alot nike. there is no way the designers are even footie fans!

    im in my third yr of illustration and would love the chance to have imput into the design somehow. your idea for fan involvement would be innovative. typical arsenal i suppose.

    id love us to return to the red current not maroon so we’d look slightly more menacing in a blood red colour. football can be considered a war and we use to make the guns for f’s sake!

    plus the away kit ive always felt with wengerball and the colours being blue and yellow why not create a brazil remix?

    kits shouldnt have any bering on performance but i cant help thinking that it may subconsciously. i cant explain it but for me if i feel like a million dollars my confidence goes up.

    what are the chance of the fly emirates being shrunk and relocated and the badge returning to white forever, even just a cannon? i would imagine sales would sky rocket if they put me incharge lol. seriously they would.

    i didnt buy lasts yrs i instead opted for the brady. the ‘fit’ is way more tailored and design a classic example of less is more. give me a modern blood red version with little details here and there and id be over the moon.

  7. Blablagooner says:

    Listen to me…the new france kit design, redcurrant instead of pillarbox red, white collar, white sleeves and of course the cannon only and the shield around it in stitching…how is this not a good idea? we know Nike has the kit “templates” available. i really wish it wud happen tho cos the french kit is simply the sexiest kit ive ever seen…seriosly.

  8. ak47 says:

    i second that. the new france kit is gorgeous.

  9. Manav says:

    involving fans in the kit design process is a really interesting not to mention innovative idea.
    Arsenal can put up 10, 20, 25,… prospective designs on their website & have a poll.

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