There's plenty of good, functional design at the World Cup; the ball, the the uniforms. But one important part of the World Cup, the way games are presented on TV, could use some work. While flipping through the channels to watch his native Dutch team, "We suddenly came to realize that every sports channel had an out-dated look and feel to it," designer Guus ter Beek tells us in an email. A mockup from ter Beek and colleagues Tayfun Sarier, Jordon Cheung, and George Grace takes a crack at a solution.
There needs to be a certain amount of information on screen when watching a sports event, so you can tell at a glance what's going on. You need the score, you need the time. Maybe some other stuff. I asked ter Beek what ESPN, which (along with parent company ABC) holds a contract to air the World Cup in the U.S. this year, was doing wrong. "When we have a closer look at ESPN we immediately notice the soft gradients and the black and purple colors not looking very appealing; they are popping in our face and shouting," he says. And ESPN isn't the only one; ter Beek checked out lots of sports channels, and says, "They always had either too much drop shadow, or frivolous elements, and an abundance of gradients." This conceptual design offers something different: flat graphics, bold colors, and a carefully curated emphasis on certain bits of information.
For one, the team's colors are much more obvious in this mockup than on ESPN's; you can tell immediately which team is which—helpful for, um, Americans like me who don't actually watch soccer unless it's the World Cup. The time remaining is displayed prominently, and there's even a little white border that slowly fills up as time proceeds. Helvetica was chosen for the font because it's easy to read without being distracting, ter Beek says (though we're not so sure Helvetica is ideal for all situations).
But games often feature more information than just the time and score; it's common to overlay some extra tidbits on screen—sometimes you need to identify a particular player, or explain the history between two teams, or give some outlandish statistic (like, say, in each of these two teams' previous meetups, one of the teams always won by one goal). So the designers created an entire catalog of simple icons to indicate weather, injuries, fouls, substitutions, and players' names. They even suggest a graphic to begin the match, showing the stadium location, weather, attendance, and local time—the weather especially is relevant in the tropical heat of Brazil.
Flat design is everywhere. Just this week, Google rolled out its latest design mission, to bring flat design to all its devices and services. We've seen flat takes on animal butts, and in fact, flat design has become so commonplace, we're already seeing a minor blowback. But it certainly hasn't hit sports coverage yet. Game graphics have a very particular and important job to do: they have to be easy to read at a glance, and they can't distract from the action on the field (or court, or stadium). Flat design could be the answer: no-nonsense, no fanciness, just simplicity and clarity.
You can read more about it over at the team's Medium post.