Modern Kit

Kieran O’Connor, Creative Director at BOB and senior lecturer in graphic design at Kingston, tells us about his long-term admiration for Hamburg football club’s crest, which is both starkly minimal and symbolic of a strong maritime tradition in the city.

5a7bce1a 3620 4842 9091 e5f752a47613

I like communities, stories and small, seemingly throwaway things which reflect them. I love jumble sales. When I was eight-ish I snared a Kevin Keegan jigsaw picturing him bubblepermed (a logoform himself) and kitted out in faraway Hamburg colours – a semiotic mash-up which made me instantly part with a few pence. Back then I didn’t know semiotics was even a word, or that I’d work every day with cultural fragments in and around design. Writing this makes me think of that purchase as one of many beginnings or markers.

Like Keegan, I moved to Germany at the end of my twenties. I came to decipher the Hamburg Sport-Verein crest, on second acquaintance, as startlingly different in its dynamic starkness. Nothing else is near it in a context of over-embroidered, over-inflated graphic forms on football chests. This alone draws me to it – a perennial underdog (the only German club badge unchanged since the Bundesliga’s inception) whose elemental form is, basically, untweakable.

But there’s more, I think: what looks like a flag may read as one too. It’s suggested on both the internet and das Internet that its form stems from Hamburg’s maritime history as a Hanseatic port, directly echoing the Blue Peter and its message of “all on board”. If so, it would embody far more of what I aspire to as a designer in capturing heart with brevity.

I’d love to confirm this as true so will finish here with an appeal for more information — from anyone out there who knows more or knows for sure. Here’s hoping Kevin gets in touch to bring this diamond full-circle.