American football explained in this illustrated card deck

Ahead of Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, two creatives are putting your NFL questions to bed with a series of explainers inspired by vintage cards, which star a charming range of fast food characters

The Super Bowl has become a global event that reaches far beyond its US birthplace, but there are still plenty of new fans around the world who tune in without quite grasping the ins and outs of American football.

Two creatives have set out to illuminate audiences about the rules, moves, and positions seen in the game with a digital card deck that doubles as a playful explainer.

Conceived and written by copywriter César Rodd and illustrated by Madrid-based Jade Arroyo, the card deck is fronted by a series of charming characters modelled on the kinds of takeaways and party food you would find at a Super Bowl watch party. Think burgers scoring a touchdown or a wide receiver in the form of a hotdog.

On the back of each card in the deck is a description of the rule or move in American football terms, along with analogies borrowed from ‘actual’ football – ie association football (or soccer) – just to help anyone still scratching their head.

“We really wanted to make a friendly, all-round design,” explains Rodd, who previously worked at VMLY&R London and is soon relocating to the US. The concept was inspired by vintage collectible baseball and football cards but aims to feel more accessible in appearance and execution. “The idea was to make informative cards that anyone could learn from, so making them approachable and inclusive was a must – as opposed to the classic, masculine look the vintage ones had.

“Following that mantra, the illustrations are in a cartoon style that speaks to many generations. We chose junk food for the characters because it felt like the perfect match to a sports event on TV, but it also made it less serious and intimidating for a beginner,” Arroyo tells us. “The characters could easily belong to a cartoon series, and maybe that is something we might explore in the future.”

The typeface choices feel just as warm and playful. The pair used FF Meta, “a classic”, and Neue World from Pangram Pangram, “as it has those vintage shapes – very curvy but super sleek with a modern cut”, she says.

Although the idea was born towards the end of 2022, Rodd and Arroyo only had time to make a start in the new year. With just three weeks to pull it together in time for the Super Bowl, it was a case of “working against the clock – especially on Jade’s front,” Rodd explains.

The original idea involved a physical set of cards, which the pair hope to turn their attention to further down the line, but for now, Rodd knew they had to release the digital version in time for this year’s event. “We hope to have every actual football fan’s back for this Super Bowl and that all of them blend in just fine.”