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World Cup special issue: Al Mitchell, creative director of The Potting Shed design agency, recalls how Panini’s sticker album for Mexico 86 opened his eyes to design

Long before art college fine-tuned me into a graphic designer, it was the the 1986 World Cup that gave me a love of typography, writes Al Mitchell.

Originally, Colombia was awarded host nation for the 13th World Cup but they had to throw in the towel for financial reasons, allowing Mexico to step up to the plate and become the first country in history to hold the event twice (they had previously hosted the tournament in 1970).

Looking back on the Mexico 86 logo, I’m not sure why it grabbed me so much, but I just remember drawing it over and over again on every school book I had. Admittedly, the type treatment had been pretty much lifted straight from the 1970 event, which itself adopted the lettering from Lance Wyman’s design for the country’s Olympics in 1968. But, as that was before I was born, this was the first time I had really noticed its racetrack lines and, probably because this was Mexico’s second bite at the World Cup cherry, its relentless application to all manner of promotional fodder. It was also the first time that I became a true consumer – and I consumed like a plague of locusts. From T-shirts to commemorative balls there wasn’t anything that the World Cup brand appeared on that I wouldn’t happily fork out my hard-earned pocket money for.

But, over the course of the tournament, one thing cost me more than all of the rest put together: the sticker book. I was a big fan of sticker albums at the time and the 1986 World Cup Panini sticker book was a cracker. With a palette restricted to the red and green of the event’s identity, the cramped grid of the spreads was in stark contrast to the bold and vibrant cover which starred a full-width logo and ‘Pique’, the somewhat ill-considered mascot of the competition.

The stickers themselves were a cavalcade of bad haircuts and vacant stares from a time when the idea of today’s slickly-styled publicity shots wasn’t even a consideration. The only relief from the lo-fi quality of the players’ stickers were the highly-prized foil versions which displayed each country’s emblem. I eagerly worked my way through the whole thing – from Waddle to Wilkins, Socrates to Shilton, I had them all. All, that is, except one. And to be honest, it was the only one that mattered. No matter how many of these silly packs I bought I never could quite lay my hands on … Diego Maradona.

Then, of course, he (and his ‘Hand of God’) went on to dump England out of the tournament and took off with a trophy that was rightfully ours. And that is how Maradona ruined my World Cup. Twice.

Sticker swapping for the digital age

One of the great frustrations of starting a sticker album is the huge number of duplicates or ‘swaps’ that are quickly accumulated. For those of us who no longer have a playground in which to wheeler-deal our way to completing our album, Sennep has a digital solution: Using the website’s tools, you can keep track of your progress as you strive to complete that Brazil 2014 album. The site allows you to log your collection, identify potential swap partners and contact them. It’s location-aware so you can find the nearest holder of that all-important missing sticker. A completion bar indicates your progress toward fulfilment. 1

Al Mitchell is creative director of The Potting Shed in Jersey, This article originally appeared on the agency blog and is republished with permission. The copy of the Mexico 86 Panini sticker album and foil stickers shown were supplied by Graham Hannay of Retro Football Stickers. Hannay has a wide selection of stickers and completed albums for sale at (including albums from World Cups, European Championships and English/Scottish leagues). The Mexico 86 album shown here is priced at £65, while copies of the rare Mexico 70 annual can go for up to £1,000. Our thanks to Graham for letting us borrow the issue and stickers

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