Patterns of Play: The Creative Design Agency Doing Good for the Future of Football

Jonathan Tomlinson



PENALTY sat down with Patterns of Play founder Matt Whitehead and talked about the future of football shirts and their latest project with Amasokolara FC.

Patterns of Play are known for their creative collaborations under the guise of football. Started in 2015 by Matt Whitehead, the creative agency works with creatives and brands across the world, helping people understand the beautiful game in new ways. Their work has seen them working on projects for clients that help them to engage and communicate with their football audiences. From pitch-side beach huts to Oxford Street flagships, they have worked with brands, organisations and clubs from all levels of the game. 

The idea for Patterns of Play came about through Matt’s desire to explore football and design collectively. Reminiscing on our video call about an exhibition he saw back in 2015, Matt tells me that it was at that point he realised he was inspired to create something of his own. A keen football fan and with a day job as a graphic designer, it was a no-brainer. Patterns of Play became the name, an Instagram was created, and an exhibition in Norwich saw them gain early interest on social media. A successful exhibition attracted creators and artists who were intrigued to see what POP’s next move was, and since then they have worked with a whole range of artists from across the world. A recent one was in collaboration with London-based artist Corbin Shaw, where they produced a series of England flags ahead of the Euros. The success of this project inspired other projects and PoP received recognition within the footballing art world. 

One of PoP’s most notable projects is its Ball project. This sincere project sees them work with exclusive artists to come up with a design for a football, with the idea being that it becomes a work of art that people would hang in their house. Matt tells me that the main point of the project is to bring artists who would otherwise be inaccessible into people’s homes for a fraction of the price of their original works. Paintings that would usually cost thousands of pounds turn into a different work of art under the guise of football and would cost less than £100. 

Each ball has a different team from across the world associated with it and the idea behind them is that when they sell out, a percentage of the profit goes into buying them equipment and creating a new kit for them. In their latest project, PoP proudly released a special ball and kit that they designed and produced for Amasokolara FC. A grassroots football team from the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg, South Africa, Amasokolara FC which play in the fourth tier of the SAB, are a team that seeks to develop young footballers and take them off the streets. 

Championing creativity and collaboration within football, they joined forces with South African football culture collective, Kasi Flavour, to work on a kit that would benefit the club in more ways than one. Following on from their sold-out release of Ball #1 by Japanese artist Takeru Amano, POP used profits to fund the next release that would see them providing a unique kit to the South African side. 

The second edition saw Takeru create a custom spray-painted piece in his Toyko Studio “He sprayed all the shirt numbers 1-11 for us in his unique style. They were incredible! At that point, we were going to go with a traditional badge and then we decided to ask him to do our logo and the crest and we’re pleased with that decision because it’s just breaking the guidelines and rules that most football shirt designers follow. We’re pleased with how it turned out.” 

In case it wasn’t already obvious from reading this article, Patterns of Play take a keen interest in the grassroots side of football and this shows with the business model that they’ve created. A few years back they were invited to work on a project with non-league side Lewes FC, where they were given a “non-corporate box” in the form of a beach hut and were able to fill it with inspiring artwork from creatives working with football-related themes. Matt tells me how incredible it was to work with a non-league team and how passionate the fans were. 

A spurs fan at heart, it came as a surprise when Matt told me his dream collaboration other than with Spurs, would be with North-London rivals Arsenal “Arsenals kits probably stand out as being up there with the best. They always seem to have a good story behind the kit like the one where they referenced the marble in the old stadium, or the white kit which was centred around a campaign surrounding knife and gang crime in London. You can tell the adidas guys are working hard on that. Arsenal kits always stand out as having lots of thought put into them.” 

We speak about the future of football and we both agree that the growth of the women’s game and the grassroots movement are the rightful changes that football so desperately needs. We have a long chat about the Women’s Euros and agree that it’s been one of the greatest tournaments we’ve ever witnessed. A refreshing take on football and one that the players and fans really do the game justice. We talk about sponsorship deals and collaborations like Barcelona and Spotify or PSG and Jordan and we conclude that money drives football and unlike when we were both children growing up watching the game, the romance of the game has somehow been lost somewhat. The introduction of VAR and the money has taken a lot from the game in recent years. As changes happen rapidly and the game grows, there are many pockets and stories of the beautiful game that often go unnoticed. 

When I ask Matt what the plans are for the next PoP project, he tells me about a book he’s been working on with photographer Pancho Monti. The photographer has become notably recognised in the Argentian football league for his series on Boca Juniors and their stadium, La Bombonera. “La Bombonera is a rare stadium in the way that it’s referred to in the feminine definitives. The set of images is incredible and highlights the fact La Bombonera is a women-friendly stadium. The images are a series of women wearing Pancho’s old Boca Juniors shirt that he had as a child,” says Matt, “This mixed in with a new series that he’s been working on centred around fan culture around Boca Juniors, and we’ve created a really beautiful coffee table style book.” 

PoP is currently finalising the print production and the book will be released at some point this year. 

The brand has become synonymous within the world of football and design and it’s exciting to see where their journey is going to take them in the future. Their audience clearly values the products that they produce, and with limited numbers on the release of everything they make, everything becomes that little bit more desirable.

If you want to get your hands on PoP products, then follow them on Instagram or head over to their website.

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