13 October 2023 - 1 April 2024 | Zurich, Switzerland

'Designing the Beautiful Game - a collaboration with the Design Museum, London

Designing the Beautiful Game

Football is the world’s most popular sport. It occupies a unique position in our cultural landscape, shaping how people organise their time, the way they dress and how they relate to their communities. In four-year cycles, football even colours the way we think about national identity as its five billion fans tune into football’s global competitions. It defines – and designs – the way so many of us live.

While football is part of everyday life, it is also highly manufactured. It is a simple game but a complex industry, drawing on a vast pool of specialist skills to push the sport to its technical and emotional limits. This exhibition explores the people and processes that have made football what it is today. From the early days of amateur sport to the present level of professionalisation, it brings to light the designers, fans and architects who have shaped football, both as a sport and as a spectacle. This is the design story behind a global phenomenon.

Designing the Beautiful Game is organised in collaboration with the Design Museum, London.


Special Exhibition Interactions

With the interactions, the museum's communicators bring the content of the special exhibition closer to visitors at eye level and provide background information. Visitors can get creative and build a small model of the stadium and play around with different jersey designs.

Every Wednesday from 14:00 - 16:00 and every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month from 13:00 - 15:30 in the Lab (1st floor) opposite the Special Exhibition entrance.

Workshops for school classes

In the workshop "Sleeping Giants - What lies slumbering in a football stadium?", students will gain an insight into the design and use of stadiums and plan their own stadium project in small groups.

The workshops are in German and suitable for classes from grade 6 upwards.


As with all professional sports, football is forever searching for a competitive edge. The football industry is continually devising new tools to allow teams to play longer, faster and more consistently. These range from lightweight boots and aerodynamic balls to shock-absorbent pitches and restorative exercise routines. The development of these tools amounts to a concise history of how football was professionalised. It also demonstrates the ever-growing resources that go into producing top players.


In organised games of football, it is important for each team to be easily identified. This is as vital for those on the pitch as for those watching a match from a distance. In its simplest form, one team might be dressed in blue and the other in red. But what began as a practical solution has evolved into an incredibly rich and diverse world of football graphics. Clubs and fans have found creative ways of using visual markers to express themselves and their communities.


Football stadiums are highly engineered buildings that are designed to allow huge numbers of people to flow in and out efficiently, safely and quickly. The demands on a stadium are not only practical. Many fans compare attending a football match to a religious experience, with stadiums routinely likened to cathedrals or temples. Through enormous graphic displays, choreographies, rhythmic clapping and singing, fans appropriate and subsume the stadium.

Highlights of the exhibition



Curator's picks

Sky Blue

The 1970s are often considered to be a golden era for match-day programme design. Programmes became more substantial and featured playful layouts and bold experiments in typography. British designer John Elvin’s work for Coventry City’s Sky Blue match-day programme is emblematic of this shift in approach. Elvin turned Sky Blue into a fully fledged magazine that fans kept as a memento. His unique style of bold typography and high-contrast imagery earned a prize at the inaugural Design & Art Direction Awards in 1972.

Inside adidas

Alastair Philip Wiper

British artist Alastair Philip Wiper documented how new materials and concepts are tested by machines in the research department at the adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany. This photograph from his series ‘Inside adidas’ shows the testing of football boots at the adidas Future Sports Science Lab. For the series he also visited the Speedfactory in Bavaria and a factory in Indonesia, capturing a portal into the factories that produce tens of thousands of products a day.

Liverpool memorial banners

Peter Carney

Liverpool supporter Peter Carney makes banners for the famous Kop end at Anfield, a section of the terraces reserved for home supporters. Alongside designs celebrating players, coaches and famous victories, some of Carney’s most significant work commemorates the Hillsborough stadium disaster. In 1989, Liverpool visited Sheffield Wednesday’s ground for an FA Cup semi-final and 97 fans were killed as a result of a human crush. Carney survived and went on to become a key campaigner in the fans’ fight for justice. His two memorial banners – the first created in the week after the tragedy and the second on its 20th anniversary – stand as a lasting tribute to those whose lives were taken.


Neville Gabie

Posts is an ongoing body of work developed by South African artist Neville Gabie over the last 25 years. A series of football photographs devoid of action, it is intended as a reflection on the universality of our desire to play, no matter where. Gabie has said of the project, ‘with minimal means these goalposts… encapsulate our dreams and fantasies, and the uniqueness of “place”, in the language which is universally understood.’

Shirts: Iconic numbers and designs