James O'Mara is a football-obsessed graphic designer who is making a name for himself on social media under the name Entire Design by merging his love of creativity and the beautiful game to great effect.
1) What came first, your passion for football or graphic design?
Football, but it must be quite close. I've loved football for as long as I can remember and that is largely down to being born into a footballing family.
So, I have a dad who is a Scouser and a Liverpool fan, a mum who supports Manchester City and an older brother who is a Manchester United fan. It meant me and my twin brother had three directions to go in. I went with Liverpool and he went with City.
When I was a child I was always drawing and making things, so I've always been really creative. About four or so years ago, I decided to combine my two biggest passions.
When I was at high school, my older brother was studying graphic design and I didn't really know what it was. But when I was looking at his work every week, I knew that was the route I wanted to take. So as soon as I got the choice in my GCSE options, I knew I would take art so it would allow me to do A-level graphic design at college. In turn, that would then allow me to do a degree at university.
2) From idea to finished product, can you explain the creative process that goes into your pieces of work?
With the football designs, the ideas come from a few different places. I used to focus solely on what was happening week by week in the real world of football. So I would recreate an image of a funny celebration, an amazing goal or just a memorable moment that had happened recently.
I have temporarily steered away from that and now I am focusing on more original pieces which either come from suggestions from people on social media or just designs I want to do and think will look good. This is where the 'Current Players x Classic Kits' project came from.
Sometimes I will make a list of designs I want to do in my sketchbook and then I'll get started. It's normally just a case of me sourcing some imagery to use as a guide, making a coffee and putting some music on and then I'm off and going. However, with some of my other work, especially the work I did in university, there was more of a process to the projects.
So I would start off by doing some research to get some substance and gain some knowledge if needed, then I would sketch ideas down in my sketchbook before I even touched a computer. Then it would be like a trial and error process. I would create something, whether that be digitally or in print, then we'd have a crit and get some feedback and ideas from other people so I could get a fresh approach if needed. Then I'd repeat the process.
I think it is important to get feedback off other people and to take it on board. You don't have to necessarily agree with it, but it is important nonetheless.
3) What made you realise the time was right to set up your own online store?
Originally the football designs started as a way of me teaching myself Adobe Illustrator whilst I was at university but as I did more and more, my older brother suggested I start selling them as prints as he was already doing something similar himself.
It took a while for me to get my first sale but the buzz of somebody actually paying money for a physical copy of your work was, and still is, an amazing feeling. As soon as I got that first sale I pushed on with creating more designs more frequently and then the sales started to come in.
I still have the same process now. I do everything myself. I design, print, package and post every single order and always have. It can be stressful at times but I enjoy the satisfaction of knowing I handle everything myself. It has also taught me a lot.
4) How have you managed to build up, and maintain, such an impressive social media following?
That is something I still can't quite get my head around. A lot of people must enjoy my work but I also think a lot of it is through me talking to a lot of people on their, especially other designers.
Social media is a great tool to build relationships with people who are interested in the same things you are. Big football accounts sharing my work is probably also a major factor, whether it's them retweeting my work or actually posting it themselves and tagging me.
There are a lot of passionate football fans and designers on social media and it's really easy to have discussions with them. You then start sharing each other's work and some of their followers will follow you and vice versa.
It comes largely down to engagement. I try my best to always reply to people whether it is a tweet or a message. If people like your work then they'll follow you.
5) Tell us more about the idea behind the popular 'Current Players x Classic Kits' series.
Recently, I have become obsessed with retro kits, especially the old Adidas Originals ones. The iconic Italia 90 Germany kit has always caught my eye, so one day I just thought I wonder what Emre Can would look like in that kit.
I created the design, posted it on my social media and the response was absolutely insane. I had loads and loads of suggestions on who I should do next and I think the post got over 1000 retweets on Twitter.
I did a series of six old international kits and then decided to move on to club kits. I am now attempting to do a design for every single Premier League club. I wanted to start creating designs that would be more engaging on social media compared to what I was doing before. I wanted to start creating original work that would get noticed and shared all over social media. It has exceeded my original expectations!
It has also started to get me some commissioned freelance work. I created 13 current Germany players in their Italia 90 kit for 11TeamSports ahead of the 2018 Germany World Cup kit release as it is modelled on that iconic 1990 one.
The response to each design is always really positive and I really enjoy creating them so I am definitely going to persist with them.
6) Has producing work for Liverpool been your biggest achievement?
The #MyLFCMatchdayImage project was an amazing idea from Liverpool Football Club.
I got a message at the end of June just before the pre-season games started and it was one of the admins just letting me know that this project was going to be announced soon and that it might be something I'd be interested in. It definitely was. They allowed fans to design the image for each fixture and you only needed to use the hashtag to enter.
Entries would be whittled down to a final four by their design team and they would then be put into a poll where fans would vote for the winner. The winner had their design used on social media on match day by Liverpool and they also got a printed copy signed by one of the players, normally whoever featured on the design.
I entered most weeks and it was great trying different styles and coming up with various ideas every week. I won twice and got to the final four another six or seven times. At the end of the project I didn't want all of that work to be forgotten about so I decided to create a book about the project. Each double page spread is a different entry and it features information about the match as well as a small description about my idea behind the design.
Having two prints of my own work signed by players of the club I support is a massive achievement for me and I thank Liverpool for allowing fans like me to have the opportunity for such a great project.
7) What do you think about the current Premier League branding that was launched in 2016/17?
I am a huge fan. A lot of the branding around the Premier League, such as the logo and even the typeface that player's names were printed in for the shirts, became quite dated and was in need of freshening up in my opinion.
With there being such an emphasis on the digital format, I think the branding works perfectly, especially the colour scheme. The pink, yellow and green all look fantastic on screen - whether it is on TV or on your computer while sorting out your Fantasy League team.
DesignStudio have done a fantastic job of modernising the brand while also creating vibrant and instantly recognisable visuals which were important as the Premier League has now become its own brand rather than being sponsored.
8) There seems to be a growing focus on design in football with clubs like Juventus and Brentford rebranding and even international sides releasing retro kits ahead of the 2018 World Cup. What do you think this tells us about modern football?
I think we've seen in the last 10 years or so that clubs are now brands and businesses rather than football clubs. Whether you like it or not, that's how it's going and how it will continue to go with there being so much money in the game.
When Juventus originally released their new badge and branding, I wasn't keen on it. However, once I started to see it in the real world, like on their new kit for example, then my opinion changed.
If you look at a lot of football badges now, they are quite dated and that's understandable as a lot of them were created years and years ago. Some clubs made subtle changes to their badge every so often but Juventus completely changed their whole image. They are seen as an iconic club swamped in history but with the rebrand they've pushed their club into the future.
In regard to the classic kits that were released at the start of the month, as much as football is being pushed to see where the next new idea can come from, it is also a sport that focuses on memories and nostalgia. Adidas have encapsulated that perfectly with their new kits. People love a modern take on a classic.
They also released a modern take on the iconic Predator which is arguably the most famous boot ever made. As much as football is being modernised and pushed into the future, there will always be small nods to the history of the sport.
9) Away from football, tell us a bit more about some of the other projects you've been involved in.
When I was at university, Craig Oldham came in and set us a brief. He said that designers are always creating certain things for someone else and that this time he wanted us to have a voice and create something around a topic that made us angry.
We could use no more than 10 images and five words. I decided to focus on The Sun newspaper and more specifically that awful front page they published the day after the Hillsborough disaster.
The awful day happened before I was born but I know enough, growing up as a Liverpool fan, to understand the topic. I came up with a few ideas but nothing was really working and I was honestly struggling with the limitations that we had been set.
I thought to myself; 'Focus on a specific issue with Hillsborough (the front page of The Sun) and decide what was the simplest way to get my message across'. I simply cut the word 'Liars' out of their headline 'The Truth'.
It was a simple but powerful message. I got some feedback from Craig and he absolutely loved the simplicity of it as it instantly got the message across without even having to think about it.
10) And finally, what's next for James O'Mara?
To keep designing!
I'm currently looking for full-time design work as I have now graduated. But while I am looking and trying to get something, I have recently got myself some commissioned work through the 'Current Players x Classic Kits' project.
I love football and I love creating so I will continue to combine the two.
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