World Cup 2018: The Illustrated Football Atlas by Michael Raisch

There are few events that truly excite sports fans from around the world.

Sure, we have events which use “world” in their title to create the illusion of global significance, the “World Series” – an event where 97% of the teams eligible are from one country, or the World Cup of Hockey – while open to the world realistically only involves North America and Europe.

Then there’s the FIFA World Cup, rivalled only by the Olympics and it could even be argued that they rank ahead in terms of worldwide passion. Every four years we see thirty-two nations scattered across six continents (sadly Antarctica just can’t seem to get their act together) battle for the ultimate prize in soccer.

With the rise in social media, the frenzy seems to have intensified; now those fans from all around the world can instantly interact with each other, share in the excitement felt in that nation, or just troll away as best they can, without having to fly to the host nation during the tourney.

Michael Raisch, senior designer at Fanbrandz wanted to tap into that new fervor when he launched his new project, The Illustrated Football Atlas. In his role as senior designer at Fanbrandz, Raisch has helped develop special event identity programs and style guides for over a decade for the National Hockey League (such as Winter Classic and All-Star Games) and Major League Baseball – as well as other sporting events throughout North America.

The Illustrated Football Atlas is a portrait series featuring players taking part in the 2018 World Cup blended in with vintage maps of their homelands.

As someone who enjoys sports, art, and vintage maps (I used to ask my parents for the newest CAA/AAA road atlas as a kid for my birthday… no you’re a nerd!), I immediately became a fan of this project, following the series via Raisch’s Twitter feed, seeing the portraits come to life and how they’re worked into the shapes of each of vintage maps.

I sent Raisch a few questions just as the 2018 FIFA World Cup was set to kickoff to learn more about The Illustrated Football Atlas…

Why do this project?

When moments like the World Cup come around and the world truly shares in an event, especially through social media. It’s just wild to me, to tap into that connectedness is a great set up and have a catalyst for a series. Picking up on those interest and then combining it with my portrait illustration work was a great way to celebrate the unique countries, kits and cultures in the World Cup.

I’ve always found physical maps fascinating. Certainly with my “Gen X” leanings, certainly you and I certain remember all map reference being analog in those pre-internet days. It’s interesting to look back this documentation as the designers had to layout information in efficient ways, no zooming no interactions. As such, these 1970’s and early 1980’s visuals have a very unique look. That’s always fascinated me as a kid. Side note, anyone here recall when they flip our school maps from the Soviet Union?

What inspired you to combine soccer portraits with, of all things a vintage atlas?

As these sporting events go, theses moments create huge excitement in the build-up and through the tournament structure. You see a lot of artists tap into this excitement. It is inspiring to see football fans fired up and share these sense of national pride. As a creative and artist, this offers a great spring board for creativity.

Combine that with football passion, the unique map design of the 70’s and early 80’s and diversity of the nations of world. Then you really have something.

Have you learned anything from this project?

I randomly learned that the folds in a football kit nearly resemble mountain ranges on a map. That’s pretty cool.

Joking aside, I think there is a real power behind visualizing this sense of nationalism across the world through the sport of football. It’s a pretty powerful thing to tap into.

How has the reception been from around the world?

To throwback for a second here, portraiture is a skill I developed in middle and high school. Back then having my sketch book passed around was a great way for this skinny teenager to be able to talk to girls. I was absolutely known for that at my high school.

Jumping to 2018, it’s pretty wild to get these fairly similar reactions from football fans of foreign nations. Seeing the illustrations posted in Arabic in the case of Saudi Arabia is pretty cool. For the small social account I have, I’ve already hit over ten-times my usual impressions since starting the project three weeks ago!


Raisch’s fantastic series can be checked out on his personal design site here or follow along on Twitter @RaischStudios and @footballatlas_