Creator Series introduces the individuals who are using their inspiration and talent to push football culture forward.
Co-Founder of creative agency Common Goal - the crew behind Where Is Football, a photographic study of beauty in the global game - Nathen McVittie is creating a CV to rival the best in football culture.
Who’s your team? Why?
Preface: I did a bad thing and switched teams.
Context: I did a bad thing and switched teams with reason.
I grew up a Newcastle United fan in the 1990s — with Shearer, Robson, Ginola and the lot. Being born in Carlisle, a pretty small city with an average local team, most kids looked to the Premiership to get their kicks. The closest “big” team was Newcastle, so a lot of us jumped at them. I also had a lot of family there, which helped with getting those lovely Brown Ale kits for Christmas.
Somewhere along the way in my teens, I really became jaded with football and just stopped following completely. I think a mixture of overt masculinity with cultural norms I didn’t associate with drove me away. I ended up working in music for a long time — mainly alternative rock and emo music— and in my teens you were either a ‘chav’ or a ‘mosher’. Because I was the latter, I felt very unwelcome with a love of football.
Once my music run finished, I landed back in football, and ended up working for Leicester City during their Great Escape and Premier League winning seasons — something that pulled me in completely. I’m fully Leicester City by circumstance now, and get the type of anxiety from following them that I can only attribute to being an actual fan. So here I am. I’ve even got a Leicester tattoo now.
What is your earliest football memory?
Euro 96. I remember it felt like the entire town I grew up in was in the street and excited. The heat of the summer. The bad facepaint. The barbeques. Sometimes I stretch and try to think of earlier experiences, but that was the one. Football didn’t play as big of a role in my early childhood as it did for my friends, so I started a bit late.
What do you think your various projects have in common?
I really try to combine every experience I’ve ever had — whether it be design education, football, traveling or otherwise — into what I do. My entire life has been a mixture of projects, careers, experiences and people. I try to use and draw up on it all when working on something.
If I’m branding a football team for example, I will find a related personal experience and try to apply it to my process in order to immerse myself. On a specific level, I tend to favour symmetry, minimalism and efficiency in executions. Structure is a wonderful thing to me, and there’s no better way to convey that than with the basics done well. Even in non-creative executions like pitch decks or emails I tend to keep things basic and reductive.
What gave you the idea to start Where Is Football?
Where Is Football was born out of a project we ran for quite a few years — A Football Report. We found ourselves sharing submissions of the game being played, or where it is played, all over the world and we eventually started tagging them #whereisfootball.
Once AFR started to slow down, we noticed that people were really rallying around the #whereisfootball tag and sharing it in numbers. We doubled down on it and rebranded everything to Where Is Football. It’s gone from strength to strength since.
What do you look for in a shot?
When it comes to photography, I’m fully self trained. I decided to pick up a camera one day and figure it out. Because of that, I regard my photography style as pretty crude compared to others. With that being said, I do try to capture moments and emotions in photo form.
I’m a sucker for straight lines, composition and symmetry in my photography, and preparing a shot before it happens. It’s “shoot from the hip” but with a bit more consideration. My goal is to come away from any given shoot with unexpected angles or moments— and specifically with football photography— convey the “feeling” of being there.
How would you describe the current scene/culture in football?
Creatively, it’s better and stronger than ever. I see new projects popping up every day and it gives me anxiety because I want to work on something with everyone! There’s been a million think-pieces on the prevalence of football culture crossing over into the mainstreams of fashion, design and culture; but we’re absolutely in one of the most important moments of football history right now and we all have a responsibility to cultivate that with conscience and good faith.
I’m thinking forward ten or fifteen years right now to how we consume football offshoots in 2030 or so. Will we still be wearing lifestyle/football fashion offshoots? Will jerseys still be stylish? Will “football banter” still be as toxic and popular?
It’s a really interesting headspace and one I like to get in when starting to create. I always wonder if anyone thought in the 1980s that jerseys would eventually be on fashion runways or it would be cool to wear a scarf made by Balenciaga on the New York subway.
What plans do you have for Common Goal?
We continue to work with some of our favourite clients (shoutout adidas) and look to other creative opportunities as they present themselves, but we’re going into our third year now and we’re starting to scale back the amount of people we work with. We started off trying to do a lot all the time, but we’re in a place where it makes more sense to pick and choose what we work on; ensuring we fully love and nurture every single thing we do.
With that being said, we’re finally putting more stock behind our longtime passion project Where Is Football, and building it out more comprehensively over the course of 2018.
And the World Cup?
We’re moving and shaking right now. Pitching concepts and trying to lock some stuff in. I’m really looking forward to telling stories and meeting amazing people on the ground. I’m excited for the opportunity to showcase Russia as this amazing cultural hotbed — both with and without soccer.
There’s been a massive problem the last couple of decades in the ‘West’ where we cover up and shroud Russian culture, arts and history in mystery and then complain that it seems ‘dodgy’ or ‘backwards’. I think this Summer will serve as a powerful opportunity for Russia to showcase its best on a global stage and – something I have personal interest in — empower every weird creative kid to have a voice. It’s going to be an exciting few months.