The States, Vol. 1: California, Vermont, Louisiana, South Dakota, Maryland

Two years ago, I took a crack at giving major league baseball teams their own soccer jerseys. I had a blast – so much so that last year, I started Clean Sheet Co. to work on ambitious apparel design ideaslike that one. Our first big project? Designing t-shirts for every World Cup team. It was a fantastic success.

It’s that time of year again. I’m ready. Clean Sheet Co. is ready.

And the project? Here’s what I’m thinking.

• While 32 Nations was a blast, this time I wanted design around something a little more timeless than a month-long event. (We’ll dive back into the world of big international competition soon enough – there are loads of interesting tournaments coming up, starting with the Women’s World Cup this summer, and Clean Sheet Co. will be there.) I also wanted to stretch out the time frame a little bit – instead of dropping a ton of designs over a short period, I wanted to have the freedom to introduce and produce designs every week or so for a good while.

• I wanted to keep the ambitious nature of these projects intact - 30 MLB identies, 32 World Cup teams… if anything, I’d like to keep trying for bigger and bigger payoffs.

• I wanted to bring the focus of my work back to the good old U.S. of A. after spending so much time thinking about international identities.

Everything led to one place.

Over the next several months, I’ll be creating and releasing t-shirt designs for each of the 50 U.S. States – and quite possibly a few bonus designs as well. Each one will be made available for purchase at the Clean Sheet Co. website. I’m starting with five shirts today – more on those in a second – and batches of future designs will be released every few weeks. If you need a primer on my design technique, check out “The Rules”, a piece that walks through the Clean Sheet Co. design process.

There’s obviously a ton of ground to cover. As you have probably surmised, the first five states are an eclectic bunch. Let’s dive in.


Keep reading

32 Nations, Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Well, that was an interesting draw. I’ll save my opinions of what just happened to the US - suffice to say, us rooting for the States are either going to get some much-welcome retribution (Germany and Ghana have ended our last three World Cups), or get spanked pretty bad. And, we get to see CR7, glistening in the Amazonian heat of Manaus. At least there will be stories, right?

But I’m not here to talk about Group G. Let’s get right on in to the shirts for the first group of the 2014 World Cup: Group A.

Shall we?


Keep reading

The States, Vol. 2: Michigan, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Kansas, Idaho

Clean Sheet Co.’s The States project is off and running, and the response has been fantastic. Thanks for ordering shirts, giving feedback, and asking - quite loudly at times - when your state was coming. I promise you: it’s coming! There are a lot of states, and Clean Sheet Co.’s going to get to them all (and then some).

Keep reading
Stuff I Like

From time to time I find stuff worth sharing and commenting on that doesn’t fit here. I also like to publish my own photography, artwork, and other media when I can, but I don’t want to overload this spot. Enter: Stuff I Like (, a place to throw links, creative stuff and ephemera. Expect a mix of design, web, soccer, photography, art and mascot videos, roughly in that order.

Or, in brief:

Stuff I’m making, finding and enjoying. Images, sounds, videos, links and what have you, from M.Willis.

32 Nations, Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Our penultimate group has a lot to love: nations from four different confederations, and four very different parts of the globe. Argentina is a strong favorite, of course - they seem incredibly likely to move on from this group of four - but the other spot is anyone’s guess. Bosnia-Herzegovina are making their World Cup debut as an independent nation, and strong qualifying play notwithstanding, it’s tough to know just how the world stage will suit them. Iran haven’t had much success, yet, in a World Cup, but are always one of Asia’s toughest sides. And Nigeria have the talent and experience to make things interesting for the higher seeds, but their form next summer is far from certain.

I say Argentina (with confidence) and Nigeria (with hesitation) pull it off. From a visual perspective, Group F is unique - it’s the group the fewest fiery red/orange/yellow colors, almost none at all to speak of. Cool colors (blues, whites and greens) dominate. Will that give the matches in the group a distinctive tenor? And what does that mean for their 32 Nations designs? Let’s check it out.


Keep reading

32 Nations, Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

There’s nowhere to hide in Group D.  With three clubs in the world’s top 15, and a fourth who can beat anyone (just ask Concacaf).  Uruguay will feel a little pressure playing as a seed, close to home, and with Luis Suarez at the absolute apex of his career.  England will feel pressure because they’re English.  Italy will feel pressure, but they’ve built their entire footballing strategy about turning pressure in on itself.  It’s going to get dicey; my picks: Uruguay and England (somehow). 

And as far as the design implications, there’s a lot to tackle. Let’s go:


Keep reading

32 Nations, Group B: Spain, The Netherlands, Chile, Australia

The 32 Nations project continues on with Group B! The matchup between 2010 finalists will get all the press here, but I think Chile is coming out of this region, one way or another. Australia is a spoiler, fully capable of drawing or even beating a favorite that expects a result. The second-place finisher will likely play Brazil in the round of 16 - so the scramble should be especially intense through all three games.

On-field exploits aside, let’s get to the important stuff: how does Group B stack up, design-wise? Let’s take a look.


Keep reading

Identity Sketches for NYC FC

Until this past Tuesday, it was NY2.

NY2 was a fable; a mythical soccer club whose only identity was the visible will of a determined commissioner and the rustle of dollar bills passing through customs at JFK. As of Tuesday, NY2 is a real club with real qualities. The details and implications will be hashed out elsewhere; what I care about is identity. And NY2 now has an identity: New York City FC.

That’s all we know for sure, of course - the name. We don’t know colors or nicknames or positioning or attitude or anything else. But we can infer some things:

Author’s note: This piece is part of a mini-series on identity design for the MLS club New York City FC. When you’re done here, feel free to read on:
Part 1: Logos & Branding
Part 2: Jerseys & Apparel

For more, including how to purchase future design work from the author, follow @m_willis on Twitter or leave your email at the very bottom of this page.

Also, if you like this kind of stuff, check out 32 Nations, a project to give unique designs to every team headed to the 2014 World Cup.
Thanks for reading!

  • First, from the club’s managing partners (English soccer’s Manchester City FC and baseball’s New York Yankees) we can infer color (shades of blue), style (ready to splurge, expect to win), and attitude (larger than life).
  • From Major League Soccer’s dogged desire to land this club in New York City proper - and the rather grandiose name that’s been chosen - we can infer that NYC FC will be a flagship franchise, and will speak to, and claim to speak for, the entire city.
  • Finally, from New York’s endless supply of graphic signifiers, we can infer some visual concepts for the club’s logo, colors and sense of style.

Over two parts, that’s what we’ll explore here. First, in part one, an idea for an NYC FC club logo. Next, in part two, some uniform concepts.

NY2 is now New York City Football Club. Let’s dive in. Tomorrow: Part 1 - the logo. Author’s note: you can read part 1 here.