The visual identity system for Coca-Cola's FIFA World Cup campaign was a collaborative effort between São Paulo street artist Speto and Leeds design studio BGO. We talk to Coke's global design head James Sommerville about how the project came about.

Can you tell us when the project started and how? What was the starting point and what were the key stages in the development process of Coca-Cola's visual identity system (VIS) for the FIFA World Cup?

Coke bottle drawing
The napkin sketch that started it all.

In 2012, while still in my former position at ATTIK, we received a call from Coca-Cola to say we'd been invited to attend a 2014 FIFA World Cup workshop in Rio. I wasn't sure what to expect, but was very excited at the opportunity. In the room, we were joined by the Coca-Cola brand team and our ad agency partners, Wieden + Kennedy. Here we were introduced to the concept of "The World's Cup" – the idea that the FIFA World Cup belongs to everyone, whoever you support and wherever you live. Football is the world's most democratic sport. This concept ultimately became the heart of the 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign for Coca-Cola.

The journey to create the VIS started with a walk through the streets of Rio. It was important to discover something unique, something Brazilian and also something reflective of the Coca-Cola brand. While walking a few streets back from Copacabana Beach, it became evident that Brazil would offer something very different to the world as the host nation. After many walkabouts and months of research, we encountered the work of Brazilian street-artist, Speto. His style aligned perfectly with the design aesthetic for Coca-Cola: bold, simple, iconic. Once we selected Speto as our partner, we went to work to determine how this visual identity would come to life.

After a couple of days of meetings resulted in no design, we went to dinner and over a conversation, a sketch on a napkin (see above) became the start of something much bigger. In June 2013, I joined The Coca-Cola Company as VP of Global Design and have had the privilege of seeing this project from both the agency and client side -- from inception to today, where the VIS currently resides in 175 global markets.

There are a lot of visual cliches associated with Brazil and yet, presumably, there was a necessity to give this some Brazilian flavor. How do you reconcile the two? How do you make the work feel 'Brazilian' without it falling into stereotypes?

During my walkabouts through the streets of Rio, I experienced that the streets are paved with art. We were searching for something or someone with whom we could partner to give Coca-Cola a distinctive point of view on Brazilian art. We certainly weren't naïve as to think it could possibly originate from Leeds {where Coke's design studio on the project and Sommerville's former company BGO (Bonafide Guests Only) is based]! However, it was never about selecting someone because they were famous and in fact, we avoided all the things you might see on the Brazilian tourist board website (i.e. Samba, Carnival, Copacabana, toucans etc.). Instead, we were looking for a partner who shares the same design aesthetic as Coca-Cola, described best as bold, simple and iconic. We found that in Speto and, together, built a visual identity system that is authentically Brazilian but tells a story of togetherness and optimism, with the underlying connection of football.