The importance of illustrations in football media and content cannot be understated. Coverage has itself evolved through the years, ranging from unique transfer announcements (AS Roma) to humorous fan interactions (Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and the Bundesliga). Along that spectrum lies illustrations and graphics, and the myriad of possibilities that they present. There is no doubt that interactions are benefited from the usage of unique and niche illustrations, something that clubs and social media accounts have been quick to note. This is not restricted to clubs, though. Illustrations can add much more to articles as well.

Graphics and edits lie on a similar scale, even if they serve different purposes. They can add much to a social media profile, and if you’re good enough, you could be producing edits for established players and clients. Photoshop is a tool available to all, but it takes talent and skill to use it to one’s credit and produce excellent edits.

Federico Manasse is a fast-growing football illustrator with a unique style, one that has gotten him numerous commissions from big football platforms. Those include COPA90, Bleacher Report and The Guardian, while he has done illustrations for The Boar, the University of Warwick’s newspaper. To top those impressive achievements, he’s the resident illustrator for the prestigious long-form website, These Football Times. His work there encompasses supporting illustrations for articles, including a whopping 50 for ‘The 50’ Series in August 2017. He now has a weekly comic strip that started this month, and continues to evolve.

Fredrik is a freelance graphic designer from Norway whose body of work has made him one of the best in his field. He’s done social media work for the likes of Harry Kane, Iker Casillas, Jamaal Lascelles and Steve Cook; his 66,000+ followers on Twitter is testament to his sheer consistency and quality. His style is varied, but a regular follower of his work will be able to recognize his edits instantly.

Football Chronicle spoke to Federico and Fredrik on their journey, football content and their style.

Firstly, tell us a bit about your journey with football content so far.

Federico: Hi guys! Thanks a lot for having me, I appreciate the opportunity to chat about my passion. I’ve been drawing anything and everything since as long as I can remember, but I’ve only started posting my work online and targeting the football world specifically as of April 2017 (little more than a year ago!). Since then it’s been a wonderful ride and I’ve had the opportunity to work for and with a number of esteemed entities and platforms.

Fredrik: My journey began around three years ago when I randomly decided to create a Twitter account where I would post photo-shopped pictures (edits). I had messed around with Photoshop for a while before but wasn’t any good at it. The very first edit I posted was this:

After creating the account, I just started posting constantly. In general, I have published around two to five pictures daily since then. That might be part of the reason why I’ve been so lucky to have a lot of followers.

How have you been able to distinguish your style from the others and create a niche for yourself?

Federico: I still work daily to fully nail down my personal, unique style. I wouldn’t say I’m quite there yet but I’m nearer to what I would like my drawings to look like than I’ve ever been, if that makes sense. I’m increasingly pleased with what I’m creating and I think the key to finding your groove is having fun as opposed to trying to please others.

Fredrik: I don’t quite know actually; I’ve never focused much on standing out, more on just “being myself”. The only thing I can think about is that my pictures are almost never 100% black – the darkest points are always a little bit lighter than just pitch-dark, if that makes sense.

This illustration came from Federico after Mohamed Salah’s terrible night in Kyiv in May.

How do you feel graphics/illustrations enhance social media posts and articles?

Federico: It’s a bit of an inherently biased answer coming from myself, but of course I think that illustrations add a touch of otherwise-unattainable class to both articles and social media posts. Illustrations provide unlimited stylistic and thematic options that few other mediums can achieve. For me, an article accompanied merely by a photograph is not rendered less worthy of reading, by all means. But it certainly appears, on first glance, to lack a tad more sophistication that an illustration could add.

Fredrik: It can really make it look much, much better! When the graphic design on a post/article is excellent, it automatically makes the rest of the post better. A lot of young people today are, unfortunately, quickly bored by just plain text. So having an interesting and eye-catching design will get more interactions on social media.

What do you think about the future of football content in relation to graphics?

Federico: I’m not a strategist so I have no idea what the future holds for the industry. Certainly, I don’t see graphics and/or drawings being replaced or surpassed any time soon. They’re an ever-evolving and adaptable medium that I think will be increasingly relied on by those wishing to generate captivating football content.

Fredrik: I think it will just grow, especially with more and more players using it often. A lot of players have a ‘match-day’ picture that they post on social media before each game of the season. People are also starting to care more and more about their ‘image’ on the internet; things such as profile pictures and social media posts will just get better over time.

How do you combat plagiarism in the age of social media (and Twitter, especially)?

Federico: I’ve given up combating plagiarism as there’s very little one can do about it except for having faith in the good will of others. I prefer not to stain my artwork with huge watermarks or signatures. It’s probably not worth ruining, since people whose intention is to “steal” others’ work and take credit for it will still be able to do so – and remove your signature – if they so desire. If some big account nabs my work and doesn’t credit me, I try to at least interpret it as a sign that I might be doing something right.

Fede drew this following the arrival of Mattia Caldara to his favourite club, AC Milan.

Fredrik: I usually don’t get bothered about it; I have watermarks on most of my pictures so people will find out. I often just ignore it for the few times it happens. What I don’t ignore is when other designers take my edit, photo-shop out my watermark and pretend like it’s their own picture. It makes me annoyed, not necessarily by the fact that they stole my work, but because that is an incredibly lazy and obnoxious thing for a ‘graphic designer’ to do. Luckily, it doesn’t happen so often to me.

What’s your personal experience with big clients been like? How do you approach them, and what sort of deadlines do they set you, especially for time-specific content?

Federico: In my very brief experience of working with big clients, approach, method and deadlines have varied greatly. It depends on the type of content that the client wishes to generate. Sometimes, especially when there is an established and quasi-informal relationship, I’ve been contacted through WhatsApp in order to get down to work as quickly as possible and produce some reactive content. Other times, for premeditated projects commissioned by a client whom I’ve never worked before, I’ve been contacted by email months in advance. It really depends on the client and on the kind of relationship that I have or don’t have with said client.

Fredrik: It has actually only been positive. I’ve never approached them, and luckily for me, they’ve contacted me via e-mail. They are all very professional and it’s been very fun working with those I’ve worked with so far. They usually inform me of their request in advance, usually three to four days before. The picture(s) doesn’t take too long to finish so I have never gotten an unreasonable deadline.

How do you come up with unique visuals?

Fredrik: I think I’m very lucky with my ADHD. Most of the time I just open the picture in Photoshop and then I suddenly get an idea. Sometimes I have to stare at the picture for a few minutes, but the process happens very quickly. I’m also always looking for the picture to be more than it is, as I often get new ideas when I’m working, so the edit rarely ends up as I originally planned it to be. When I’m stuck or feel like my edits are becoming too similar, I go to Pinterest, DeviantArt or PosterSpy and just surf around, looking at designs. There’s a lot of stuff to take inspiration from on there.

What kind of audience do you hope to reach out to?

Federico: I never really think of my drawings in terms of who I should be making them for. I obviously would like my drawings to have a wide audience and to possibly space away from the football world.

Fredrik: I don’t have a specific target audience in mind. However, the people I hope to reach are either those that interact (as I love talking with fans online) and the ones that buy my posters. But in all honesty, my content is for everyone. So even though it’s a bit clichéd, I want to reach out to every type of audience.

Fredrik’s Kieran Trippier graphic ahead of FIFA’s The Best Awards night

If you aren’t following both of them, you should now. Here are their Twitter handles: @feddewap and @F_Edits. It’s a pleasure to watch their creative evolution, and one hopes they’ll continue to bless our eyes with delightful and aesthetic content.