Game changers #3, Paladar Negro, the visual (and beautiful) language of football

  • April 15, 2018
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by Martin Mazur

Six years ago, Sebastian Ruggiero decided to mix two of his biggest passions: graphic design and football. His work -a handful of sketches, new sections and, especially, ideas to explore- was compiled into an online catalogue called Paladar Negro, a Spanish term which refers to fine taste in football.

“My idea was to show football dynamics from a visual perspective. Therefore, we decided to take all the elements that belong to and surround football, from players to stadiums, from crests and kits to stats and nicknames, and process them in a particular visual language, using graphic resources such as colours, shapes, structures or signs,” Ruggiero tells AIPS.

Paladar Negro first started in Tumblr, an easy platform for uploading contents, and then launched its own website, “We would have between 1,000 and 5,000 visitors from each post, reaching 20,000 in particular cases, but now most of the engagement happens directly in social media” explains Ruggiero.

Growing numbers... and Piqué
Since Ruggiero expanded the topics of interest, moving from Argentinian football to international football, the community of followers kept on growing. “With additions from Chile, Uruguay, Mexico and Colombia, we started looking for integration in Latin America. Messages from Peru, Ecuador, Brazil followed. Then, El Salvador, Spain, France or Costa Rica. They liked what they had seen,” says Ruggiero.

Now Paladar Negro has over 50,000 followers, most of them coming from twitter. One of the last persons to follow it was Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué.

“If you think that he follows only 500 people and we are one of them, it’s certainly something to feel flattered. We sent him a new cover picture proposal in case he wanted to used it. But what’s most rewarding to us is the contact, the feedback we are getting from people and views that come from another side of the world; every post triggers a sort of cultural enrichment.”
Bats are part of the Valencia community from the ages of the Aragon ruling. Paladar Negro compiled six football crests that honour them.

-Do you think that traditional media did not understand the need of having an innovative graphic approach in their online presence, allowing new players, like Paladar Negro, to step into?
-It’s difficult to understand the importance of visual communication when you’re all the time devoted to the new things that are happening. But now there’s a breakthrough and interesting projects based on this point, like Varsky Sports. It’s not just the news, but how you communicate the news and what particular angle you want to develop, which manages to engage the audience.

-There are media outlets now having their own “labs” in order to develop new ways of narrating, taking into account the new platforms and using a different graphic perspective. What’s your vision about that?
-It’s great that these things are happening. That same non-traditional view is what we tried to promote from Paladar Negro, without being a news portal. I believe the idea is to give a quality enhancement to the media outlet. Besides, in times where the urgent and instantaneous are predominant, sometimes leading to meaningless contents, we really value creativity.

More than beautiful
Football and beautiness are inextricably linked in Paladar Negro. Every post exudes a style that is fun to watch, whether you actually like the content or not. This, in terms of metrics, equals to the sought after “time spent” and "engagement rate" that brands like to have.

Media outlets such as Panenka or Kaiser magazine (Spain) and journalists such as Juan Pablo Varsky decided to bet on Paladar Negro’s creations to enhance their visual offer. A number of football clubs also redeveloped their identity with the help of PN Studio, the sister agency of Paladar Negro.

-From making beautiful posts to being an active player in the sports community, how exactly did you take the next step?
-We started building a network with websites such as La Casaca (on football jerseys), Marca de Gol (marketing), ArteySport and Todosobrecamiseta. That gave us some further recognition and the possibility of interacting with each other and developing projects with people that understand football as we do, with passion and professional values. From that network, Blogsportiva was born, a sports marketing agency that understands the market but also knows how to talk to fans and address sports lovers.

Visual chronology of goalkeepers in World Cups.

Far from memes
Twitter is a platform to be informed, but at the same time, it is also the kingdom of memes, where people, especially football fans, are easily engaged in mockery, controversy or insults. Yet Paladar Negro managed to stay away from negativity, and has always produced a steady line of serene and constructive posts.

“We’ve never seen memes as the road, to be honest. We wanted to mix football and graphic design, and we never really thought about the audience. Even today, the fact that a post can not hit it, is not a limiting factor. Memes’ objective is just to be viral. But our graphic view makes us stay away from that kind of approach, and we wouldn’t be comfortable trying that road. A jersey, a crest or a player are not just that, are a sum of graphic elements waiting to be combined with one topic,” emphasises Ruggiero.

-Which are the works that you’ve enjoyed the most?
-“All-time cracks”, because of its impact. From the design and investigative point of view, “Architectural icons”, “World Cup typographies”, “Chromatological tree” and “Shared symbols”, where we could find conceptual coincidences in some elements from a number of football clubs. Every time we have an idea, we start an investigation and sometimes we are surprised by the findings, reaching a conclusion that we were not expecting. In terms of “fun”, the Perfect XI with player-brands, statues, Halloween, made us enjoy a nice moment while we were trying to complete the squad.

Like magazines, newspapers or TV channels, Paladar Negro is also trying to stay up-to-date with the overall changes, without losing the connection of its heritage. Ruggiero states it very clearly: “Our goal is to adapt to the changes in platforms and interaction, respecting our axes: dedication, analysis, constant search of new contents while enjoying the whole process. Our project is the graphic materialisation of everything that we love. Everything that raises our curiousity, from a specific thing, maybe colourful or anecdotal, to a more generic or popular content, is what eventually feeds Paladar Negro.”

Game changers is presented by AIPS Sport Media Awards, a bridge to the future of sport journalism. Divided in 6 main categories, the Awards are a celebration of the best sport storytellers from around the world. Submissions for professionals are free and open until September 17, 2018. Find more and submit your work in


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