Designing Football, from Helmets to Hashtags

football field
Dimensions of a professional football field (image: 2011 Official Playing Rules And Casebook of the NFL)

Sports are good design. American football is no exception: helmets are perhaps the most highly engineered piece of protective equipment in professional sports; the football field is unique in that it’s not designed to accommodate a ball, but to serve as a metric of progress in a battle for territory; the ball itself is an index of the game’s evolution, shrouded in myth and hearsay. It’s taken more than 100 years for professional football to become the game we know today and that history is embedded in the design of its fields, stadiums, and equipment. I recently wrote a threepart series investigating this design history for Design Decoded and learned some surprising facts about America’s favorite sport, including the rationale behind the so-called Boise Rule, which mandates turf color, and the link between naval paratroopers, cobblers, & college football.

Read my three-part design history of football on Design Decoded:

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Jimmy Stamp

Jimmy Stamp is a freelance writer, researcher, and recovering architect. He has contributed to The Guardian, Wired, Smithsonian, The Journal of Architectural Education, and many other websites and publications. His first book Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale comes out in spring 2016. If you're looking for writer with a penchant for Piranesi and pop culture, or if you just want to say hi, you can find him on twitter @LifeSansBldgs or instagram or email him at

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