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Visual Communication (MA)

Annie Kobyluch

Annie Kobyluch is a London-based graphic designer who specialises in identity design, typography and editorial. 

Before studying MA Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art (2022-23), she worked as a designer at the streaming service MUBI for two years. In 2020 she gained a BA in Communication Design, with a specialism in graphic design, from Glasgow School of Art.

In 2020 she was selected for Creative Reviews Gradwatch and won the Penguin Student Design Award.

Model wearing Blood, Sweat and Tears scarf on football pitch.

As a visual communicator and graphic designer, my practice is research-led. When starting a project I engage in contextual and theoretical reading to gain a deep understanding of my chosen subject. This gives me the ability to explore different ideas and pathways when coming up with creative solutions. 

I believe that as visual communicators we have a responsibility to educate, and that is why I feel so passionately about my final project, ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’. The aim of this project is to highlight the taboo of menstruation in sport, specifically football. It made me reflect on my own relationship with sport as a teenager, and becoming aware of how many girls quit sport due to period anxiety (3 out of 5 girls quit sport due to a fear of leaking) made me want to create a platform for a conversation that needs to be heard.

3 white football shirts hanging on goal posts. The first shirt says blood, the second says sweat and the third says tears.

The questions I explore in ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’, are:

Why isn’t menstruation talked about in sport?

How does menstruation effect athletes physically and mentally?

How does menstruation impact girls’ relationship with sports?

I believe these questions are extremely relevant today, as recently there has been much news coverage on football teams changing their approach to help players when they are on their periods – whether that is tracking their players’ menstrual cycle or changing the colour of their shorts to darker tones to prevent anxiety around leaking. I was particularly interested in the anxiety that periods can cause, as revealed in a report by the Football Association (FA) on Female Athlete Health; WSL players were interviewed about their thoughts on this topic. In the focus groups, practitioners reported that some players who had heavy periods were having to ‘double up’, using tampons and period pads at the same time, and that younger players (in their late teens) were more commonly experiencing heavy periods, and often leaked blood during their period as a result. One player said: ‘Girls who are having heavy periods have had to come off during warm up or at half time because they have leaked’. 

I collated my research into a book titled ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’. All the images in the book are printed in red on white paper to link back to the anxiety players feel about leaking onto white shorts.For the book, I designed a typeface called ‘Protective Padding’.  The typeface is inspired by football shirt fonts and the shape of sanitary pads. 

When researching the typefaces used on football shirts, I noticed lots of them had lines going straight down the middle of the font. I incorporate this design feature into my typeface and use it to represent the different stages of bleeding during the menstrual cycle. When you change the weight of the font the outer line will always remain the same and the inside line will get larger/bleed out. I also interviewed some players at Fulham's women's team to hear their thoughts about how menstruation is viewed in football, I took some of the quotes and set them in my typeface 'Protective Padding'.

Once the book was completed, I explored traditional football formats to encourage a public conversation about the  taboo of menstruation. I made a scarf with the Blood, Sweat and Tears tag line, a football shirt with the font printed as the shirt numbers and a banner that reads: ‘Winning even when we fail to keep a clean sheet’.

Red and white scarf that says Blood Sweat and Tears
Poster that says 'Can I borrow some shin pads'
Quotes taken from interviews with footballers about their view on menstruation in football.
Type specimen of 'Protective Padding'
Title page spread from my research book 'Blood, Sweat and Tears'
 Spread from my research book 'Blood, Sweat and Tears'
Spread from my research book 'Blood, Sweat and Tears'
Spread from my research book 'Blood, Sweat and Tears'