The new London Olympics logo
Tim Abrahams | 10 June 2007
Whilst I agree with the almost unanimous consensus that the London Olympics logo is bad, I disagree with the reason why. Much of the criticism is centred on the fact that the graphic appears to be directed at the young. This is certainly the case. The colour palette is bright and vibrant, the pink and yellow is particularly redolent of eighties children’s TV graphics. To continue in a more generous vein, the shadow effect is pure 80s retro which recalls some of the work in Dazed in Confused from around the beginning of the decade. Michael Johnson in The Guardian suggests that in contrast to previous Olympic logo designs, the “London’s identity tries a new route – pick a vigorous cross your fingers and hope like hell that it’ll still be relevant in the next decade.” Whilst I think this is true of the colour and shadowing, I think the real problem is that this is not a piece of graphic design per se. Actually the real problem with the logo is that it is a still from a piece of animation. Watching the promotional video to the logo, we see pieces of dynamic colour flowing through London, parts of which form the ultimate logo, which arrives quivering at the Games. The logic behind the design is the logic of regeneration. Like Freddie Mercury in the It’s a Kind of Magic, streaks of life and colour will fly through London and turn a grey world into a colourful one, which is a typical piece of vanity, that we are beginning to expect from Locog, the Games organising committee.
In the mid-Sixties, a young American industrial designer, Lance Wyman was given the task of creating the graphics for the Mexico Olympics in 1968. He used the hieroglyphics of the country’s pre-Columban architecture to create a system of legible yet recognisably Mexican logo designs. The 1968 Games were the first to be fully televised to a mass audience. Wyman was not aware of the huge leap in mass communication his work would be part of but because of its strong fundamental principles, the design provided a backdrop to the drama of Bob Beaman’s massive triple jump, the Black Power salutes of the American athletes and the dramatic unfolding of a major sports event. The Games of 1968 are still referred to as the Graphic Games. Not bad for a 29-year old.
As for designer Wolff Ollins’ 2012 design, it provides none of the identity or sense of place or sense of history required of Olympics logo design. There seems to be little faith in the event in itself providing the excitement and too much in the impact the Games will have on the physical fabric of the city. Tessa Jowell calls it “edgy.” “It’s saying we are groovy,” says Deyan Sujdic. Rubbish. The jagged edges fight with the principle of the Olympic logo. The font that the word London is rendered in is, frankly, an embarrassment. When you place it on any page it immediately fights with the grid layout of pictures and text. I imagine that editors in the print media will be less inclined to use it as a result. Wolff Ollins designed the hugely unpopular BT “piper” logo. Which lasted from 1993-2001. Thank God we’ll have to put up with this one for less.
Tim Abrahams is acting editor of Blueprint