Friday, July 27, 2012

2012 London Olympics: What's Going On with That Logo?

Today is the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics thus, the start of being interested in swimming for two weeks and wishing we all had the bodies of pro volleyball players.

So, it only seems fitting to ruminate on related matters, such as: what’s going on with that Olympic logo?

Technically, it is known as an Olympic emblem. Each Olympic Games has its own version, a design combining the Olympic rings with other distinctive elements, generally reflecting the host country and the season. These emblems are created and proposed by the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games or by the National Committee of the host country, and the International Olympic Committee gets final approval on the design.

Which brings us to a look at this year’s version for the 2012 London Games:
Motto: Inspire a generation.

Feeling underwhelmed, maybe even hostile? You are not alone. In fact, the almost universally-detested emblem may also be the most controversial one in the 116-year history of the Olympic Games.

From puzzle pieces to Lisa Simpson committing an unmentionable act, the word “Zion,” or an abstract depiction of “dad dancing,” the emblem has attracted all sorts of scorn, ridicule, and speculation.

Developed by the branding firm Wolff Olins for some £400,000 and unveiled in 2007, the design is based on the numbers “2012” and uses the custom “2012 Headline” typeface meant to create awareness, impact, and memorability. It is the first emblem in Olympic history to be able to use a variety of colors. And while the standard colors include green, magenta and blue, the logo has also been rendered in a variety of other colors and patterns, including the Union Flag. Sponsors, such as Lloyds TSB and Adidas, have also incorporated their company colors when using the 2012 Olympic emblem.
Ah, capitalism...wait, this isn't America?

To be fair, in support of the emblem, it has been claimed that the transformation of the 2012 number forms helps create a modern, meaningful, universal, and youthful effect. Some see it as an appeal to today’s Internet generation. As the chairman of London’s 2012 organizing committee said, 
“It is an invitation to take part and be involved.” It plays up Britain’s quirkiness and mild eccentricity, instead of opting for a sleek, corporate logo and in lieu of using clich├ęd national references. It is part of a sketched-in, impromptu sort of Olympic brand identity that reflects the eclectic, jumbled, vibrant, and abstract energy of London as a city. Nick Couch, managing director at the London creative consultancy Figtree, describes the 2012 Olympic identity as “bright, energetic and slightly dysfunctional….It reflects London.”

And then there are the detractors. Much of the original criticism of the logo came down to two issues – the first being that Wolff Olins has been unable to fully discuss its design rationale, due to media restrictions. The second criticism was over the real purpose of the identity – not as a standalone logo, but as a brand. It was difficult to imagine, in 2007, how such a thing might work.

Pretty drab in black and white, no?
And as London-born writer Feargus O’Sullivan opined: “London 2012’s visual designers have created an impression of an Olympics afraid to look too sleek or clever.” “Now London will host an Olympic torch that appears to run on Parmesan, while its children will be spooked by bits of a broken stadium that have sprouted monstrous eyes and slunk off to haunt the nation’s Happy Meals. At least these missed opportunities all happened in a country that enjoys laughing at its own failures.”

If nothing else, at least it has spurred conversation, and the world’s eyes would be on the Games no matter the emblem used. What do you think about the 2012 London Olympics emblem?


For more of a look at the current, past, and even future Olympic emblems:

Every Olympic Logo in History

A History of Olympic Logos: From London 2012 to London 1948 

A History of Olympic Logos: 1896 – 2008 and Beyond

2012 Summer Olympics Logo: How Does It Stack Up to Past Olympics?

Design and Branding Trends: Olympic Games

Olympics Logo Evolution Over the Years 1924 – 2016

39 Olympic Logos From 1924 to 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

On Tongues and Lips

Even though designer Cefalu had already been working with a version of the Tongue and Lips logo, the Sticky Fingers album, released in March of 1971, actually features a second version of the logo.

The logo this time was designed by renowned British graphic designer John Pasche, then a student the Royal College of Art in London. Some claim that Pasche was actually commissioned in 1969 by Jagger, looking for images for the band. Pasche later said, “The design concept for the tongue was to represent the band’s anti-authoritarian attitude, Mick’s mouth and the obvious sexual connotations.” “I designed it in such a way that it was easily reproduced and in a style I thought could stand the test of time.” But Cefalu counters with the details: “The logo that I did the finish on and that was used on all the merchandising was done by me well before the end of February of 1971. That one was finished black line art and I used matched PMS185 Red and White call outs on it.” Pasche, however, is often credited as being the creator of the now famous logo.

Pasche, who ended up doing graphics work for the Stones from 1970 to 1974, also said, “Face to face with him [Jagger], the first thing you were aware of was the size of his lips and his mouth.” In many versions of the tale, the logo was also said to be influenced by depictions of the fearsome Hindu goddess Kali, usually shown with an open mouth and pointed tongue. Granted, there could be a similarity. Cefalu, however, tells a different story about its inception, claiming that his employer Craig Baum was looking over another album cover design of Cefalu’s, which featured a mouth with a tongue hanging out of it. Baum then mentioned to Cefalu that they had been working, without success, on a logo for the Stones. Inspiration struck, and Baum, who had a meeting that afternoon with the manager of the Stones, asked Cefalu, “can you go upstairs to the art department and take the lips that you did on this label, add a tongue outside and over the bottom lip like this, and finish it in less than an hour?” Cefalu claims that it took him 40 minutes to do a felt marker sketch, to which he added teeth to balance the look.

The Shepard Fairey version
And the logo saga does not end there. The logo was unique, being that it was just the image and had never actually said “The Rolling Stones.” For decades, the band felt that the mouth itself was potent enough. And indeed, the logo has remained as one of the most widely recognized logos ever created. Fast forward to June 2012, though, and another version is rolled out, this time after an overhaul by the popular designer and artist Shepard Fairey. To commemorate their 50th anniversary, the Rolling Stones asked Fairey to update the classic Tongue and Lips. Fairey was “overwhelmed” by the request, commenting that “Mick said he was open to any of my ideas.” Well, perhaps the Tongue and Lips are just too iconic, or perhaps it was just a moment of good judgement, because the biggest change was adding typography around the mouth design, with a few minor tweaks to the mouth itself.

In 2003, VH1 named Sticky Fingers the “No. 1 Greatest Album Cover” of all time, while in August 2008, the Tongue and Lips design (Pasches version) was voted the greatest band logo of all time in an online poll. And although his contributions seem to be often overlooked, maybe one need not feel too bad for Cefalu. In the years since, Cefalu has received much recognition, including Grammy nominations and Music Hall of Fame Awards. As of 2011, Cefalu had 212 total album covers to his credit. He is the owner and creative director of HornBook Inc., the Internet’s first virtual agency, and he serves as the creative director for four Fortune 100 companies. And as an interesting side note, Cefalu has assembled what is perhaps the largest privately-owned collection of original album cover art and music-related illustration in the world.

What do you think of the credit going to Pasche over Cefalu? And how do you feel about the Fairey version of Tongue and Lips? Do you think it is an improvement over Pasches or Cefalus versions?  

Also see: Sticky Fingers and Tongues and Lips - Oh, the Drama

With quotes and images from: and

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sticky Fingers and Tongues and Lips – Oh, the Drama

First off, this is not one of those kinds of sites. So, hmmm, sticky fingers, what is that about? A how-to on petty theft? And tongues and lips...a topic from a trade magazine for mannequin manufacturers? (Does such a thing even exist?) Ha, no, for those perhaps too young to know, Sticky Fingers is an album, and Tongue and Lip Design is a logo – and both belong to the famous Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones, one of the most successful and well-known rock ‘n’ roll bands ever, was founded in 1962. Within a handful of years, the band had already hit #1 in the UK and was making waves across the pond. In 1970, once other contracts had ended, the band was free to form their own record company, Rolling Stones Records. Sticky Fingers, which happened to chart #1 in both the UK and the US, became the band’s first album release on their own label. It contains some of their best-known hits, including Wild Horses.

Sticky Fingers, notably, featured an elaborate cover design by none other than the famed Andy Warhol. Playing with the suggestive title, the cover features a close shot of a jeans-clad male crotch. The original vinyl release also sported a functioning zipper, as well as a mock belt buckle, which opened to reveal cotton briefs, which themselves were faux stamped with Warhol’s name. Fans assumed the cover model was Mick Jagger, although it has since been claimed that Warhol had several different men photographed (none of whom were Jagger), and it was never revealed which was the actual shot used.

As if all of this weren’t notable enough, Sticky Fingers also features the first use of the Tongue and Lip logo, originally designed by the accomplished Ernie Cefalu, who at the time was working with Craig Braun, Inc. in New York. Baum worked out a deal with the Stones, where the band got the logo for free, while Baum got the exclusive merchandising rights for one year. And so, Cefalu worked on shirts, scarves, hats, patches, and such for the Stones, using this same logo.

But, oh, there is drama in this story...

Coming up: On Tongues and Lips

With images from: