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 clichéd 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

1 comment:

  1. Ha, friend-of-a-friend apparently says the font looks like it was made from rolls of tape.