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THE SUN — Visual Stimuli

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

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London’s LOGOversy

When I think of European cities, I think of London, Paris, Rome, and Berlin. I think of the rich history. I think of classic and modern architecture and a continent saturated with avant-guarde artists, fashion, city life, and an eclectic mix of cultures. I think of some of the best designers to ever influence the design world: Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo Davinci, Salvador Dali, Christopher Wren, and Yves Saint Laurent, to name a few. Over the years, European design has become synonymous with modernity, quality, and innovation.

So, what happened to that design legacy when it came to London’s 2012 Summer Olympics logo?

Back in July of 2003, several cities were vying to become the host city of the 2012 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) narrowed the field to London, Madrid, Paris, New York, and Moscow, and by March 2005, had visited and reviewed them based on very specific criteria set by the IOC. That July, the IOC announced London and Paris were neck-and-neck, but London was ultimately selected.

As London celebrated the announcement, they also immediately created an Olympic Committee to begin program and project management of this large endeavor. One of the first tasks, was branding and logo design.  Designed by Wolff Olins, the first logo was revealed in June 2007. It consists of the numbers 2-0 and 1-2 with the classic 5-ring Olympics symbol within the zero. The numbers are stylized, jagged, brightly colored and graffiti-like.

The intent of the logo, was to engage young people, while creating a brand that was easily flexible to adapt similar logos for Olympic sponsors, such as Adidas, Lloyds Banking Group, and British Airways. And ultimately, the logo would be plastered on t-shirts, hats, bags, souvenirs, athletic gear, etc to bring in revenue to the U.K.

When the logo was first released, there was public outrage about the sheer ugliness of it. According to Wikipedia, early reactions to the logo in the U.K. was largely negative: “more than 80% of votes gave the logo the lowest possible rating.” Many have complained it looks like a swastika. Others say it resembles Lisa Simpson engaged in a sexual act.

The controversy didn’t stop there. A segment of animated footage that appeared on the Summer Olympics website reportedly triggered seizures in a small number of people with photosensitive epilepsy. Shortly after the controversy, the video was removed from the website. The London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, said the company who designed the film should not be paid for what he called a “catastrophic mistake.”

Alice Rawsthorn of The New York Times and a Londoner herself, writes, “Blessed with so much talent, London has no excuse” not to produce creative and innovative graphics for these Olympic Games. She goes on to say the organizers have “already squandered their opportunity to commission great architecture by replacing some of the original designs, except Zaha Hadid’s aquatic center, with inferior ones…But it isn’t too late to make the [logo] design much, much better, and they could start by dumping that dodgy typeface.”

Jan Moore, of The Sun, wrote that the Olympic organizers say the design will grow on us. Her reply: “so does foot fungus.”

All in all London has paid out over ₤400,000 (approximately $615,000) for this controversial logo design. Is this appropriate? Is this the best or the worst logo you’ve ever seen? Will Londoners and people worldwide eventually like the logo? Should the Olympics just be about the sports and athletes and not so much about the logo? These are the questions I asked myself, and now you.

Past Olympic Logos

Personally, when I first saw the logo, with its garish colors and odd arrangement, I didn’t immediately recognize that it said “2012.” The loudness of the shapes prevented me from even understanding what it was. When I finally realized that there were numbers, I thought perhaps there was a kindergarten design competition for the logo – surely, London got this for free. It just looked so unrefined, not well-thought out, and well, dated. It looked like something out of ’80′s music video. Or perhaps that 1960s Batman and Robin series, when Batman is attacking evildoers, and “POW!” shoots across the screen.

One thing is for sure, publicity over the logo and the Olympic Games has certainly stirred opinions worldwide. In my opinion the logo could have been much, much simpler and still appealed to the younger generation, exemplified good sportsmanship, and met sponsors’ needs. If designers in Europe are out of good ideas, there’s no hope for the rest of us!

Sources:

Wikipedia

The New York Times (article by Alice Rawsthorn)

2012 London Olympics (official website)