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Comments (116) Posted 06.06.07 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Adrian Shaughnessy

The 2012 Olympic Logo Ate My Hamster


thesun.jpg
Cover from The Sun, Wednesday June 6, 2007.

Three days after the launch of the logo for the 2012 London Olympics, Britain's biggest selling tabloid newspaper still regards the furor surrounding the new symbol as front-page news. Not only is it widely regarded as a badly designed logo, but nearly 30,000 people have signed an online petition demanding its withdrawal. And now, in its animated form, it is said to cause epileptic attacks.


Designers often bemoan the lack of coverage given to graphic design in mainstream media. Yet when design catches the attention of journalists and commentators it usually results in a vicious mugging rather than hearty praise. Since the organisers of the 2012 London Olympics unveiled their new logo (or 'brand' as they call it), we Brits have been treated to our national press in fixed-bayonets assault mode. This is normally an unappetising sight, but on this occasion — although it wounds me to say it — the self-righteous indignation of the British press is justified. The London 2012 logo is a solid gold stinker.

Earlier this week, the in-boxes of British designers filled up with links to the London 2012 website and with messages of incredulity from fellow designers. I went to the site determined to maintain an open mind. I wanted to like it, to swim against the tide and defend it against instantaneous dismissals by friends and colleagues. Surely it would have some redeeming features?

I logged on expecting a typo-illustration — the sort of coy, wafty thing you see at the end of CNN TV commercials from countries with questionable human rights records. Instead, I got a piece of clumsy, oafish design; a self-conscious gesture of forced trendiness that failed every test you can apply to a new logo: clarity, precision, memorability. The Wolf Ollins 'brand' for the London 2012 Olympics looks as if it has been designed by a committee desperate to prove its street credentials.

The London 2012 chairman, Sebastian Coe (Lord Coe, a former athlete, and a former Conservative MP) announced: "We don't do bland. This is not a bland city. We weren't going to come to you with a dull or dry corporate logo that will appear on a polo shirt and we're all gardening in it, in a year's time. This is something that has got to live for the next five years." The logo is an example of the sort of design you get when politicos and business people try to be hip. What we've ended up with is a logo commissioned by middle-class suburbanites who do 'gardening in polo shirts.' In other words, it's a laughable attempt at 'cutting edge' design.

For Brits there's nothing new in the spectacle of the press rounding on new logos. In today's Independent, an article appears entitled "Design disasters: logos that proved a flop." It lists British Airways ethnic tail fins (famously despised by that well-known design critic Margaret Thatcher), and Wolf Ollins' 1991 'prancing piper' logo for British Telecom. Wolf Ollins must be getting used to appearing on the front of The Sun: at the time the prevocational tabloid ran the headline 'BT blows £5m on a trumpet.'

But in the era of the Internet, the reprisals for getting it wrong are even harsher. The organisers clearly attempted to use the viral power of the internet to spread awareness of the new logo and to encourage participation: visitors to the site are encouraged to create their 'own designs' and post the results. But rather than leading to a mass acceptance, the internet has provided a forum for vast numbers of people to bite the organisers: it has become a platform for Olympic bashing — and rightly so. This is public money.

Both the left and right wing press seem determined to damn the new logo (The Guardian also carries the epilepsy story on it's front page). The emotive language of the logo's detractors is widely and gleefully quoted: 'toilet monkey,' 'broken swastika,' 'some sort of sex act between The Simpsons.' Supporters are hard to find amongst the vitriol and abuse, but there are some advocates. The Creative Review blog has comments from both sides of the argument. Peter Saville has given it his languid approval ('incredibly noticable, brave and confrontational'), and the leading British designer Michael Johnson wrote a lukewarm appraisal in The Guardian. ("It's trying to be 'vibrant' and 'youthful'," he argues. "The website suggests you download bits for children to colour in. When animated it has an edginess not normally associated with the Olympics.") The Independent reports the existence of two petitions devoted to supporting the logo. noting among other things that "... they attracted 70 signatures in total, many of which seemed false including Ms. Lisa Simpson, of Springfield, USA."

The gist of the arguments from the logo's champions is that it at least the marque has the virtue of stirring up debate and controversy. But this is a facile defence and plays into the hands of branding and marketing people who will see the London 2012 logo as a dazzlingly successful paradigm of hype and spin. Wolff Olins have been silent on the matter. They are rumoured to have been paid £400,000 for their work. Why should they worry? Their phone is probably white hot with calls from corporations desperate to gain a fraction of the PR that their 2012 logo has generated. Meanwhile, yet again, graphic design skulks off into the corner wearing a cap with a D on it: D for dreadful.
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Comments (116)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

This was one of those logos that, when I saw it, confused me. I swore, at first, that maybe it was brilliant but I simply couldn't see it. Maybe it was some sort of combination of shapes that were representative of something mind-blowing. At one point I thought maybe the shapes represented the entirety of the UK, but then realized that made no sense.

Ultimately I've concluded that the shapes mean nothing but are simple illegible jaggies implying "2012." It definitely feels, as you say, like some men in suits and ties wanted to do something hip. It's the type of "cool" my grandfather probably thinks is popular with the youngsters.

As almost everyone across the globe has said, it's god-awful. I don't need to even go into how horrible it is. I'll simply end my thoughts here.
Ryan Ford
06.06.07 at 01:18

> or 'brand' as they call it
> The Wolf Ollins 'brand' for the London 2012 Olympics

Um, Adrian, why the quotes around brand? If there ever was an example of branding - the sum of visual manifestations, the promise (and the premise), the buzz (even if inflated), the attitude, the sounds, the ambassadors, etc. - this is it. Unless brand/ing has other definitions and expectations to you that Wolff Olins hasn't met, I think we can skip the skeptic quotes. Unless you are just turned off by the concept of branding altogether?
Armin
06.06.07 at 01:26

Being from the US and seeing every Superbowl logo opportunity utterly squandered, this one was not a surprise at all. Thinking of Olympic and World Cup logos within my lifetime, I can't say that any of us should be surprised at how bad this London 2012 one is- they're almost always terrible!

Being from Chicago, I hope daily that we do not win our Olympic bid... but I have to say, our IOC-violating torch logo is really friggin' sweet.
Jw
06.06.07 at 01:33

Armin - My intentions are to do with use of language. I'm just surprised to see the word 'brand' used in this way. The London Olympic people - and all the big wigs who have endorsed the logo - call it a 'brand.' Why cant they call it a logo? BMW is a brand, but the BMW logo is the BMW brand marque. My use of quotes is to draw attention to this odd usage.
Adrian Shaughnessy
06.06.07 at 01:40

'London Olympics 2012' (or some variation of that) is the brand, this is the logo. I lose count of the number of times students tell me they're interested in branding when what they really mean is logos... The logo's probably the smallest part of it.

However, I suspect when WO say 'brand' they do indeed mean the whole caboodle, which is where the 400k went. (Or maybe it paid for all the printer cartridges as they output loads of test versions? Nah, too cheap).

One bad thing to come out of this. Given with how easy and cash-rich this has made the discipline seem, I'm guessing applications to graphic design courses will be up again this year.
Jonathan
06.06.07 at 02:07

Finally, a designer who isn't afraid to admit that they despise this thing. It seems that many designers are praising the logo in hopes of being ahead of the style curve, or to be a part of an elite group whose tastes are sharp enough to appreciate it. When designers and non-designers often have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye, I thought this would be a good moment where we could all be united. That hasn't proven to be the case.

When I first saw the logo, I, like many others, laughed a bit because of how bad it looked. After reading many articles and comments, I felt myself compelled to try to like it, perhaps because so many in the design community are supporting it. Thanks Adrian for having the courage to tell the truth!
Jude Landry
06.06.07 at 02:14

The logo makes me want to put on some leg warmers and purple eye shadow, crimp my hair and get on VH1 in the 80's. I definitely don't want to compete for an Olympic gold medal, or do any kind of sport for that matter. Except maybe dance?
luma
06.06.07 at 02:27

"when design catches the attention of journalists and commentators it usually results in a vicious mugging rather than hearty praise."

I'm not sure how this is any different from any other domain -- good news is rarely "newsworthy", and doesn't sell newspapers.
Dave Cooper
06.06.07 at 02:41

I can't even begin to fathom how many ways this thing is wrong. It's the worst logo I've seen in YEARS. Ugh. I wrote an in depth commentary about it here:

http://www.zoom-in.com/blog/2007/06/2012_logo_a_total_trainwreck
Matthew McNerney
06.06.07 at 03:25

Exerpts from my posts on Wireality in support of the 2012 brand.

2012 Is not a logo in the conventional sense. It is a conduit for a larger experience. It contains things, many things; it celebrates inclusiveness and multiplicity. It is a channel for experience. A channel intended to mediate an experience without trying to control the content in a traditional, static and product-oriented manner. Old school aesthetes may not like the forms but there is a lot to admire in the treatment of the medium. This is branding 2.0.

This is not a precious brandmark. It's a mark with a sense of scale. I suspect the shapes are derived from aerial track photographs but most importantly the shapes are containment devices. 2012 Contains the olympics. Clearly the ambitions are to stake a claim beyond the moment of the Olympic games. 2012 Is leveraging the games to catalyse and sustain development, beyond the transitory sporting events.

Of course we need context. Things cannot have meaning without context. Branding is all about context. The 2012 brandmark introduces context via itself which is why we need different tools to asses its value. It does not present itself as the sole content for contemplation, it is a channel for content as well as content itself. You miss half the plot if you assess it as a thing in itself. It is a closure which contains texture and the texture it contains is open. This aspect of the brand I find very inspiring. It is particularly relevant to an audience well versed in media technologies.
Andrew Sabatier
06.06.07 at 03:33


Fred Flintstone Designs logos?
Russell McGorman
06.06.07 at 03:48

*sigh* I like the London 2012 logo a little more than our Vancouver 2010 logo... :(
Phil Walmsley
06.06.07 at 04:13

I actually like this. It's got a bit of Jamie Reid, a bit of constructivism, a bit of MTV.

IMHO, this is a logo being subjected to the 'my kid could have done that' test. Would you rather it be some boring Helvetica thing?
richard
06.06.07 at 04:19

couldnt agree more adrian. i nodded vigorously in agreemeent all the way through, but peaked, so to speak, at the last paragraph; the idea that this can in the future be used as some kind of success story for branding is a truly chilling vision . the very idea that any publicity be needed at all for this event which is still a full 5 years in the future is madness, let alone one that THE ENTIRE WORLD WILL BE WATCHING regardless of what the sodding logo looks like.
the guardian's g2 section carried today a selection of olympic logos, obviously the clear winner was munich 1972 (the graphic designers olympics of choice), and while they were mostly turkey's, none of them even came close to total manifestation of abject horror that the london 2012 one is.
i have no idea what the solution is other than to weap serif shaped tears and wonder what might have been.
another richard
06.06.07 at 04:47

Has anyone mentioned the irony embodied by a conservative MP saying "we don't do bland?" I just think that's rich.

The debate about whether this thing is a logo or a brand aside (who cares? we all know what it is supposed to be), the question at hand is whether it is any good.

I think there's actually a somewhat objective way to evaluate whether or not it is good. What visual qualities does it have? What ideas do those visual qualities convey? Are these qualities associations that should be made with the London 2012 Olympics?

I'd say that the visual qualities of London 2012 are jagged, fragmented, unstable--negative qualitities. I don't get hip, cutting edge or dynamic. Nor do I get anything remotely related to London, the action of sports, or even the lofty ideals of the Olympics movement. I see a stack of mishapen blocks, barely holding each other up, barely forming numerals for 2012, and just about ready to collapse. None of these strike me as good concepts to associate with the Olympics, so I'd have to say the logo fails miserably. I realize others may have different interpretations--possibly far different. But, if we as designers are going to critique stuff like this, we ought to be helping non-designers And clients understand how to critique it, how to think and talk about it.

Alas, I'm afraid it serves us designers right that there are so many atrocious logos (like this one) out there. There is simply so much bullshit surrounding logos (bullshit often produced by designers trying to sell their own designs), that clients can be forgiven for not knowing how to commission a decent logo. They've been bamboozled by designers for years. Indeed, that's what this strikes me as a case of--an incompetent designer with great sales skills managing to pull the wool over a client's eyes. Yet another triumph of hype over quality.

On the other hand, maybe in 2012, everything will look like this.
rob Henning
06.06.07 at 04:59

The London Olympic people - and all the big wigs who have endorsed the logo - call it a 'brand.' Why cant they call it a logo?

because it's not a logo, it's an application of a brand with the olympic logo
ed mckim
06.06.07 at 05:04

One of the great little details in Children of Men was the old fleece that Clive Owen ended up wearing.
Isaac
06.06.07 at 05:11

Does anyone else think that this is simply trying to assimilate into the new rave culture around bands like CSS and Steed Lord? And in doing so just ensuring that it will be out dated when 2012 actually does roll around!
Amelia
06.06.07 at 05:37

...and what's more, you can't even make out the word "london" at any size less than 1 inch in width!!!

This is a sad attempt to ride the "New Rave" fad. Apart from the fact that it will surely be over in 5 years, tying the Olympics to drug-fuelled all night parties seems like a dubious proposition.

Can we just make the Olympics about sports and cities again, please?
Nick
06.06.07 at 05:38

There needs to be a look into other Olympic logos. The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Logo is one that can be admired.

How about Beijing's Emblem?
Saum
06.06.07 at 05:48

I just got wind of the newly unveiled London 2012 Olympic logo. I do not know what to say, except that people of all sorts will be talking about this for many, many years to come. I really do have to look and think about this a bit. Is it bloody awful (Yes, I am talking with a cockney accent whilst I type), but am I missing something? Is it way beyond my tiny designer mind? I don't want to sound like Prince Charles with his traditional English country gentleman design sense, but I am absolutely stunned that this logo is so appallingly bad. Is it constructivist? Is it broken? Is it amateurish in it's execution? Is it faintly (or overtly) Fascistic? In isolation the logo is weak to say the least. I did see some of the motion graphics that were done and they were very interesting, very active, very evocative of both the pace of London and of sport. So that's a winner (except to epileptics). As compared to the exciting things going on in design, and architecture for the Beijing Olympics this is truly a sad day. Where is the Village Green Preservation Society when you need it? Incidentally I fished out a branding book I have from the 84 LA Olympics, it seems that the 80s are indeed back. Or at least they will be in 2012?!?
Mark Kaufman
06.06.07 at 05:53

I will admit the mark is bold and different. Whether the controversy it's created is fruitful to the profession, only time will tell.

Despite having a rather cheesy concept (put together by their ace marketing team no doubt), the execution that this level of design deserves just isn't there.

Feels more like the shifting of the continents than anything.

I can do without the stroke and drop shadow.

I was hoping they would use Johnston Sans for the type.

After the numerous "simpsons sex act" responses, I can't help but snicker everytime they say "...an invitation to take part and be involved."

Wasted opportunity to play with the negative space. (That sounds so raunchy in that context)
Kevin
06.06.07 at 06:27

it is the pontiac aztek of logos. it even looks like one.
Gong Szeto
06.06.07 at 06:46

IMHO, this is a logo being subjected to the 'my kid could have done that' test. Would you rather it be some boring Helvetica thing?

Or perhaps a boring Univers thing.
Michael Bierut
06.06.07 at 07:05

This logo, admittedly not the worst logo out there, reminds me of a car wreck—both literally (can't you see it... like Magic Eye) and figuratively (I can't look away). Oh, the humanity.

Maybe next time the Olympic Gurus should hire someone who actually showcases design on their website rather than under-loaded case studies and a self-gratifying list of clients. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Whaleroot
06.06.07 at 07:09

This logo, admittedly not the worst logo out there, reminds me of a car wreck—both literally (can't you see it... like Magic Eye) and figuratively (I can't look away). Oh, the humanity.

Maybe next time the Olympic Gurus should hire someone who actually showcases design on their website rather than under-loaded case studies and a self-gratifying list of clients. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Whaleroot
06.06.07 at 07:09

On second thought, the saddest thing to come out of the logo flap is this; if the London organizing committee succumbs to all of the detractors out there, and they are growing by the minute worldwide much like the virus in 28 Days Later, the result will be something so overtly bland, boring and "trad" that we will all be very, very sorry that we got upset about this in the first place. Although I am firmly in the burn down the Wold Olins offices camp, I think they should hold firm and keep the mark. This too will blow over. And then we can vent our designer outrage where it belongs. At whatever design offence is outside yoor front door.
Mark Kaufman
06.06.07 at 07:49

WO has a lot to answer for, regardless of context or whether it was design-by-committee. The design for such a 'brand' must surely try to connect with a global audience. If current indications are anything to go by, it has failed miserably. Where is the connection, clarity or resonance? I'd rather a 'Univer thing' with clear resolution that is simply understood than a brand of hair-spray from the 80's.
Benson Low
06.06.07 at 07:57

First impression: hated it. Second thought: I think it's cute, like it came out of the Pokemon school. The epilepsy comes with the territory.
Drain
06.06.07 at 08:31

Jonathan Barnbrook made the perfect comment a few years ago with his Olympukes pictograms. See letter F.
John C
06.06.07 at 08:37

The industry discussion about this logo has been nothing short of celebrating mediocrity.

Is it any wonder why the public in general sees this type of work, realizes how much the budget for it was and then draws the conclusion that "Anyone can be a designer as long as they have a cheap PC and some fonts?"

What have we given them in this case to prove otherwise? Do we tell them "It's a good thing you hate it that is part of our platform approach. We embrace your loathing and over time you'll want to hug our branding despite it's sharp points."

The firm can wrap a poorly executed design in as much marketing psycho-babble as they want it still doesn't change the fact it's lame.
Von Glitschka
06.06.07 at 08:52

I can't wait to rock this on a t-shirt.

I'm tired of the Olympics being about watercolor illustrations of host city landmarks or those swooshy abstract human figures. It's been a long time since such a large scale design project has excited me.

This is the best thing to happen to the Olympics since Lance Wyman's work in 1968.

Thanks Wolff Olins
Brian W. Jones
06.06.07 at 09:08

The logo is not very good, but the whole rise up power to the people/ democratic process is a waste of time.

Let it suck.
felix sockwell
06.06.07 at 09:20

everyone has pretty much said everything that could be said except that if one looks at the logo on the newspaper, in that size, it looks like the olympic rings part is having sex with the london part. think about that.
damien b
06.06.07 at 10:45

Ugly Betty there is nothing, nothing, that is redeeming about this "brand". From it's hackneyed design to the pathetic little typeface used to spell out "London" it is an abomination and disgrace to anyone that calls themselves a designer. And then to crown it with the Olympic rings! If Wolf Ollins had any dignity they would donate their fee to charity and admit their awful, dreadful mistake of a mark. What an opportunity wasted! I wager a competition lasting only 24 hours could produce hundreds of marks superior to this common piece of clip art. Wow, I'm glad I got that off my chest.
Alan
06.06.07 at 10:59

"2012 Is not a logo in the conventional sense. It is a conduit for a larger experience. It contains things, many things; it celebrates inclusiveness and multiplicity. It is a channel for experience."

What "larger experience" I wonder...that of an ER visit?

This reminds me of a classic book by Tom Wolfe called 'The Painted Word" where he documents the modern art movement transitioning to something understood and written about only by the cultured and oh so rarifed, not experienced as communicative works. If this absurd logo has to be explained by text like Andrew Sabatie wrote, well, it's in deep doo-doo as they say here in the USA.

It sucks and no amount of hyper art/design commentary can change it.

The fact it's opening film causes seizures DOES matter, (to the poster who said it comes with the territory). This mark happens to be designed for a combination of the Olympics and the Paralympics-thus it serves two athlete groups, disabled and non-disabled.

Even the very worst of work should not cause hospitalizations.
Afterbush
06.06.07 at 11:00

Is a whimsical design response more cathartic than joining a chorus of condemnation? I say yes.

http://flickr.com/photos/reservoir/531734345/

hearsay: there's a pattern of logos for olympics, football world cups etc. getting consistently more lame. At least this London one is an attempt at breaking free of the traditional modern branding system approach, which for various reasons just mightn't work so well as it used to.
Alex Gilks
06.06.07 at 11:08

Felix Sockwell is a genius. Well said.

But at least the logo isn't quite as bad as this one.
Whaleroot
06.06.07 at 11:12

That logo literally makes me want to vomit all over the place.
katies
06.06.07 at 11:20

Steven Heller weighs in:

VR/
Joe Moran
06.06.07 at 11:51

The utter confusion between what a brand is and what a logo is explains the sorry state of mark-making today. This disaster of a mark is but the latest example. The Olympics in and of itself, with its long-history of "equity" is a brand, not the aspirational pretensions of London 2012.

An earlier post mentioned the architecture of an Olympic Games, which is an apt comparison. These committees don't go to a developer for their stadiums and they shouldn't go to an ad agency for a logo. Since the logo has been reduced to just one more "thing" in the brand package it doesn't count for much on its own, so of course just about anything will do. The Olympics used to be a great opportunity to create good graphic and information design. Now it's been reduced to just another "branding" exercise.

While Wolf Ollins has created yet another turkey of a logo, it is the Olympic organization that allows each host city to create (and re-create) its image anew each time. Perhaps they should just impose a consistent system on all cities and just be done with it.
Andrew Blauvelt
06.07.07 at 01:08

Heller must read the 'Speak Up' blog because he borrowed my snarky Colorform analogy I had posted over there and used it in his Print blurb.

Cool.



Von Glitschka
06.07.07 at 01:49

The logo is the hideous food-court signage for an early-80s mall. Thank God I don't live in London and have to suffer seeing that obnoxious Illustrator vomit for the next four years.
Christian in NYC
06.07.07 at 07:26

The reason why the Munich Olympics identity was so well designed is that it wasn't created by brand agencies, tested by focus groups or signed off by politicians trying to be cool.

At the time a courageous NOC president employed a brave (and controversial) designer who built up a design team full of world class designers. This doesn't seem to happen anymore.

The London 2012 logo lacks craftsmanship, quality and style. It's a great pity for an exciting city full of brilliant designers.
Marcus Maurer
06.07.07 at 08:18

> The utter confusion between what a brand is and what a logo is explains the sorry state of mark-making today. This disaster of a mark is but the latest example. The Olympics in and of itself, with its long-history of "equity" is a brand, not the aspirational pretensions of London 2012.

Sorry to dwell on this point... But does something need 100+ years of "equity" to be a brand? I don't think so. Establishing and cementing "aspirational pretensions" through a mark, a video, a set of high profile representatives, a launch in a creative forum (the Roundhouse), through PR, and more, is branding. Just because you don't like it or don't agree with how it was done, does not make it any less of a brand. That we are all just talking about the mark is representative of how narrow designers' and the public's view of the larger picture can really be.
Armin
06.07.07 at 09:08

Marcus Maurer hit the nail on the head.

Would you hire the kind of teams and organizations they do to design say, a house? A chair? A General Motors car? The house, chair, etc. that would result from it would be a mess.

The "craft" of design has been completely sucked away from mark making by giant media and marketing groups. They run everything by a focus group and it becomes a mess or something akin to processed fast food. After a few meals of it, you want to barf. Design by mob.

The challenge for design is how do we bring back the "craft" of a small group of top designers focused and unfazed by fashion, politics, or marketing monsters for important projects in the future.

In a way, this mess is the best thing that could have happened for our profession as long as the truth of how it occurred and how it should have happened can be cut to a two minute news clip. Bring back the designers and leave them alone. The results will be great.
Joseph Coates
06.07.07 at 09:15

Inside yesterday's issue of The Sun is a pretty hysterical gallery of alternative designs, including one from a blind person and one from a our-year old monkey called Katie.
jessica Helfand
06.07.07 at 09:41

I think the Olympics are supposed to be amateur spots.We all this is not true.This logo is professional trying to appear amateur. It is exactly what the Olympics is.Some edgy PR deal for games that have long lost their true essence.

Hot Pink:I taste Germany and who is the PR firm that handles this amateur program?

Please go to your local track or swimming pool and celebrate the true spirit of sports. Typing here doesn't make your fingers less fat,only your brain.
n
06.07.07 at 09:47

I think my favourite part about the logo is how dangerously close the typeface is to Comic Sans.

Classy.
Colin
06.07.07 at 10:32

The problem with the whole sorry state of the London Olympics logo is as Adrian himself hints

"The Wolf Ollins ˇ˝brandˇ˝ for the London 2012 Olympics looks as if it has been designed by a committee desperate to prove its street credentials."

The problem is it has been designed by committee...the dreadful decline of the idea of 'expertise' has been replaced by 'focus groups' and the 'intuition' of the designer or design group has been usurped by reams and reams of so called research.

That the logo is to appeal to people under 30 and that the aethetic of the logo is apparently 'punk' shows the problem, you have to be over 40 to remember punk in any meaningful sense. Also, on being under 30, you dont expect to be patronised by being 'spoken to' in a different language than the rest of the population.

In context, I dont think the logo is any better or worse than the logos of the last few olympics, but I do feel that the debate is problematic, we are all to ready to criticise and berate anyone who spends any amount of public money these days.

So, in design-land we should be asking what's really behind the outcry, is it really that the logo is a 'stinker' or is there a more deep-seated problem underlying the reaction?

We should be careful in giving the disenters what they want, we should perhaps be concerned with the impact it will have on the next public design project.

Alex [de]sign
Alex Cameron
06.07.07 at 10:33

The 2012 Olympic logo is a prime example on where design has been heading in the past few years. It's goes along the same concept as someone learning the next greatest Photoshop or Illustrator filter and thinking that they are a designer. There is no thought involved and no concept, other that the creator thinking that they have done something "cool". I'm glad that for once people are speaking out, and hope that the 2012 Olympic logo is a catalyst for some change in the design world.

-great article Adrian!
Cory Galster
06.07.07 at 10:42

There is a brand idea behind the London 2012 brand: it's that the London Olympics are 'everyone's Games, everyone's 2012'. That's how London sold itself very cleverly to the the Olympic movement (well documented in the final chapter of Jon Steele's book 'The Perfect Pitch').

The fragility of this claim becomes ever more apparent as the Olympics budget rises and grassroots arts and sports funding is pillaged to pay for the Games (see The Guardian). Wolf Olins perpetuates the lie of 'everyone's Games' in a brand video showing a working class woman getting on her bike. It's impossible to watch it without thinking of Norman Tebbit - Londoners will know what I mean. The brand is a fiction, and so I suppose in one startlingly apposite way this broken logo represents a reality of broken promises.

Everyone's games? Corporate games, politician's games, property developer's games, pharmacist's games. Personally, if I'd been looking for truth and beauty, Lord Coe, (never mind credibility) I'd have said bugger Coke and hired Jon Barnbrook to design the brand identity.
William Owen
06.07.07 at 10:43

It's actually working wonders for us (a small design studio). I think this is because of the way the media has imposed the public perception that it cost £400,000 simply for the symbol alone; ka-ching! one logo please! Thankyou. So now for once our clients aren't pulling their faces and attempting to screw us down on budget, when we've charged a mear fraction of the Wolf Ollins budget, typically for a selection of logo proposals supported by careful research and adapted to various media as part of our presentation strategy. Happy Days thus far, thanks to the big boys.
Graeme
06.07.07 at 12:00

Alex Cameron mentions in his comment society's concern about public spending these days...
It is a good point to pick up. I was thinking about the outcry around the money involved. Ken Livingstone thinks the agency's fee should be withheld.

I'm not a huge fan of the logo itself but talking about not paying the designers when it's the client who set the brief and the client who signed it off is dodgy territory. It implies that the designer is the sole author of the product rather than a mediator of someone else's vision/message.
Kelly Al-Saleh
06.07.07 at 12:41

Andrew and Michael, my joke about making the logo a boring Helvetica thing is that if the IOC were to mandate some international style-esque branding system for future Olympiads, they'd lose any of the individualism they currently enjoy, for better or worse.

I'm fairly shocked at how virulent the criticism is, considering how few international events have good logos (the Mexico City and Munich Olympiads are probably the extent of them for the past forty years). Design has gotten a much higher visibility at every level, apparently, because I can't recall much hand-wringing over the logo for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. (Does anyone even remember what it was? Probably not.)

I would put this logo firmly in the same camp as OMA's recent work, namely the Seattle Public Library and the CCTV tower. (As well as Herzog and deMeuorn's Olympic Stadium in Beijing.) Anything that's new or different gets attacked. This logo is one of those things.

Maybe this will be the Bookman Swash Italic of Olympic logos in the future.

richard
06.07.07 at 01:16

The logo will follow a mainstream aesthetic by the year 2010 -- I guarantee it. A majority of the folks calling it horrid now will be outfitting corporate identity with a similar look sooner than later. It may not be the best execution, but the logo is definitely pulling from the print style that populates the t-shirts hipster kids worldwide spend $25-$75 on. And we all know how quickly the t-shirts the kids are wearing evolve into design trends. See the fundamental similarities of Web 2.0 and fashion from 2000. Am I way off on this?
Dusty Mendes
06.07.07 at 01:16

I cringed when I saw this logo too. But now, a couple days later, I can say that I don't hate it, though I'm not sure if I can say that I like it. In other words, it is starting to grow on me a bit. Regardless, there are some composition elements, such as the weird square in the middle and the small "London," that are really bugging me. Why couldn't "London" have been pulled out of the typography of the "2012"?

But here's the thing: In the past Olympic logos have often been stale and completely boring. We can all agree that this logo does not fall into that category. What have the past logos done to push the Olympic brand forward? I think that, for the most part, they have just maintained the status quo (the Chicago torch logo was pretty good, but look what happened to it).

So, even though I'm not sold on this logo, I want to point out the things I like about it:

I am thrilled by the fact that no city landmarks were included. We all know that Paris has an Eiffel Tower, London has Big Ben, Chicago has the Sears Tower, NY has the statue of Liberty, etc. These landmarks are included in every tourist pamphlet, logo and website. Therefore, please spare me the municipal cliches and show me something different.

This logo is reaching out to the Under-30 audience. Most of the Olympic Games' established audience will watch every 4 years regardless of the logo. They are already sold, and no logo is needed to "sell 'em more." Young people, however, finally get to see a logo that relates to their tastes and aesthetics.

Randomness and chaos are not just visual fads: they have become an essential part of the internet generation's thinking. That is why there are thousands of popular websites full of nothing but utter chaos: You're The Man Now Dog, Youtube, WTF CNN, etc. The random, the unexpected, the childishly silly: these things are practically worshipped by the new generation. This logo reflects those values and attempts, in a very tongue-in-cheek/self-concious way, to say that the Olympic games are full of life and drama, not just stale sporting events for Mom and Dad.

The best example of this is the commercial that depicted a diver (the one that was pulled off air). For many people, diving is pretty boring. Someone jumps into a pool while a panel of judges nit pick their form. But in the commercial, bright colors undulate over the diver, who then jumps into a pool of pure, seizure-inducing psychadelia. It is okay to laugh here: this is tongue in cheek... and though I, like most people, will never sit down for an hour and watch a diving competition, I will always remember that image, and I am now more aware of diving.

The logo has its ups and downs, but hopefully future designers, because of this new precedent, won't feel inclined to repeat, yet again, the old Olympic logo traditions.
Jesse Nivens
06.07.07 at 01:24

LOCOG, who commissioned the logo, is a private organisation 100% supported by private money (sponsors, broadcast) etc.
david
06.07.07 at 02:04

Much of the commentary about this program has been impressively stupid. Whether claims of epileptic fits triggered by one brief bit of an animation prove to be true or not, labeling the logo itself a health risk based on those claims is just plain sensationalist bullshit.

What is really depressing about online logo shout downs in general and this one in particular is how a bunch of graphic designers choose to discuss graphic design. The assumption seems to be that a logo should be a precious little piece of art (make that Art) suitable for framing. It should be a tribute to the cleverness and good taste of the graphic designer.

Designers who treat a trademark project in that manner do a great disservice to their clients. The conversations largely focus on personal aesthetic response to the logo itself rather than the sort of visual system creation tool it might be. Hasn't everyone had the experience of working with a lovely trademark that got in the way of producing good, communicative design or a toad of a trademark that seemed to ask for a great design system? A trademark is a tool, not an object of veneration.

I hope that someone in the design process argued strongly for doing away with a singular event mark. The utility of having one file to send to tchotchke licensees might win out in such a discussion but marks often get in the way of serious discussion of design and designing.

The Olympics that London 2012 seems to evoke most is Los Angeles 1984. Although Bob Runyan's "stars in motion" was used prominently (along with Univers), it is Sussman-Prejza's colors and banners that were the 1984 Games. It didn't matter that the mark and the venue design seemed to come from different planets rather than just different parts of western L.A. because the mark didn't really matter. If Deborah had put together a variable system for the identity program as well as for other graphic design, nobody would have missed a logo.

So forget any personal urges you have to design a cool little thing that you can have embroidered on a cap and enameled on a pin and proudly claim authorship of. Imagine that you are a trusted advisor of both the International Olympic Committee and the organizing committee for any one particular Olympics:

1) What are the implications of one consistent visual identity across all games? What does that do to the spirit of the host city, to promotion of that particular Olympic Games, and to people's desire to participate in the spectacle and to go to a particular place?

2) What would serve them best for a particular Olympics' identity—something that surprised people on first viewing or something that made them say "Yes. That's what I would have chosen."

It is worth noting that many of us disliked Sussman-Prejza's pastels at first and that pretty much everyone liked them by June of 1984.

Speaking of 1984, does anybody remember (or care about) Sam the Eagle? When are we going to see a cartoon bulldog wearing a Beefeater hat for London 2012?

Gunnar Swanson
06.07.07 at 02:32

Richard: I would say that you're right with one qualifier: "Anything that is new or different [and sucks] gets attacked."

As well it should -- spend a huge amount on something like this amateurish, illegible, some wistful nostalgia for some of the worst design habits of the 1980s and throw in a nakedly pandering marketing ploy (I mean, come on, "youthful"?) and you deserve to get raked over the coals.

Gunnar states that trademark is a tool. One can ask then, how this horrifying pastishe of shock-of-the-new (or whatever it was they were thinking) actually functions as a tool for the games? Does it communicate well? Does it at all? Does it represent an international athletic festival or a half-ass graffiti convocation? Hell if I know.

Is it some MTV-like grasping at youth straws for a bloated two-week corporate-sponsporship orgy?

If you wish to defend a garish, unusable, barely recognizable mark because it is wonderfully garish, unusable and barely recognizable because Hey! It's New and Interesting! then great. But your criterion is just as arbitrary as anything else. And you support hideousness.

I just have to come out strongly in opposition to visual pollution. Just because it's new doesn't make it good or worthwhile.
Christian in NYC
06.07.07 at 03:20

What the press haven't mentioned - perhaps because they don't realise it - is that the bulk of the rather generous £400,000 fee won't have gone on design. Instead, like all brand and identity programmes at this level, it will have been spent on consultancy.

And this is the real 'stinker' of the piece. The consultants' job is to understand the context in which a brand has to work - and the job it needs to do - and communicate this to the designers (keeping them on track).

What is pretty obvious to at least every Londoner - it doesn't require any special consultation or workshop process to uncover it - is that the 2012 are a highly controversial, and quite unpopular project. The context for this logo was to connect with what little residual goodwill and positivity there was for the project and to heal popular perceptions. Top of the list of risks to be avoided was, undoubtedly, to make the London Olympics any more unpopular than they already were. Unfortunately this is exactly what the consultancy has achieved.

There are times when a logo can be bold, adventurous and challenging. Generally, these are times when the people for whom it is intended are prepared to 'suspend disbelief'. A fair headwind of goodwill is usually required, as is a pretty broad-minded and tolerant audience. What exactly suggested to Wolff Olins that they had any of these in this case remains a mystery. And whatever it was, it was a major miscalculation. A blunder, even.

Maybe it was - as is so often the case with catastrophic miscalculations - an inability to see beyond their agendas. I can't help wondering if they weren't driven by a need to prove themselves: a company living painfully aware that their greatest work was done nearly two decades ago, and that has floundered around in the branding arena for at least the last decade.

But whatever the reason, this is a case where a 'safe' logo - one that underwhelmed people like ourselves, that could even have been bland and generic - would have been a much better solution. London 2012 is a hot potato - something a little bit cheesy and creamy would have gone much better with it.
james souttar
06.07.07 at 04:48

(with appropriate HTML this time, I quote armin...)

Just because you don't like it or don't agree with how it was done, does not make it any less of a brand. That we are all just talking about the mark is representative of how narrow designers' and the public's view of the larger picture can really be.

and to quote gunnar (i'm not going to quote all of him, it's too many words)

What is really depressing about online logo shout downs in general and this one in particular is how a bunch of graphic designers choose to discuss graphic design. The assumption seems to be that a logo should be a precious little piece of art (make that Art) suitable for framing. It should be a tribute to the cleverness and good taste of the graphic designer.

I think these two points in particular are the ones that are being unjustly overlooked. whether it be intentionally, or scrolling down past all the fake usernames who don't contribute anything other than trite statements about vomit and extreme exaggerations based on superficial inadequecies which are forced upon an idea which has only been shown in very limited scope, they are the most important comments to be consider as they are the two that offer at least a little insight into why this brand might work.
ed mckim
06.07.07 at 05:56

Re: London Olympics Logo
It would still be a mess, but at the very least, utilitarian to put a map of the Tube in place of that, umm, trainwreck.

If you print a copy out and hold it two inches from your nose and throw your eyes out of focus, you see an image of Benny Hill falling off a tricycle.

Design by Committee so rarely works. On the other hand, if you're going to fail, fail big.

Cheers, Y'all!
john
06.07.07 at 07:16

"It should be a tribute to the cleverness and good taste of the graphic designer."

Sorry, did I miss the context for that? Surely a logo should represent the offering and purposes of the client?

A tribute to the cleverness and good taste of the graphic designer? Surely that's what bodies like AIGA are for - backslapping all around.
James Souttar
06.07.07 at 07:23

All of this negative press reinforces biases about designers getting paid too much. Those who lambaste the London 2012 identity designs and its cost make its price tag look inflated (even a waste of money) to the general public, and those less informed about the design process. Highly visible design like this, that fails to meet designer or public standards, lowers the bar. It's like when a celebrity does something stupid, like cocaine or wrecks a car. All of a sudden, all celebrities look fallible.

And to the point of a universal identity, brand, logo, what have you... it's a wonderful idea. Almost as wonderful an idea as having the Olympics in the same place every year. Such a truly Olympic village would be free from tyranny or partnerships with enemies of our state or the United Nations. The perpetual Olympic village would also have a perpetual graphic identity (logo), although the application could change every 4 years with the new games.
Tselentis
06.07.07 at 08:08

something for the nu ravers.

there's not THAT many of them.
david
06.07.07 at 09:00

something for the nu ravers.

there's not THAT many of them.
david
06.07.07 at 09:01

Sorry, James. My statement would have worked better with a semicolon rather than a period. The cleverness and good taste was meant to be part and parcel of the little piece of Art. I'm not much interested in cleverness and good taste, especially the versions of each I see from graphic designers.
Gunnar Swanson
06.07.07 at 09:27

The event is big enough to stand on its own regardless of the logo - the logo doesn't need to echo London, Olympics, or 2012. In this case the logo should be strikingly different from other logos and quickly memorable - although not particularly different*, it does seem to be memorable: see splodges of hot-pink and you are thinking London Olympics 2012.

Where it misses, perhaps, is showing the world London's (or Britain's) design skills.

Why does every branding piece, nowadays, have almost the same four colours? OK, this one has hot-pink instead of violet.

* Oz Ken Done art, urban graffiti I passed on the tube for 6 month in the 1980s, painting with sponges, punk rock record sleeves and T-shirts.
Robert Forsyth
06.07.07 at 09:39

Christian in NYC, you seem to have skipped your art history classes, as it would have occurred to you that Van Gogh was not immediately accepted, nor was Pollock, Johns, Katz, or Warhol, to name five. Architects like Eisenmann and Holl and Koolhaas propose new solutions for decades before landing career-making commissions.

The London 2012 logo is not as groundbreaking as these examples, but it puts the lie to your '[and sucks]' addition.

This logo is going to look prescient in a couple of years' time. It's very forward-leaning, and a welcome respite from the Web 2.0 design tropes that have a hold on everything right now. There are some problems with it, but overall it's a winner. At least in my opinion, and the last I heard we still lived in a world that tolerated dissent.

richard
06.07.07 at 10:12

No Armin, the desire to have a brand isn't the same as actually having one. My point is that the Olympic Games is a brand and deserves to be considered one. The two-week stint in London in 2012 is a blip on the radar of a longer sweep of history. Ad folk love to believe in instant branding since that's what they need to sell to clients who have nothing.
Andrew Blauvelt
06.07.07 at 10:20

The Times discovers it's actually a Zionist plot:

http://timesonline.typepad.com/comment/2007/06/its_a_zionist_p.html
John C
06.07.07 at 10:45

The logo leaves me in a speechless condition...however, dont you all realise that there is a hidden motive behind this "awful" design?? I found out the reason...

check it out here,
Joshdesigns.blogspot.com
Josh
06.08.07 at 04:56

I returned from a trip abroad recently and was confronted with this logo on the tube from Heathrow. My first reaction was surprise, it was bold, colorful and different. I was surprised that the powers that be didn't go with something bland, meaningless and nationalistic. Then the outcry, everyone is talking about it, lots of people hate it, some love it. I have slowly fallen into the latter category for the following reasons:

1. I have seen it on a T-shirt and it is actually something I would wear, it's not conservative, it's not bland, it's fresh, abstract and memorable.

2. The grid this thing works on is insane. There are endless permutations of abstract patterns to be derived from it all tied back to an instantly recognisable theme.

3. I've seen the initial usage manuals showing the brand extension and it works on various levels. Motion, print, small/big, corporate, 3D, etc. It's much more thought out than has been revealed thus far.

4. The cost. £400,000? Wolff Ollins probably lost money on this. They had a staff of 60 working on it for a year. 60 x salaries of even part time labor shows that the UK got it's monies worth and if you think that the logo is 'it' it's not see 3.

5. It's non-nationalistic and contains no facile phallic or yonic symbolism. It cares nothing for jingoism of any sort. The London that I know and am proud of.

6. I can't wait to see the pictograms.

7. At least people stopped talking about Madeleine.

8. Hate is love not yet understood.
Nathan
06.08.07 at 06:52

Gosh, I'm almost more horrified by the idea that this logo is going to be 'prescient' than most people are by the logo itself. Does this mean that there is going to be more like this? Maybe this is that dreaded wake-up moment when one realises 'I've been in this job too long...'

I like new things. I like brave things. I like different things. Personally, I don't have any problem with the logo on any of those grounds, except that in this case 'new, brave, different' have worsened a perceptions crisis for the client, which is bad business as well as bad design.

Maybe they were the client from Hell (or, at least, one of them - there are a lot around these days): impossible expectations, resistant to any kind of 'reality check', hopelessly divided, big egos aplenty. The classic curse of a project entrusted to the 'great and the good' (a phrase deliciously replete with irony). Or maybe the London Olympics, with its incompetent political leadership, its massive overspend and its echoes of the execrable 'Millennium Dome', is just too fucked a project for branding to do anything other than sink it further into the mire. I don't know, but both possibilities seem likely. Even so, that's hardly an excuse for this mid-life crisis solution from Wolff Olins, with its declared intention to further alienate people by appealing exclusively and unashamedly to the 'Yoof'.

So that's why 'prescienct' worries me. It suggests a future where there are more and more disastrously misconstrued projects like the Dome and the London Olympics, where design consultancies are so obsessed with their own middle-aged creative impotence that they turn out logos with all the charm and vitality of lecherous, combed-over lotharios, and where fracturing and alienating audiences in the name of 'excitement' is acceptable and accepted.

I was rather hoping that all that could be buried, along with the Blair and Bush eras.
james souttar
06.08.07 at 07:34

I think it's genius. Nothing unites British people like a good moan about something. With one stroke, WO have produced a logo we all love to hate.
Kate Slotover
06.08.07 at 08:32

Taking in all the pros and all the cons written here and all over the place and, being pretty liberal and flexible about innovative or radical design, my opinion is that ugly is still ugly. If it were good ugly, OK. But it is bad ugly.
If it actually was all the good things people see in it that they like and it was well done (good ugly or just good), I would be on board.
But I think the two - origins/connections + the design - are tied together. Just because something vaguely looks like or is described as a - whatever - 80s design, youth appealing, cutting edge, not cliche London, etc. etc., does not mean it is. Especially if it is also poorly executed.
Joseph Coates
06.08.07 at 09:22

This is also PR for the paraolympics. I think there must be a tie in. Wow, reminds me how about 8 years ago I suggested putting a paraolympic champion on a box of wheaties.

The Paralympic Games are in the same city and use the same venues.

Isn't this like that one sculpture in Trafalgar Square?
n
06.08.07 at 09:53

I don't buy any of this "client from hell" business. I always think that one should follow this policy: Don't show the client anything you cannot live with, even if they ask for it. The fact that WO even showed this crap to the client, thereby enabling them to pick it, puts the ultimate responsiblity squarely on WO's shoulders.
rob Henning
06.08.07 at 10:15

Hmm... Upon close inspection the logo resembles Lisa Simpson giving head.
Ch.
06.08.07 at 11:04

8. Hate is love not yet understood.

all for nathan!
jkh
06.08.07 at 11:45

I sincerely disagree with those, including Adrian, who suggest that it give the impression of design-by-committee. Are you kidding me? What kind of wonderful committees are you pitching your work to?

A committee would say:

Make the Olympic rings bigger! Make the date smaller! It's too hard to read! It's too colorful! It doesn't represent the unique character of the city of London! It's too funky! It doesn't appeal to all ages! It doesn't show an athlete! It's too jagged! It doesn't show our commitment to world togetherness!

This logo is the absolute antithesis of design-by-committee. It's bold, doesn't compromise to a bunch of people's individual tastes, and doesn't hopelessly attempt to capture the spirit of both London and the Olympics in one mark. Those are not signs of design-by-committee. The public — the largest committee of them all — absolutely hate the thing. Yet, they could all draw it on a napkin fairly accurately if they had to, after seeing it only once. Isn't that a sign of a memorable design? If they hate it and paid for it, that obviously opens a different discussion about how cities use public funds.

I don't understand why this logo is bad, or why graphic designers should be ashamed for appreciating it. We're judging it purely based on a style standpoint, despite the fact that it does everything we claim we want branding to do. This, unlike most brands, doesn't need to be simple enough to live on for decades adapting to new markets and unforeseeable situations. It's the visual identity of a two-week event. What's wrong with it? Who gets to decide what's good and what's not?
Ryan Nee
06.08.07 at 12:13

Ryan, Some of those hypothetical statements that you ascribe to the committee are exactly the kind of criteria that are useful in trying to decide whether or not the logo is successful. One would think that a logo for the London Olympics ought to try to capture something--anything--about the spirit of London and/or the Olympics. Unfortunately, this logo only tries to capture some elusive idea of being hip, cutting edge, or controversial. The relationship of those qualites to the Olympics is, at best, questionable to begin with, so that's our first sign of trouble. Then, the resulting mark hopelessly fails to convey the qualities is sets out to capture, so that's its second failure. Finally, it's visually clunky, unbalanced, and just plain ugly in every way. Three stirkes and you are out.

Actually, Sebastien Coe's initial negative and prematurely defensive statement "we don't do bland..." is one of the best indictments of this logo. He was, apparently, incapable of saying what the logo does/is and could only say what it doesn't do/isn't. That's always an incredibly bad sign. If you have to sell a design by saying what it ISN'T, then you've got nothing. You need to be able to say what it IS! It isn't corporate and it isn't going on Polo shirts (yeah, right)--so what the hell is it and where is it going to appear?
rob Henning
06.08.07 at 04:39

Since I copied my post on this thread to Speak Up, I'll return the favor by copying my post to David Armano's comparison of the London 2012 mark to the Chicago 2016 mark:

The Chicago mark is very pretty and is nicely crafted. It is also clichéd, insipid, and would be difficult to reproduce with limited colors and using a variety of reproduction techniques. It panders to people who want their expectations met. It is the American Idol finalist of logos. Olympic rings with one of the rings being the face of Big Ben would have been the London version. But the main problem with this (and most) discussions is that it is talking about marks in a vacuum.

The idea that a mark is supposed to be a mini narrative is somehow cemented into graphic design dogma. So it has to communicate the city and the year and the fact that it's an Olympics and what that all means. Who is this going to say it to? The people in the stands who don't know where they are or what they are watching? The people who are going to see promotions for the event that consist of a logo and nothing else?

The people who think 400K pounds went into nothing other than drawing a logo or that what some other guy did in 20 minutes should even be discussed as comparative value are, you'll notice, the same people who think you should have a big conversation about a logo rather than about a broad design system.

So you didn't even see 2012 at first glance? Do you see it now? How long did it take to learn? How often will we have to send you to retraining classes when you forget? When should we remind you what year the London Olympics will be? In five years will you be setting your watch using the logo as reference and you might end up in the wrong city? A logo is a functional item but a lot of people seem to have misidentified the funtion.
Gunnar Swanson
06.08.07 at 05:20

There are 3591 comments on the BBC website about the logo. Most are negative (didn't read them all).
However, I just read in the French daily, 'Liberation' today that the logo is going to be withdrawn. Is this true or have I had one too many?
Mark Webster
06.08.07 at 05:27

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2099027,00.html

For the definitive word on this debacle, read Ian Jack's reasoned, elegant and culturally astute summary of the sorry mess. He nails it.
Adrian Shaughnessy
06.09.07 at 05:27

i think it's great!
design guru
06.09.07 at 11:14

A lot of money for little return. Is it good or bad, I didn't pay for it I don't care.
Mike
06.09.07 at 11:23

Fuck this noise. I have already moved on to poor, poor Paris Hilton. Now there's a train wreck!
Mark Kaufman
06.09.07 at 03:54

Rob said: One would think that a logo for the London Olympics ought to try to capture something--anything--about the spirit of London and/or the Olympics.

I disagree. It's the London Olympics. This isn't some obscure sporting event in some town nobody has ever heard of before. Do we seriously think as graphic designers that we have to explain to someone what London is through a logo? Do we have to describe the nature of the Olympics? Normally when designing a visual identity, you have to try to build from scratch an awareness and understanding of exactly what is going on. Do we think that the public is too dumb to know what the Olympics is without drawing a person running? Will they not know what London is unless we show Big Ben?

Look at the previous few olympic logos:

Beijing: Athlete in chinese calligraphic style.
Vancouver: Athlete in tribal/native style.

What I like about the London logo more than these other ones, is that it recognizes that people already are aware of both London and the Olympics and doesn't try to explain it to them. It instead tells them that the London Olympics will be modern, fun, and interesting — characteristics that the Olympics has been struggling to achieve as of late.

I do agree that the logo is formally clunky, but I don't think its reasoning or logic is flawed.
Ryan Nee
06.10.07 at 01:27

Quite tragic...

This "mark" (and I will use quotations to invalidate its integrity as one) might have been appropriate for the '80s, and with any luck that decade will be in full retro revival in five years. Regardless of the future design trends of 2012, this thing resembles a clunky mass of deconstructed vomit with a synthesizer.

What's with this colo(u)r palatte? Were they selected from the Wal-Mart poster board swatch book?

Definitely the first "mark" I've seen in a long time that has been an utter disaster.
Josh Borgschulte
06.10.07 at 03:23

"The logo is an example of the sort of design you get when politicos and business people try to be hip."

Thank you! This is SO the design equivalent to a mayor trying his hand at rap.
Lester
06.10.07 at 07:55

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYZre8kEsuw&mode=related&search=

Or MC Rove?
Adrian Shaughnessy
06.10.07 at 08:14

To answer Ryan Nee, the Beijing and Vancouver marks are pretty insipid. And, no I don't think the logo has to try to explain what London is, nor does it have to try to describe the nature of the Olympics. I suppose I just wish that, if they were going to try to express hip, cutting edge, exciting (or whatever fantastic qualities they are aspiring to for London 2012), they had actually done it well. I know it's asking a lot, but if they had fulfilled that wish and made some real, not contrived, connection to London and/or Olympics--well, they might have come up with something great.

Of course interpretations of a highly abstract mark are wildly subjective. Interesting that some interpret this mark to suggest "modern, fun, interesting." I interpret it to suggest disjointed, poorly-organized and clumsy. Only time will tell what qualities this mark reflects. If the Olympics DO turn out to be modern, fun and interesting, then the mark will come to reflect that, and gain that meaning. But, if these Olympics turn out to be a complete disaster, this mark will take on that meaning. We'll see what happens!

Of course, if these designers had really had guts, they would have told the organizers that London 2012 doesn't need a mark at all. Now that would have been truly modern!
Rob Henning
06.10.07 at 01:53

The MAIN fault with the 2012 logo is that it was obviously inspired by Nu Rave and Boombox culture, which as of this moment is on its way out. In 2007. However, i'm sure by 2012, maybe it will be "ironic" to sport Nu Rave again, and my chips are placed that teens will be wearing the 2012 logo tees for a gaff.

OH, and has anyone noticed that it reminds me of the Flinstones go to Vegas? Or even better, Dino the Dinosaur. The 80s guitar playing dinosaur who knows how to rock.

We all know this logo would have been considered "cutting edge" in 1989.
christin
06.10.07 at 08:19

Wally Olins (who played no part in the design) defends it in The Guardian. Brian Boylan is keeping quiet.
John C
06.10.07 at 10:23

The Sunday Telegraph has a photo showing the direction in which the logo may be
evolving. Given that the London 2012 website is currently gathering user-generated content,
it will probably end up displaying flags and Big Ben anyway.
TH
06.11.07 at 04:18

Adrian, I enjoyed Ian Jack's argument too, but I'm not sure it's definitive. My 9 year-old daughter yesterday, looking over my shoulder while I was reading Stephen Bailey's piece in the Observer, said 'I suppose they're trying to interest young people who might be old enough [to compete] when the Olympics start'. 'Does it interest you?' I asked. 'No. Why didn't they just use the rings?'.

Out of the mouth of babes...
William Owen
06.11.07 at 06:01

William - 'Why didn't they just use the rings?' Couldn't agree more.
Adrian Shaughnessy
06.11.07 at 07:12

Because since 1896 they've used more than the rings. I suggest a homeschooling for all of us on the Olympics. I can only remember since Mexico. I remember the failures, the killings, the financial disasters in getting the games to a city, the politics, the "we're taking our ball and athletes and staying home if you invade countries", then the security, the fights over television coverage. I even remember visiting the stadiums to see the ghost of Jesse Owens. I don't want to erase those "now recordable on digital film" moments for the youth. They are human. The gods at Mt. Olympus set up those chutes and ladders for us mere mortals.

And since 1984 there has been big PR involved to spin the tales and the money. I know that won't change. And I know I say this is just too much hype about a stupid logo, but come time for the games, I'll consult some clown sitting on a bench and maybe share a story or two, and I'll remember a manufactured facial tissue moment. Then I'll take look at my grandkids smile at their innocence while I can and say let's go for a swim. "Last one in the pool is a rotten egg."
nancy
06.11.07 at 10:31

Sheesh. This thread could use some Art Chantry.
Whaleroot
06.11.07 at 02:27

It's always easy to be critical of things that shock us. In this case the criticism is probably justified.

But I have one nagging thought. What if the alternative was some sort of slickly conceived and executed orthodoxy - which is common in design; variations of what things 'should' look like (a throwback the rigor of modernism - form and function riding in tandem and all that).

It fascinates me how things that were considered mad and unacceptable when first introduced become accepted with familiarity. Imagine having the cojones to approve Frank Gehry's Guggenheim at Bibao.

The size of the budget, the prestige of the project and the fact it was funded from the public purse probably means any design would meet with criticism.

For what its worth - I don't think it's all that important. Bright colours, dynamic signage, the total package will probably pull it all together.
A logo is just a logo.

If you want to be truly bamboozelled visit the London2012.com and watch the video on the home page. Just plain weird - makes the city of London seem filthy and bleak (which parts of it are) - but what is the point exactly?
David MacGregor
06.11.07 at 11:48

Do not fear ... LOLSEBZ are here!
Lee Rickler
06.12.07 at 10:00

Okay, I'm getting tired, so apologies if I missed a few comments... but it seems no one has drawn a parallel between this logo and nineties japanese motorbikes. Have a look, for example at bikes like the Suzuki GSXR. Funny, it just continues to remind me of decal graphics which I hated so much at the time but almost find cool in a somewhat ironic/sentimental sense now.
Jonathan Wallace
06.12.07 at 10:20

This logo is reaching out to the Under-30 audience.

Why do you say this? I'm genuinely curious if you have any reason to believe this (besides the agency/politicians claiming that is what it is doing).

Most of the Olympic Games' established audience will watch every 4 years regardless of the logo. They are already sold, and no logo is needed to "sell 'em more." Young people, however, finally get to see a logo that relates to their tastes and aesthetics.

No offence, but you're not under-30, are you? I am (25), and I can assure you that that logo does not relate to my tastes and aesthetics, nor those of my similarly-aged colleagues and friends. We all think it's... well... an absolute trainwreck. A solid gold stinker.

Besides, quite apart from the fact that it's simply terrible...

Also, on being under 30, you dont expect to be patronised by being 'spoken to' in a different language than the rest of the population.

... this is very true as well.

Out of all the excuses for this embarrassment I've heard, "it appeals to the kids" is definitely the worst.
steve
06.13.07 at 10:40

I have seen some ads come through my office that should cause much worse than epilepsy...

if this is a fad, for the love of all that is pretty, how can we stop it?

Sharkie
06.15.07 at 08:56

I always thought it was some dude banging his
heading against his computer....
but i geuss that's just the general reaction...

who designed this by the way?
noname
06.21.07 at 03:30

Rather than dwelling on the merits of this particular incarnation of an "olympic" logo. I wonder why individual games need their own marks.

I have to think that the "Brand" is in the olympics and the olympic rings. That's the mark that's got the 100 years of equity in it. Couldn't we just use that as the logo and then brand the look of the games on the rings and the area that it is in?

I think that an olympic brand is going strong, and doesn't need to be reinvented ever 2 years for both summer and winter games...

As someone living in Salt Lake City for the games that just happened here, I don't remember the official Salt Lake City games logo but do remember the overall branding and seeing the rings everywhere.

But that's just my 2 cents...
Peter Esko
06.21.07 at 05:16

oh well,

Franz Klammer won without grace and was out of control, too.

He changed things. He moved the race forward.
amatuer
06.21.07 at 06:08

On the website www.200-percent.com the typefacedesigners Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones (designers of the typefaces Gotham, Interstate and Retina) give their comments on the London Olympics 2012 logo and the typeface design for the word 'london'.

You can find their comments at the item "Everything you wanted to know about typefaces you can now ask Hoefler and Frere-Jones" and than click on the right below corner of the page.
etienne
06.28.07 at 07:33

Adrian,Correction:

"Design disasters: logos that proved a flop." It lists British Airways ethnic tail fins (famously despised by that well-known design critic Margaret Thatcher).

Legendary UK Identity Consultant / Designer Marcello Minale (now deceased) was the FIRST to Speak Out and LAMBASTE British Airways Tail Fin Design in the 1990s. I suspect Margaret Thatcher was influenced my Marcello Minale's astute observation. Or she may have formed her own opinion. Nevertheless, Marcello Minale was the FIRST Lone Voice of Reason.

Not sure how this is Credited to Margaret Thatcher other than verbalizing her dis-taste for the Design and her Fame Supersede Marcello Minale.

As Comedian Robert Wuhl noted, regardless of the TRUTH. When the Legend become Fact, Print the Legend.

The Designer(s) of the British Airways Tail Fin Design were UK Identity Consultancy Newell Sorrell.

Better known today as InterBrand Newell Sorrell.

DM

The Hostile Takeover of Corporate Identity
DesignMaven
07.03.07 at 02:38

Not sure how this is Credited to Margaret Thatcher other than verbalizing her dis-taste for the Design and her Fame Supersede Marcello Minale.

Maven,

Margaret Thatcher did more than just verbaize a distaste for the BA identity. With the press present, she created a photo-op by draping a handkerchief over the tail-fin of a model airplane in an exhibition. A photo of the occasion is reproduced on page 142 in John Heskett's book Toothpicks & Logos.

I don't know if this action came before or after Minale's observations, but in this particular case, the picture was worth a thousand words.

Daniel Green
07.04.07 at 10:38

Dear Sir,

I am working with design & interested to start buisness regarding the same so contact me for the same via E-mail.


Thanks,

Sachin
Sachin K Pancholi
10.02.07 at 10:56

Is "The ensuing aftermath culminating from a rollicking night on the town in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (or Camden Town, London in this case)" sum it up concisely?

Because, after all, don't only presumably image-conscioius hipsters vomit in dayglow?
ChadK
11.16.07 at 01:58

is that true? i wonder, who designed this logo. :O
sa
01.23.08 at 01:24



On the 4th of June 2007 London unveiled the 2012 Olympic Games logo, an event that would take place FIVE years later. Across the globe it seemed as if it was welcomed with brickbats. Its very form got questioned. Its concept got ridiculed. People began creating their version of a better logo.
This uproar made me too look at the controversial logo closely.
For starters it didn't match the mundane definitions of a great logo - for example simple forms like that of an 'apple' or a 'nike' symbol, typography ideas in logo like that of 'Sun Microsystems' or symbol concepts like the (Indian car manufacturer) Maruti logo which has tyre marks forming 'M' which also looks like wings (Maruti also means god of wind in Hindu mythology).
The logo doesn't even show any hint of following up of previous Olympics designs or even a mascot.
This logo is way too different!
Then how come an organization as big and accountable as the London 2012 Organising Committee approve it. Perhaps it must have met some criteria of theirs in the first place and the design firm in question must have catered to it aptly!
When I began the search..... the answers came from the unsaid...the play of the visual form.
The attachment in this article is what i found and i immediately called my friends to match the visual!
The visual... a boulder (symbology of burden) getting lifted from the shoulders of a young / weak man.
The logo has a sense of humanity getting relieved and becoming lighter....a MEGA CONCEPT for a games as big as the Olympics. Truly wonderful!

Check the related image in the url http://soaringbirds.blogspot.com/2008/01/2012-logo-in-different-perspective.html
Amaii Vijeth
02.14.08 at 02:12


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Adrian Shaughnessy is a graphic designer and writer based in London. In 1989 he co-founded the design company Intro. Today he runs ShaughnessyWorks, a consultancy combining design and editorial direction. He is a founding partner in Unit Editions, a publishing company producing books on design and visual culture.
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BOOKS BY Adrian Shaughnessy

Supergraphics
Unit Editions, 2010

Graphic Design: A User's Manual
Laurence King Publishing, 2009

Studio Culture: The Secret Life of a Graphic Design Studio
Unit Editions, 2009

Cover Art By: New Music Graphics
Laurence King Publishing, 2008

Look at This: Contemporary Brochures, Catalogues & Documents
Laurence King Publishing, 2006

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