June 4th marked the launch of the new London 2012 Olympic logo and it didn’t take long for the controversy to begin. I’d already fielded a number calls and emails before lunch from friends, designers and even the media. My inbox is filled with emails about the subject from various GDC designers across the country—some even wondering if the whole thing isn’t a hoax. Most hate the logo, claiming it’s too silly, trendy and irrelevant. Others argue that it’s edgy and fresh – sort of a new friendly punk-graffiti take on London’s identity—and will appeal to a more youthful audience. I say we’ll need some time to see how this unusual logo is actually used before history judges it fairly. I’ll certainly be watching with a keen designer’s eye.
I’ll admit that like many of my colleagues, my first impression of the London 2012 logo wasn’t particularly positive. I think I understand what the designers were going for, but the combination of ultra simplified forms, typography and psychedelic colour choices seem less like a “design for the Internet generation” and more of a graphic heavily influenced by recent graphic design trends such as eighties fashion. And if the logo is supposed to represent a stylized character as some have suggested, it’s a bit too obscure for most.
Hating this logo seems a very popular bandwagon to jump onto—some even claiming it could cause epileptic seizures, but I tried to reserve judgment until after doing some reading and watching the videos on their website and after some consideration of how this brand could be applied I started to see some potential in it. Sure, the graphic looks like an eighties videogame icon, but as some have observed, it’s certainly not boring, is very flexible as a solution and contains some interesting dynamism, portraying a brave visual expression of the unique attitude of a vibrant new London. It’s a bold departure from what one would expect of an Olympic logo: a reflection of that city’s cultural heritage or most well-known landmarks combined with the primary colour pallet of the official Olympic logo. But is it an appropriate logo for a city such as London and an event as serious as the Olympics?
I’m uncertain what the contents of the Creative Brief included in terms of strategy, audience and messaging, but I have heard that the design firm of Wolff Olins were hired after a careful selection process—not an open speculative contest—and paid handsomely for their expertise, so one has to assume they were given clear direction from the planning committee. I’m sure many would considered this logo a success if the primary goal was to create an abstract expression of the diversity and individuality of Londoners, unlike some Olympic logos that focus too narrowly on visual language representing a fraction of a city’s population. Is it actually better than the controversial Vancouver 2010 logo? I think so actually. It’s certainly not worse. And it may just grow on all the nay-sayers over time.
In our business you’ll never produce a graphic design solution that everyone will universally approve of, but is the London 2012 logo “good design”? Well, that has yet to be seen perhaps. As with anything executed to be immediately fashionable, it’s questionable whether it will stand the test of time or become a classic. It most certainly won’t be universally hailed as brilliant, but I doubt it will be judged as bollocks in due time. Congratulations Wollf Olins for being so brave.
For more information on the new Lodon 2010 brand, check out their main website, though for a more unbiased look at the reaction to the launch, check out BBC coverage and the reaction on the BBC Sport blog.