What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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Coudal Partners

The 2012 Olympic logo: a rant

London Broil

By Bryan Bedell

The London 2012 Olympic logo was revealed yesterday, and it seems to be almost universally loathed. Even designers seem reluctant to defend it. We posted a link to the BBC story this morning with no comment aside from, "Hmmmm."

Just like you, our first reaction was shock. But we talked about it all morning. By 3pm, we decided we love it. And here are ten reasons why you should, too:

It's not boring. The bright colors and distinctive design definitely DO stand out and it's immediately recognizable. Everyone's talking about it. Designers always complain about the status quo, so we find it surprising that so very few are taking a stand for a somewhat radical design.

It's different. It avoids all the go-to pratfalls of current logo design. No brushstrokes! No feathered drop shadows! No mirrored reflections! No gradients, patriotic colors, rainbows, ribbons, landmarks, symbols of unity, maps, swooshes or globes!

It's reproducible. Aside from the word "London" going chunky when sloppily rendered for the web (notably on the BBC reproduction that ended up on every site critiquing the logo), it's good to see a logo that's so easily printable, broadcastable, embroiderable and moldable (think of how horrible those 9-color rainbow brushstroke logos look when they're process-printed out-of-register with a 100 line screen on a McDonalds Cup!). It even looks pretty great in black and white.

It's flexible. A variety of color combinations, shapes, and patterns are available, keeping the logo slightly different on each view, but consistent (the BBC showed only the pink and yellow version, which didn't help its case). Also, keep in mind that an Olympic logo is almost always saddled with the logos of corporate partners. This square, bold mark will hold up.

It's the basis for a graphic system. Events require a complicated system of signage, identification, ornamentation, and even architecture. This logo and its associated colors, shapes, type and patterns are the perfect starting point for some fantastic signage, event icons, banners, tickets, uniforms and merchandise.

It's timeless. We've read complaints that it's reminiscent of Tangrams (popular since the 1800s), Jamie Reid's "Never Mind the Bollocks" cover (1977), MTV (1981), '80s new wave design (Swatch, Bennetton), Emigre Magazine, early 90s television titles (Wacaday, Going Live, The Ben Stiller Show). We've read complaints that it's too 'current' and it'll look dated by 2012. We've also read complaints that it's too futuristic or modern. As far as we're concerned, all design is influenced by other design. This design rises above its influences, yet remains simple enough to stand on its own. If current trends continue (towards four color, "computery" 3-D), this logo will be even more fresh in five years.

It's English. The two names that come to mind when we hear "british design" are two of our favorite designers of all time: Neville Brody and Peter Saville. Without being a direct knockoff, the 2012 logo is evocative of their work, the punk and new-wave movements, rave culture and everything we like about the United Kingdom.

It's simple. When we hear "my kid could have done that!" we think "success." Some of the greatest logos of all time involve two lines (the Christian cross) or three lines and a circle (Mercedes). Your kid COULD have done that, but she didn't. Nor did she design the graphics standards manual that goes with it. So give it a rest. Or send us her resume.

It cost £400,000. That's probably a bargain for an incredibly high-profile complete graphic identity system for an international company/event designed by experienced professionals. Anyone valuing the importance of design should give that argument a rest, too. We wouldn't have taken the job for a shilling less.

It's unexpected. Chicago is bidding for the 2016 Olympics and the temporary logo is a perfectly decent design. It's attractive, memorable and generally liked. It even generated a fair amount of internet buzz. But those brushstrokes and gradients don't reproduce well, the narrow vertical orientation complicates usage and by 2016, the Sears Tower is likely to be Chicago's third-tallest building. More than anything, the London logo takes the Olympic logo to a new level of boldness, abstraction and simplicity. And we're a bit jealous.

After a few dozen years of forgettable, watered-down, designed-by-committee logos for Olympics, World Cups, and so on (the 2006 and 2010 World Cups are among the worst examples), it's nice to see something different and something well thought out for long-term relevance. Sure, it may not be perfect and the feel-good mumbojumbo used to sell it to the public was pretty silly, but we feel confident that once the logo sinks in and we see how it's used and how other elements relate to it, it will become a source of pride for London and the Games.


At Coudal Partners, we're up to lots of things, like the Swap Meat and The MoOM (The Museum of Online Museums) for example. Start on the front page.

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