London 2012 Olympic Logo

belleisle's picture

I live and work in London as a designer, and am appalled by the just revealed choice of logo design for the 2012 Olympics.

I think it is a massive error of judgement by all concerned. It does not in the least reflect any design values that belong to London, and instead looks like the Olympic organisation is breaking up/smashed

It goes without saying that this is one of the premier commisions any designer could ever want, and is a travisty to the design talent that exists in the UK (london).

Can anyone be positive about this?

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WhitePepper's picture

The reaction to this has clearly spiraled out of control, with what was initial shock snowballing into public uproar at the £400,000 price tag. People are taking this to mean that it cost £400,000 to produce a single logo and are not looking at the bigger picture of the overall branding concept and it's development.

Looking at the video I admit it looks like an 80's kids TV show, and am still undecided on it's suitability of delivery, but it does carry a vibrancy and energy to the event with a bold statement that sets this aside from previous Games. Perhaps the logo alone might not quite hit this mark, but seen alongside the rest of the branding (as it will be) I can potentially see it working.

I think much rather see a brave move like this than a bland and cliched logo that would be instantly forgettable.

Duckworth's picture

>"We’ve just released our opinion on our website, plus our visual take on it:"

Am I the only one who thinks this is a bit tasteless? If I don't like another agency's design work, that's fine, but to mudsling in a professional capacity? It ain't great.

joeking_tp's picture

That website is a bit annoying. Slow, it doesn't fit in my browser (I've got lots of toolbars, have to use zoom out on the flash player).

pbaber's picture

"I think much rather see a brave move like this than a bland and cliched logo that would be instantly forgettable."

And I would much rather see a well designed, well considered and inspiring logo.

It should makes us think "f*ck — that's great" – not "atleast it's not bland and cliched."

It's horrific, and however hyperbolic and knee-jerk this sounds, I am struggling to find anything at all positive to say about it.

pbaber's picture

And I don't see anything wrong with what Dalton Maag wrote on their site — why is expressing criticism of another companies work mudslinging?

This attitude that we shouldn't exercise our opinion of another companies work is what gives us this culture of critical apathy in the design industry — just bung a bit of work in an magazine with a bit of supporting text and that's it.

Designers have every right to openly criticize another designers work — even more so if it is a job like the Olympics which is very much in the public domain, and which ultimately reflects back on to every designer in that country.

1985's picture

ChuckGroth, I think it is damaging to British design credibility. You only have to look at the rhetoric of the comments on the BBC website, and the suggested alternatives to understand that design like this undermines the industry; every man and his dog believes that they can do better than a highly paid agency. This does nothing for the reputation of other professional designers.

1985's picture

I agree with pbaber.

We are taught throughout our education to be critical. I have no intention of stopping.

Apathy, everywhere.

ChuckGroth's picture

If you drink a weak cup of coffee, would you condemn all coffee (and don't anyone dare condemn coffee)?

I do not believe that anyone would think "British designers are overpaid, undertalented hacks" on the basis of the Olympic logo. Just as I wouldn't expect anyone to listen to U2 and proclaim "All Irish pop musicians are overly dramatic and self-important!" That would be absurd. People will yell and scream about the logo for a little while, because it's news.

ChuckGroth's picture

But I don't mind criticizing the logo; I don't like it, and I've said so.

Duckworth's picture

I'm not opposed to expression of criticism - but I think that something like that should be a personal blog post (or an entry on the Typophile forum!) rather than a corporate site news feature. Maybe it's just me, (it would seem so), but I would be uncomfortable if my employer openly criticised a competitor's work in an online post. Logo aside, I just don't think it's professional.

bruno_maag's picture

Is that our website you're referring to, or the official Olympic one? If it's ours then you've got your wires crossed as we don't use Flash. In fact, at our Flash is akin to the Devil, the Evil incarnate.

The previous comment about being tasteless - fair dos. However, our rendition is a pastiche on the logo and expresses what we fell about this logo.

What disappoints me most is that I know people at Wolff Olins. They are good designers, very good ones and in many cases I have applauded their work. You only have to look at the Unilever logo - a master piece. It appears, though, as if WO is not so much concerned with design anymore but with brand strategy. And for good measure they'll throw in a bit of design.

We have to realise that WO like ourselves and many other design agencies are businesses. These top agencies charge buckets of money for their work and when the money is public, or from the lottery funds, as the majority of the fee is in this case, I think I have a right to high quality work. And this ain't.

Yes, maybe we were a little bit over the top in saying that London's design industry is at stake. But whilst the public may care more about the 100m than the logo design, We have the issue that London has a thriving media industry *because* of it's high creative and production skills. And something so public for the next five years can damage a reputation.

Design is not all about the great idea. Much of design is grunt work, it's application and usage. This does not go beyond an idea. In order to make it really great, WO would have done well to commission Banksy or a similar high profile and highly skilled artist to convert their initial thoughts. I think much better work would have come out of it. But, of course that would also have meant that their profit margin would not have been as high since Banksy does not work for free either.

Bruno Maag

Si_Daniels's picture

Have any of the comentators blamed the Greeks yet? By taking Gill Sans for the Athens games a few years back they claimed rights to the only typeface that Londoners might unite behind.

ChuckGroth's picture

Bruno Maag-

I respect your admission that it might have been over the top. I also respect your love for the industry as a whole and your design community specifically. I really do. When I see something that could reflect poorly on the public's perception of my college, or community, or anything I hold dear, I cringe and wring my hands. But I honestly do not believe that intelligent people will make broad assumptions of British design based on one example. There are (and always have been) some incredibly talented English designers and some that are woeful. Just like everywhere else.

litera's picture

My personal opinion about the 2012 London Olympics is that the logo is not as bad as it seems. When I first saw it I thought to myself: "They must be joking". But after some time and reading the article on BBC I became to like it.

I think the most important thing in the article was: ...the new emblem is modern and will be dynamic, evolving in the years between now and 2012...

I think what they're trying to do is something no one has done it before. Change and evolve the logo in a short period of time. Not as logos evolve through time but for the exact purpose. Evolve the logo as part of the identity. It starts very basic but it will evolve into something more mature. The committee has probably seen the complete change process and therefore they chose this one.

If this will be the case I'd say WOW WHAT A GREAT IDEA! Let's wait and see.

belleisle's picture

Its worth repeating, I think the underlying concept is good for the brand.
The fact it's different, takes risks is a good thing.

The thing that really, really gets me is the mindblowingly poor execution of the ideas into a downright ugly piece of 'typographics' for the end use logo. It has no aethetic appeal or balance or style... (I could go on). And for that there is NO excuse.

The logo has started to appear in sponsors corporate ads in the newspapers and it clearly does not work small amongest competing logo(s). The corporate typeface they have designed is just as bad, but in my anger I don't have the will to address that yet.

These commisions are never easy, designed-by-committee brandings etc. With such a public project and the fact that other designers will have to incorporate it into their work, they have have a responsibility not to f*** it up and at least produce something that adheres to basic design principles of space, proportion, readability etc etc etc.

This piece of work, on that basis, is indefensible.

peterj's picture

oh and it gets better--the film is giving people epileptic seizures:

ChuckGroth's picture

this reminds me of the 'killer joke' bit from monty python...

ChuckGroth's picture

"does your logo hurt?"

"no, why?"

"'cause it's killing me!"

blank's picture

One designer criticizing another’s work is fine, and does not happen enough. But posting a critique on one’s business website is tacky, and if it were a common practice the business world would see the design community as a bunch of bitchy little gossips who carry out online catfights. Submitting an article to a site like Design Observer, or to a magazine like Eye, is a better way to go, and keeps designers looking professional in our customer minds.

devils son's picture

The logo does indeed suck, but it's a refreshing moment when concerns that are mostly confined to forums like this website attract the attention of the general public.

jmickel's picture

Wow. I would love to get paid $800,000 to design that. Or is that £800,000? That would be even better.

Does that appear to be an italicized, basterdized version of Eric Olson's Strata slapped on there? (and for some reason there does not appear to be an italic available commercially)

Richard Hards's picture


"the only typeface that Londoners might unite behind."

Johnston (in one of it's many guises) would probably have a similar pull, but I expect Transport for London wouldn't let them use it.

pattyfab's picture

That epilepsy thing is HILARIOUS!!!

I once heard that Mary Hart's voice sent people into epileptic seizures. Loved that.

poms's picture

I really like it!
First, the openness of the idea, the "not thinking static" concept.
Second, everyone could get involved in the concept, from young children to animation designers to …
I just see the logo as a pause within an animation.

noftus's picture

Favourites from the previously mentioned BBC website

aluminum's picture

^ gotta admin that that secons 2012don logo is clever.

"Are there any blogs defending the logo?"

Coudal Partners have a nice write-up:

They like the logo, but regardless of that, they seem to have offered a decent design critique.

A lot of the 'I hate it' rants against this logo seem to be lacking any tangible design critique (with a few exceptions).

DaveyJJ's picture

Oh what a horrible mess. I think in my two decades of design I've yet to see such a horrible, horrible mess of a logo. If anyone in my shop had designed that as anything other than a inside gag I'd have to sack them on the spot. There wasn't a single student of 102 at the 4th year grad class at the York U design show I attended that couldn't have done much much better. It's not wonder why our profession isn't taken seriously by so many. Please tell me it's a joke. Wake me up please.

And here are some designer critiques ... how will that reproduce on the arm of a t-shirt 1/3 of an inch square (it won't)? How will it look on a variety of different devices (that colour reproduces horribly between screen, print, etc)? In what way does it represent London? Why did they use two different "2s"? In what way do those garish colours not offend people overt th age of four? In what way is it something as a brand you want to embrace?

DaveyJJ <-- WidgetMonkey

fnf's picture

I think the point about the public debate over the design almost instantly turning into a series of 'I could do that for $800,000' editorials is an important one, regardless of whether they are supported with informed design critiques.

Why? Because each Olympic logo is a very mass-oriented, public icon and its (now) biennial announcement is perhaps one of the most internationally scrutinized design events we experience as a global culture. The average Joe doesn't start a petition to overturn a re-branding of Gap, but he will naturally respond if he feels his home city/nation is being misrepresented by a private firm invited to work with the public's interests in mind. It's an opportunity for designers to showcase the profession on the largest scale, and the production of a brand that is so utterly misunderstood (no matter its artistic merits) inevitably impacts the perception of the field as a whole.

I do think Coudal Partners present a compelling argument for the viability of the logo...

Nick Shinn's picture

I think it's great.
It's not like any previous Olympic logos, and not many high-visibility logos look like this.
So why not have a high profile identity?
Those are the most important criteria, IMO, and the fact that it is actually drawn (or rendered) to have an aesthetic balance. (As was DM's "TOSH", be it noted.)
The idea that any kid could have done it won't wash, as that can be said of amny an excellent logo, going back to the Bass triangle. Maybe that should be considered a feature, not a bug.

I may have been desensitized to the horribleness of this kind of thing by recent designs in my home town, such as the Liebeskind extension to the local museum:
and the OCAD box on stilts:

It could also be argued that any logo which gets people talking is good; let's face it, the country/town that has the Turner Prize deserves have this kind of Olympic logo, ennit.

My final point -- have you ever tried to design something that's really "awful?" And not just a pastiche of something else -- DM's spoof is a little too slick, which ironically highlights the logo's merit. The criticism is often to look at something different and say, oh, it's like this other stuff, only not as good -- when in fact that's just the closest referent, and not really addressing the same issues at all.

As for professional criticism, I think it's fair game to go after the work, as long as you don't trash the designer. After all, nobody scores every time they hit the ball.

Gus Winterbottom's picture

According to ZDNet, there was an animated video clip promoting the logo on the organizer's website that was later removed because the animation caused epileptic attacks in susceptible viewers. Apparently (hah), the four-second video clip failed something called the Harding FPA test. The BBC says a viewer called in and said his girlfriend had a seizure while watching the clip, and an organization called Charity Epilepsy Action claims that various people suffered seizures while watching the animation. This all applies to the promotional video clip, not the logo itself.

Also, ZDNet is associating the colors used in the logo to the Kromofons stuff I posted about earlier. The link is in the sixth paragraph down, the one that reads "Critics of the emblem have described it as 'hideous,' while organizers called it powerful and modern."

I wonder if typography has ever been tied to epilepsy...?

pattyfab's picture

I don't think the criticism centers on the fact that it's different - I applaud that. I just don't like it. I don't think the shapes work well together, don't think 2012 reads clearly enough, don't think the word London or the Olympic rings are well integrated, not wild about the yellow vibration around it. Conceptually it's fine IMO, looks like an interesting start. But it's not there yet. If I were da boss I'd send the kid back to mess around with it some more. I really dislike the little pink box in the middle, it looks like they were trying to fill a hole in the design.

sayerhs's picture

i agree. Its cool to be different. But at what cost? The logo is just confusing.


1985's picture


I'm not sure if you mean to make a direct comparrisson between the Liebskind extension and the Olympic logo but they really are in separate worlds. Liebskind is an advocate of modernity, the Olympic logo is a pastiche.

The media et al

The logo is not 'modern'.
It alludes to a current, faddish 80's/90's revival in London (new rave, as previous posts have pointed out). Unless you are aqquainted with this form of culture then you will fail to see the context of the debate in London. To me it smacks of an exercise in trend research, i.e. let's pick up a few copies of ID, Vice, Pop magazine, whatever. When any subculture is absorbed by the mainstream it quickly reinvents itself. I'm pretty confident this process has already begun.

wormwood's picture

I hope, for everyone's sake, that the evolutionary theory is correct. We may be looking at the deconstructed pink rock child of the final design.

The broken window may unbreak over time with the contrived help of 'consumer contributions' and jagged lines could gradually evolve into fluid curves and ribbons.

To defend it with praise for just being 'edgy' and 'controversial' is weak. Those qualities are neither primary or enough in themselves.

The promo video looked more suitable for a mental health charity and I expected it to end with a slogan like 'mental illness can affect us all'. I'm not epileptic but it even made me feel uncomfortable in a post rave comedown kinda way.

aluminum's picture

I'm moving more and more towards the Coudal/Nick Shinn camps. ;o)

Not picking on Dave specifically, just that his comments seem to echo most other's as well...

"Oh what a horrible mess. I think in my two decades of design I’ve yet to see such a horrible, horrible mess of a logo."

This kind of comment is just overly dramatic. Walk down any street and you will find dozens of logos worse than this one...both in terms of aesthetics and quality of design.

"There wasn’t a single student of 102 at the 4th year grad class at the York U design show I attended that couldn’t have done much much better."

This, too, seems to be a repeated mantra and is completely irrelevant in the context of the real world business of design. This logo was not the creation of one intern sitting at a desk in the back room earning 800k for the company. Admittedly, this is just a guess, but I'd have to say there was at least a dozen folks involved on the client side of this? And an international Olympic committee? And likely a London committee? And, and, and...etc...

hrant's picture

I think I've figured it out! This is all a distraction
tactic so people don't realize how bangers-sucking
bad British athletes are.


Hiroshige's picture

I think it is an appropriate representation/statement of where we are now as a people and as a global society. And because of that it fails. And yes, as Nick alluded to it does have design references that are currently being practiced throughout the arts - Deconstructivism.

I don't like this design, and I don't dislike this design - either way, the design is bullshit. It does nothing to develope the Individual from within - and isn't that the true nature of the games - To be the best you can be?

And this is where the design fails - and fails us all as people. The design echoes the ignorance of Libes and Gehry et al, who need to generate '-isms' to justify their ignorance and to some extent their desperation to be heard above the crowd.

This logo comes from and goes to the corporatizing of 'you'. And just as there is the bullshit of today's deconstructivism - tomorrow 'you' will be repackaged in another -ism.

Either way 'you' will not be strengthened as an Individual.


pattyfab's picture

their desperation to be heard above the crowd.

applies to some typophiles too, no?

Speaking of Gehry, I read about the f**k Frank Gehry t-shirt, a big seller in Brooklyn (his latest stomping ground) by the guy who made money with the f**k yoga shirt a few years back.

distributedhuman's picture

To me Frank Gehry's architecture is not pretty, but I love his work because it's so shocking, powerful, and fun. So I really like the new Olympic logo!

The epilepsy thing is not new to me. We have designed some web banners with moderate animations/effects and the client got complains that it would have caused seizures, so we needed to take them down.

pattyfab's picture

Gehry's work was shocking once, and creative, and beautiful sometimes. But it's become shtick at this point. And it just isn't right for so many situations, like the Brooklyn project.

hrant's picture

This epileptics, dyslexics, etc. stuff majorly pisses me off. It's not that I think they should be discriminated against, and I try to help people in need; plus most of them try not to make everybody else miserable, but you never hear about those ones - you only hear about the minority intent on extolling revenge for their unenviable condition. Have a goddam warning at the beginning of the video, don't nix the pleasure for everybody else; the rest is friggin' natural selection - stop trying to bypass Nature, goddam control freaks.

I'm sure this will trigger some politically-correct, bleeding-heart outrage, but I'm telling you in advance to save everybody the agony: think whatever you like, but you don't understand me, so go stuff your complaining up the wazoo.


wormwood's picture

Well said Hrant. I think we can all agree that strobing effects enhance our lives significantly and it would certainly be a sad loss to us all if the strobing was removed from the 2012 promos.

aluminum's picture

"I don’t like this design, and I don’t dislike this design - either way, the design is bullshit"

I wanted to like your comment, Hiroshige, but the more I read it, the more I felt that it, too, was just Bullshit. And that's not meant to be an insult by anymeans. It's just that I think that most of what we do as commercial artists is bullshit anyways. Yea, so the logo is bullshit. Why is that bad? It's just to advertise the olympics. Does it NEED to do more than that? I can't say I've seen too many logos that "have strengthened me as an Individual"

As for the epilepsy, my wife suffered from photo-sensitive epilepsy. And I gotta gree with hrant. I imagine there were one or two complaints and that was blown up a bit, but seems as if you could get one or two complaints from any trendy TV drama that latches on to the jerky-camera 10-shots a second style these days (NOT that they shouldn't fix this issue, of course).

ChuckGroth's picture

strobing and coffee.

ChuckGroth's picture

And in classic fashion (a day late and .8 euros short) CNN has decided to weigh in on the topic. If Wolf Blitzer hates the logo, it's doomed...

acrobat's picture

when extremes become mainstream

Nick Shinn's picture

Andrew, I think that being sensational is a perfectly legitimate marketing/design strategy.
The same goes for mainstreaming trends copped from clubland early adopters -- because that's the way the world turns anyway.
So in 2012, or 2011 when everyone is buying their tix, this logo will look perfectly acceptable and not so outlandish.
And of course by then will have been bashed into everyone's brains by massive exposure.

So it woud be a mistake for the authorities to cut and run (surely that would be Blitzer's position? ;-)

Having said that, I agree with Barnbrook/McCallion:

wormwood's picture

"I think that being sensational is a perfectly legitimate marketing/design strategy."

That makes my job so much easier. I shall simply tell my next client that I purposely designed them a shĩte logo to be 'sensational'.

Why couldn't it be sensationally good they may say.

What's the difference? I shall reply.

acrobat's picture

Well, what a fascinating (and revealing) discussion! People are such "meaning providing machines".

I've been following the issue since the first moment it was revealed. I liked what I saw (and I saw more than the logo) immediately. After a couple of hours I realised that the publicity it would generate would never be generated by a planned campaign. It is what you call "negative publicity", but by now, half a day later, you don't need to read the word "London" or see the Olympics symbol, or make out the numbers. Your eyes only need to brush over it for a tenth of a second to recognise it.

You don't like it? Ha! That's because you are trying (actually, your mind is trying) to connect it with something you know. The mind will always do that. It's very hard to accept new things in their own value. That's why people see monkeys, broken swastikas and mirrors, overloaded camels, crashed lorries, zionist conspiracies, you name it.

But what really surprises me most, is that designers get so worked up about its looks, and its cost. I would expect them to have some more faith in the methodologies and the expertise of W.O., and think before they let go.

Of course it would look great on a t-shirt, or on a skateboard, or as a sticker on a pavement! It just wouldn't be a quarter of an inch big. I'm dead sure W.O. have provided a manual that deals with all the symbol's applications. Of course it doesn't feature the London you knew last century. What is London today? Say Big Ben and you lost. London is as indescribable as the new logo is. Who must the logo appeal to? Not me, not you, not any geeser older than, say, 24. We've already bought the Olympics. It's the young ones, the ones who will be buying into the Olympics in five years time, that the logo speaks to.

And you're still talking about Gill Sans! Yeah, the Greeks used it and it was as out of place as a sardine on your cream pie.

Yeah! Some people even dared suggest they should have kept the logo they used to get the Olympics. Your granny's picture will be next. Anything would be better than this one, right?

But what's worst, it's the moralising. The logo should make us all better persons and eventually lead us to paradise. Amen!

canderson's picture

There's no such thing as bad publicty.

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