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Royal Mint Launches 2012 Olympics Coin

Graphic Design, Music Video / Film

Posted by Patrick Burgoyne, 22 April 2009, 13:27    Permalink    Comments (31)

'The 2009 UK Countdown to London 2012 £5 Coin is an Official Licensed Product of London 2012 and as such is housed in specific London 2012 packaging and features the official London 2012 logo.' And that's the problem.

The coin is the first in a series of four to be launched annually from now until 2012. On the reverse, it features the number three to signify three years until the start of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, alongside images of swimmers racing to the finish line, while the framework border is a reference to the new Olympic stadium as seen from above.

A press release explains that "The gold and silver versions of the coin are the first UK £5 coins to feature the Olympic rings and logo in full colour." And doesn't it stick out like a sore thumb?

Ever since the logo was first unveiled, designers have been querying its ability to work alongside other visual elements. In our May issue, we have a major feature on design and the Olympics in which this issue is further discussed and cited as a reason for some leading design groups choosing not to apply to work on the games (read it here).

Print ads from sponsors have been featuring the logo for sometime now, with decidedly mixed results. Every morning, I pass a BP billboard on which the logo appears in black and white, stuck as far as possible into the bottom left corner. And still it looks wrong.

In this instance, it doesn't help that the logo has, bizarrely, been rendered in bright blue. While it's an interesting development to see colour used on a coin, here the effect is to make the logo appear even more awkward as it totally overwhelms designer Claire Aldridge's composition.

Anyway, here's what she had to say about the design: "The central theme to the coin's design is counting down to 2012, with the design depicting the idea of a ticking clock and the number of years until London 2012. The 2009 coin represents the sport of swimming and features figures made up of angular shapes to echo the style of the London 2012 logo. While the idea of counting down is dominant, it shouldn't jump out immediately due to the use of frosting."

Only 4,000 gold proof coins (which cost £1,295 each) will be produced by the Royal Mint. In addition, 30,000 silver proof coins (£54.95 each) and 500,000 cupro-nickel coins (£9.95 each) will be available.


At what point is someone (in London 2012) going to be brave enough to put their hands up and re-address this logo?
2009-04-22 13:40:25

heres something i really want to ask the designers of the 2012 logo...

unless i missed the explanation..

can someone tell me why they choose to represent to 2012 numerals in those particular angles?

do the intersecting lines mean something when they are carried on, as you see on the universal everything addidas /2012 intro video

i quite like the actual logo, but what do the angles mean?

they have to be based on something don't they?

if anyone from ( is it wolf ollins ? ) reads this, can they comment please..
2009-04-22 13:41:59

This could of been put together in so many ways, personally I'm not a massive fan of the coin design, who actually wants another coin in their pocket?

After seeing the logo on big prints with good imagery behind it I don't mind it so much and @confused - universal everything's video is a awesome, but maybe the Ollin's kids just wanted to mix it up a little, break some rules.
James Kirkup
2009-04-22 16:08:06

er... it's a 5 pound coin with a big 3 on it. I mean I'm no usability expert here, but that does strike me a bit of a fail. Of course that shameful logo is not doing it any favours. Is it too late to cancel the Olympics? Maybe just have a bit of a picnic and throw a frizbee around Hyde Park?
2009-04-22 16:14:04

Apart from anything else... spot colour on a coin? No thanks.
2009-04-22 16:41:56

am i understanding this right, the cheapest £5 coin i can get is £9.95?

Ian C
2009-04-22 17:37:17

hey james...

breaking rules is fine, ugly shapes are fine, but without any meaning to a shape then it really does just degrade the logo to ' my five year old could have done that' level..

mondrian, pollock etc etc created a body of work that showed progression of thought that allowed them to label random shapes with meaning..

i definetly dont see any history of randomness at wolf ollins.. prehaps if that had got universal everything to design it then you could maybe stretch yourself to allow the attribtuion of meaning to random shapes due to their 'advanced beauty' work..

c'mon someone at WO must be able to give an anyonomous reason why the logo looks like it does..

i know this old news, but it bugs me!!!
2009-04-22 19:33:52

£10 for a fiver? Where's the queue?
David Airey
2009-04-22 21:53:13

Since my initial bad reaction when it was launched, I've been trying to live with the 2012 logo and give a bit of time, see if it grows on me.

Not yet.

We'll see.

Ok. Here we go again. One of the problems with it is that this country has got so so many extremely talented designers that they could have commissioned, yet the Olympics people went to a big fat 'branding' agency.
The best designers don't work at big fat branding agencies.
2009-04-22 22:44:01

I'm glad I'll leave UK in July 2011
2009-04-22 23:12:04

Well first of all we have the hideous lisa simpson doing something dirty olympics logo and then we have all of our currency re-designed so that there are no numerals to represent the monetary value of the coins. I cannot believe that British graphic design could sink so low.
Julie Oakley
2009-04-22 23:22:46

Oh my it's the design cops! The logo is certainly less odd than many other Olympic designs have been, in fact it's quite straightforward. As a designer who has been working in advertising for the last 20 years I can only imagine with horror what a frustrating political nightmare it must be to sell something to an Olympic committee largely comprised of non-creative decision makers. While I could be dead wrong, I doubt very much that this was the designer's original vision. At least it is compact and not horribly obtrusive... working with these types of elements is part of the commercial design challenge; figuring out how to make the work great despite the obstacles.
Kris Blumreich
2009-04-23 09:38:43

I don't think we need to worry too much about how the logo appears on this coin - at actual size it's going to look like nothing more than a tiny blue blob!
Delicious Industries
2009-04-23 11:32:14

My biggest fear is that the 2012 logo has become the 'tag' that Wolff Ollins referenced from graffiti culture. Slapped onto the media associated with the olympics but in a surreptitious way, as hidden as possible - "stuck as far as possible into the bottom left corner" as you say.

If i was working on official olympic media i would probably minimise the logo too. Or do what they've done here: print it in a material that allows it to be easily removed. So much for legacy.
Matt Cooper
2009-04-23 11:39:04

Why are people questioning the price, this isn't made to be spent its a commemorative piece.
Jon Baines
2009-04-23 12:37:32

Don't really see the point in having a coin to commemorate three years until we have the Olympics.

And swimmers? Any specific reason for that?

Ian C it's £5 for the £5 coin & £4.95 for the non-optional spot colour finish.
2009-04-23 14:59:27

@ Jon Baines:
Ofcourse it's a commemorative piece and thus not actually meant to be spent. And since it is not meant to be spent, it makes absolutely NO sense putting the £5 bit on it - does it?
Mads Jensen
2009-04-23 21:13:23

To all the people who ask WO to explain this, maybe they are stupid and it really has no meaning. Maybe they just knew how all of you would react to it, and keep talking about it, asking "why?". How long as it been since the logo was presented for the first time? Look how much attention it's still getting.

That is thinking, that is strategy.
2009-04-23 21:52:29

i totally agree with 'vic' great designers in this fair isle but not often in these big branding agencies. but as i suppose this is what we have to live with now in future i hope we can get a real designer to work with the logo and fix it as best as possible - not plonk it in the middle of a gold coin where it looks a bit like a scratch and sniff panel...
2009-04-24 10:27:05

This seems like a tragic waste of an opportunity to showcase Britain's creative talent. It seems that we're too busy trying to prove that we can be quirky to bother with things like rationale or pleasing aesthetics.

Take a look at Stani Michiel's stunning €5 commemorative coin – conceptually strong, and visually stunning – and wonder how ours ever got approved.
Ollie Palmer
2009-04-24 15:51:08

What this unremarkable coin illustrates is the difficulty of applying the 2012 logo as a supporting item onto anything.

The logo has grown on me - it's powerful, different, challenging, and well-suited to an event that is primarily about human energy. It works on its own, or big. It doesn't work if it's just stuck in a corner or looks like something that had to be included reluctantly.
2009-04-24 16:35:24

The numerals are Cubist representations of the countries that make up the UK. Top left is England, top right is Northern Ireland, bottom left is Wales and bottom right is Scotland (with isles, I assume).

You'll find that knowledge doesn't make the logo any better.
2009-04-24 16:51:06

That's the first time I've seen the logo and thought it looked good. I like the blue on the coin. Couldn't see the '3' or the swimmers at first and I liked it better when I thought it was just some DPM; thinking it was DPM helped me appreciate the 2012 logo in a funny kind of way.
2009-04-24 19:45:29

You can't please everyone, especially when it's everyone involved with the olympics, which is the whole world.

I think it is an achievement in itself to have successfully pitched that idea! can't imagine how they explained it to the olympic committee.

It may be strategy but if it is they should be fired as creating a logo the majority of the design world hates isn't exactly going great guns...

The only good thing I see about the logo is that we will certainly be remembered for it.
Dave Lawrie
2009-04-25 08:38:22


is that really true?
2009-04-25 14:33:59

I have always wondered who actually buys these commerative items? Maybe I am being naive, but half a million of them seems a little optimistic?.

If the shapes do represent the countries - unlikely, but would add some rationale and help many accept it - surely it would make more sense to be: N. Ireland top left, Ireland below and then obviously England and Scotland on the right, with Wales being represented by the little extra square which makes up the second two?

This would certainly answer one of my biggest irritations with the logo, why the two's are not the same?

Lastly, why have they never given any deeper insight into how the shapes came about or what they might represent? Or was this mystery their cunning plan all along?
2009-04-26 23:24:13

The use of color reminds me of these ugly things. A print on metal can be scratched off i am sure which defies the beauty of a coin being hard to destroy.
2009-04-27 21:25:03

I'm with Debbie on this one, I like how the 2012 logo feels but it really needs to be used with confidence.
2009-04-28 09:05:53

I've grown to like the logo. The more I see it, the more I respect it. It's versatile, bold, un-prissy and contentious.

But this isn't about the logo is it, it's about the coin. Surely the coin would be more commemorative and collectable if it were to echo the bold shapes of the Olympic identity? Maybe something similar to the '0' in the logo?

It's not like anyone is going to be sticking a grand's worth of metal into a vending machine is it? (unless we take Homer Simpson's lead!) Can't it be made into something really memorable?
2009-05-06 09:17:09

twist the numbers around on their individual axis and then look at the date/word in a mirror.

It spells the word zion.......

Look up Ian R Crane and 2012, he explains why (in his opinion) this word is important.
2009-08-29 22:37:55

I love to fly ;) just to say
2010-10-11 12:27:04

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