2012 Olympics pictograms launched

One of the most eagerly-awaited design elements of the London 2012 Olympics was launched today – the pictograms

One of the most eagerly-awaited design elements of the London 2012 Olympics was launched today – the pictograms

To many designers, the Olympics pictograms are one of those dream projects: Otl Aicher’s set for Munich in 1972 (below) and the Mexico 68 collection both figure in most designers’ mental lists of most revered works.

Tough gig then, a fact recognised by ‘Yasmine” of the London 2012 Brand Team who was put up to explain the 2012 version on the official blog today, which features efforts from previous games, including 68 and 72.


CR understands that the 2012 pictograms were the work of SomeOne, although Yasmine is strangely silent on this fact. Nevertheless, she explains that “The agency had to come up with something that fitted in with our brand identity but at the same time create something new and exciting.”

“Traditionally,” she tells us, “pictograms are used for way finding and signage at Games time, so people generally see them as just an Organising Committee’s way of doing their own toilet sign! [Really?] We wanted to create an asset that we, our licensees and our partners would use in more creative ways than just at Games time – and they’ll be vital to the identity of our ‘Look’ programme (how we ‘dress’ the city).”

“The pictograms of the past have nearly always taken their cue from the Munich Games pictograms designed by Otl Aicher,” continues Yasmine, “Therefore, they are generally based both on old technology (things have moved on!), and are often stationary and frozen.” Well the results of that “old technology” still look pretty good to me…

Here’s what she has to say about the 2012 set: “One of the joys of London 2012 is the coming together and connection of the world’s people, and so a more contemporary approach to pictograms offers an opportunity beyond pure informational signage. We really wanted to push the concept for the pictograms and one of the outcomes of this was to create two style versions – a silhouette version used for high visibility and information-based applications,

“and a dynamic version used both as decoration and where a more exciting version is called for, such as on posters or banners.” Supposedly, these were “inspired by the London Underground map”

This is how the Track Cycling ‘dynamic’ pictogram, with the silhouette version inset will work

“Do I believe they could rival the Munich Games’ versions?” asks Yasmine. “Absolutely, because I strongly believe these will touch and inspire everyone – whether in London, the UK or more widely around the world.” Hmmm….

First impressions are that the “dynamic” set are more interesting than the somewhat clip-arty ‘silhouette version’ but neither has the charm of 68 or the beauty and rigour of 72, which remain the gold standard. Given that they must work with the logo and so must have at least some stylistic similarity or ability to exist in proximity to it, perhaps that was too much to ask.

Having two sets – the ‘silhouette’ and the ‘dynamic’ – smacks of compromise. I suspect, and this is pure conjecture, that SomeOne would have liked to push  the dynamic set and its ‘tube map’ references as it’s a stronger, London-themed idea. The dynamic pictograms look like they might have real potential when animated or, for example, rendered in 3D. They also work well with the logo and typeface (see above) – something that would be incredibly difficult to pull off.

What do you think?


Some additional images from the SomeOne site showing the ‘dynamic’ set in use:

Note also the similarity to the Atlanta pictograms by Malcolm Grear (thanks Wim for pointing this out in the comments below)

Image from olympic-museum.de, see more here

  • Benjamin Martins

    I’d say — Easy to knock, hard to do.

    Can you imagine how many meetings you would have to go through to get these out there?

    I think SomeOne have done a great job here.

    They are a pretty smart solution, I’ve not seen other Olympic pictograms do anything like this (with the two versions) and the tube map connection is a nice way of getting it connecting with the city and the branding.

    I’d say this a clever way of connecting all the parts together and finally making sense of the branding.

  • I understand the idea, and quite like it.
    But it’s just porly executed. It’s shitly executed, really…
    Could’ve been great.

  • Joffey Colley

    Like it.

    Makes so much sense when you see all the elements working together.
    Bet it took ages.

  • Ed Wright

    I like them. There’s more ‘movement’ to them then previous stick-men pictograms and they are coherent with the rest of the dynamic 2012 identity. Less keen on the tube-inspired versions, though.

    And using the word ‘Hmmm’? Hmmm back atcha, CR.

  • really not a fan of the b/w ones, but do really like the dynamic versions. the b/w look like they were started and than the designer forgot to finish them.

  • Jane

    Can’t say I am amazed by any of these really, could have gone in a fresher direction, something more different.

  • I like the face hidden in the ‘Track cycling’ sign…

  • I agree about the movement in these ones. Would be nice to them in print rather than pixellated gifs on screen. I really like the typeface on the last image.

  • Paul Morris

    I can appreciate the amount of effort required to do something like this. I like the dynamic pictogram. But there’s something unbalanced about the design. They look like they need more consistency in angles, etc. But it could just be my bias towards Otl Aicher’s stuff.

  • Ron

    I can barely decode those symbols. Yes they look dynamic and have strong construction lines. But they are so decorative and full of unappropriate graphic “maniérisme”. Would be ok I guess as a series of catchy illustrations for an event, a short term project, but never as the official Olympics pictograms. The approach is simply wrong, total lack of perennial graphic qualities. The technology argument is, to me, a silly excuse. As mentioned previously, very poor execution. I’m stunned. Those could never be compared to the graphic and conceptual excellence of Munich’s version.

  • Susanna Simpson

    I love the idea of connectivity as the olympics brings the world together at the end of the day! The coloured ones are by far my favourite – really fresh, and translatable into many formats. Shame they promoted the square block coloured ones on the t-shirts! Hopefully addidas will do them justice!

  • They look good, not as rounded as Aichers but nor is the 2012 brand, they reall work well in colour.

  • A no from me I’m afraid.

    These seem to lack the feeling of a complete set which makes the well known examples of old so distinctive and well-loved. There are numerous consistencies which, for me’ make them feel like a number of disparate parts.

    I think it’s worth noting that SomeOne, aren’t on the face of it a ‘detail agency’. I’m not for one minute questioning their ability to what they’re good at – I’m sure they wouldn’t be involved if they weren’t, but this kind of work requires an obsessive attention to detail, similar to that of a type designer, obsessing over every curve and junction.

  • Jordy

    I must first make the point that Otl Aichers creative direction of ’72 was inspirational to the point that I could only but wish to produce design work for the looming London Olympic Games after Bibliotheque’s exhibition. In contrast Otl Aicher’s work (in my opinion) is no longer relevant in our digital age. We have more restrctions (i.e a 20 pixel high logo) that Aicher did not. Anagloue formats allow more freedom and print abilities.

    I personally think that there is a consistency with the aesthetic, can’t imagine having to please 26 individuals international federations as well as london itself. I have no issue with the design. I just hope that McCann can use these to lift the 2012 identity to the level that the UK deserves. Imagine if Wolffy did these! FAIL.

    There are aspects that I dislike but on a whole I see the dynamic line versions being really exciting. An evolution of the pictogram that has not been done since Aicher. Can’t imagine they had the five year timeframe and freedom Aicher welcomed. If only some things didn’t change!!!!!!

    Can’t wait to see more personally.

  • Tomi

    I like them. You can never really top the Aicher ones but then again you should never just copy those. These are consistent as a set and have a little edge to them (no pun intended).

    I would love a couple of those big on a shirt!!!!

  • Claire (LibranPixi)

    I have to say at first glance they look like the result of a trace program. The concept is really good and as a designer it makes me itch to ‘finish’ them properly. I do appreciate the work that goes into a project like this though and after looking at them a bit longer they do start to grow on me. That said I still feel like as a country (with the huge amount of talent I see all the time in the graphic design community) we’ve been poorly represented as this opportunity won’t come along again for some time. We could have done something great and memorable, just seems a shame to me.

  • love both versions. looks great in colour, looking forward to seeing them animated. nice to see the whole identity of the games slowly come together piece by piece.

  • Sam

    I’m not a fan of these, it’s annoying to see an opportunity wasted.

    Saying that the 2012 identity doesn’t leave much room for going off brief and trying new ideas, for me it’s pretty much dated already and we have still got two years before the games. But I’m sure the sponsors are happy as it must have pretty good consumer recognition, any press is good press and all that…

  • Dynamic definitely works best. Looking at the silhouette ones, there are so many in consistencies in the style that it begs the question: Were the more difficult ones traced from photos? They seem to be undecided on whether to use a flat side view or a more dynamic perspective. (Most obvious in the two-wheeled sports)

    When I saw the tiny previews my thought was that they’re a bit boring, but seen bigger SomeOne has tried to incorporate the edgy angles of the logo and typeface

  • On first glance, the ‘dynamic’ set of icons looks great. It’s different, relevant and has a lot of potential.

    The ‘traditional’ set is, in my opinion, bobbins. I mean, look at the boxing and kayaking illustrations – they look like GCSE art sketches

  • Table tennis is standing or running away from the table? And its hard to see the key element (racquet)

  • Stewart

    These are seriously awesome.

    They’re taking the pictograms on to another level and I think they’re going to be great when we see them across the different uses. There’s definitely a need for both versions, and can see how well they bring some freshness to both sets. There was always a roughness and unfinished edge to the 2012 branding, and these take that on well.

    On the side-on/foreshortened issue – look at the side-on bicycle ones and they’re the track/road events, which are generally viewed more side on and primarily have one-direction of movement. The others represent those that work off-road – mountain biking and BMX – where the movement is in more than one direction… So I don’t think it’s indecisive, but rather aiming to convey a better sense of the specific feel or energy of each event to help distinguish it and give it a bit more life.

    Having said all that, the boxing one is a bit too detailed for me, but with so many other diamonds in there, i can let it slide.

    Well done guys.

  • OH MY GOD! this is so bad. I understand there is work behind them, but I am so sorry, they are so poor. Poor in execution, poor in balance and form. People lack a thorough study, limbs look severed, they look mashed together in a hurry, no balance. The so called “dynamic” program is bunch of rubbish.
    I haven’t seen worse Olympic pictograms, really. What a shame.

  • Yoshi

    People forget about the input clients have in todays industry. It’s easy to criticise work. I do it occasionally, we all do. But so often when working on a brief I and everyone else gets pushed around, or toned down by the idiot client. And it is infuriating.

    I really like these. I think the agency has had to bear in mind the style of the 2012 logo which can’t have been easy, and I can imagine that the IOC aren’t the easiest people to deal with. Each one was probably heavily scrutinized by the client hundreds of times to get it to where they are.

    I especially like the ones with horses. the swimming and the fencing. Not so keen on the synchronized swimming.

    What the world doesn’t need is more of this…


    Who’s not really in the position to be judging work of this caliber.

  • John Instruct

    Okay simple things here,

    Look at the sailing pictogram and squint your eyes.. can you tell what it is?

    No because like a lot of these there is far too much detail, these could be so much more clearer and refined.
    Instead they are far too descriptive and rather than giving a instant message of what they represent you have to stare at them for a while which will be useless given the audience.

    I can understand the agency would have a thousand chiefs inputting into these but thats no excuse for cluttering up the design just to get the message across, Otl Aicher showed us simplicity and style over 30 years ago so this feels like a step backwards.

    Also another disappointment is to me these hold no relationship to the 2012 logo. The curves used do not echo the angular logo, which could of been really interesting to see how these pictograms in the same language as the logo and chosen typeface.

    Instead we have a totally different feel with the black and white pictograms which feel rushed out and not on brand for me.

  • Sporting icons are always a challenge – how many ways can you show a man on a bike? As functional icons they appear to ‘work’, it will be interesting to see how the more complex coloured versions work. But, I can’t help but feel a little short changed – other than the stylistic nature of them, things don’t seem to have moved on in 30 years. Not sure, time will tell.

  • Carlotta

    These aren’t crap but neither are they particularly good or interesting. It really feels like a wasted opportunity.

    Because of all the inconsistencies (viewing dimensions/cropping/ human forms) they don’t really hang together as a set very well either. They look like something downloaded from istock.

    Saying the line versions are inspired by the underground map is a bit dim, sounds like something an 18 year old design student would say after the fact.

  • Brilliant!

    What brilliant work – it fits in marvelously with the rest of the 2012 branding!
    All the wonderful designer folk that worked on this project should receive a medal of honor from the Queen and a free-trip to the moon.

  • Hi ‘Yoshi’

    Thank you for the feedback on my work. Obviously I’m disappointed you don’t approve, but as the comments above show, people have different opinions. In the name of fairness, if anyone is going to criticise the work of others (as I have done above) then I think it only reasonable that they make their own work accessible for others to comment on.

    On the more important matter of the topic in question, I agree that the 2012 style has been a restricting factor on the icons. I’m not a fan of the logo and think its clumsiness follows through to these icons – that’s my opinion anyway.

  • Nikola

    this is really awesome work. here is why:

    first, they had to follow the main london 2012 brand done by wolff olins, and they followed it quite well. it is not easy to build on someone elses work, and especially such controversial and particular work, to make something which looks and feels same. they achieved this. pictograms fit right in with the logo, logo fits well with pictograms, they compliment each other. if you like the 2012 logo or not (i love it) you still have to accept that some one additional works very well.

    second, some one studied the sport, the movements, the moments. most previous pictograms have been easy abstractions which present movements and shapes which never happen in sport. sort of physics defining moments that have nothing to do with biomechanics or the competition. this is great if you are vignelli making anew york subway map but i think sports should be respected in as much detail as possible because athletes spend decades perfecting these movements. sports is about details and olympic games is about sports. sport is dedication and obsession with most smallest details and respect of such by pictograms designers is most welcome.

    third, pictograms have solved some very hard challenges. for example a lot of old swimming pictograms show the freestyle starting block, not the swimmer actually – quite boring. runners have been shown in bizarre positions. multisports like triathon and pentathlon have been shown by runners with dots which is just plain slacking – running is not so dominant and confuses spectators and athletes. some one really tried hard to understand sports and present them. there are five pictograms with have bicycles (road, track, downhill, mtb, triathlon) and all are very clear, no mistakes, no confusions, to the point, emotional, and inspiring, perfect moments are picked.

    some interesting details:

    swimming pictogram shows the palm in a really interesting and detailed position. it is very precise and shows freestyle technique perfectly with the palm being behind the shoulder before the middle of recovery. palm is bended not to touch the water surface – a swimmer with longer arms? this shows how much time they spent to understand the particular sport. this is no accident. they probably went through 100s of images of swimmers to pick one that works so well.

    boxing one is also great. half hook from the side. nice moment. typical one which scores points or wins a match.

    mountain bikes is more upward that the road cyclist who is more upward that the track cyclist.

    modern pentathlon i really like. it tells a story and pays equal respect to each discipline.

    triathlon one is also cool as it shows the transition from swim to bike which is crucial for gaining a proper position in itu rules (olympic) triathlon. if this was an icon for draft illegal long distance triathlons it would not work, but for draft legal short olympic rules it works perfectly. some one either got it by accident or they understood the strategy of the sport: fast swim, catch a good group, stay in, gain position on the run. t1, the first transition, is an important element of the race even though it is neglected in media. also the pictogram shows water, running and the bike (all three).

    it is cool that some one tried hard to get close to athletes and sports, and did not keep a snobbish designer distance which was common from the past. with more and more information availabe spectators understand sports much more and want also people who work for olympics to share their enthusiasm. i think previous designers who mostly treated this work as an abstract art piece could have gotten this job 30 years ago but hopefully not any more. today it is important to understand what you are making, to really understand it and ti respect it in as much detail as possible. some one did not just do what they wanted and expected the audience to adore their work, but their got into the subject.

    some one have done modest and hard work, a service to the event, audience and sports community. best olympic pictograms ever!


    vignelli and norda did the same with the new york subway map, they studied and respected the purpose of their work. aicher’s work on pictograms was unfortunately limited by technology so he had no choice but to be simple and abstract. also not much competition in those days. which is what makes vignelli’s and norda’s work also so awesome.

    what i do not like with aicher’s work is that some of the icons are confusing: modern pentathlon uses a horse rider and five dots(?!?!) and volleyball could easily be basketball. some one cleared out these problems so well.

  • I can appreciate these London Olympic 2012 graphics have taken ages to do and are certainly well crafted. (Like the blue and pick variation as illustrations.) However I feel yet again (as designers) we have overworked the solution – trying too hard – and have failed to deliver something better than the previous competition(s). GB is supposed to be the most creative and innovative place in the world and the best we could come up with is TWO sets of graphics – silhouette and dynamic – huh? Is it me or do they look OK, nice but OTT and cluttered? Good design is about KIS. So I much prefer the simplicity of Munich and Mexico and more recently Barcelona and Beijing. OK, but we could have done better by following the less is more theory, or perhaps the designers took the view (in the process) that they could not do ‘simple’ or ‘simpler’ and went for a different look all together which is fair enough I guess. (Following the LOGO – hmmm?) Certainly not easy and was probably the job from hell lol!

  • chris_b

    I think this is a collection of vaguely related pictograms.
    There is a lack of cohesion across the board with so many inconsistencies it makes me think, why? Or perhaps, why not. Why mot include a fish swimming by the kayak, or leaves stuck to the mountain bike tyres. There is too much attention to irrelevant detail which spells a lack of faith in the dominant aspect of each design. This set should work as well as any successful typeface does, but it simply doesn’t.
    It is clear that photography was referenced, traced and thus blinding the designer/s to the task at hand. They were almost certainly designed in an ‘outline’ manner.
    Another inconsistency is the disregard or confusion of dimension. There is confusion as to weather these are to be regarded as 3D or 2D. Either one or the other is suggested.
    I make these comments to be constructive, not argumentative, I hope they’ll be read in a positive light.

  • Andy West

    I like these – well done SomeOne. A hard task, but executed well. I think people do and will automatically look at any 2012 communications through a negative lens due to the controversy surrounding the brand, so it’s a tough challenge. I personally don’t understand the comments regarding inconsistency.

  • Joe Porter

    The logo, the pictograms and especially that typeface are a joke.

  • Aly

    Not too sure about these pictograms. I don’t hate them or anything, but I think they are quite underwhelming and way too detailed, plus I do get the clipart argument for a few of them. That said the 2012 logo has really grown on me , and I used to hate it with a passion, so who knows maybe with time…

  • Martin Cassidy

    I think Chris_b sums up most of my thoughts. They do feel very “traced” and too safe if almost a fear of putting an Authoritative design stamp on them. The Dynamic set feels a little more cohesive and I wonder if perhaps these were really the end goal? – overall, a bit disappointing

  • I think these are OK, but nothing special. I like the B/W version better than the colored ones. The Tube reference is quite far-fetched and I don’t actually recognise it, to be honest. And I do believe that Aichers dynamic poster design is actually much better than this rather boring proposal for a poster (see here: http://www.1972municholympics.co.uk/Posters/Poster_Sport_Section.php ) This is probably are really hard assignment to get right, with big design committees et all, so I’m not saying this is easy, but I’m afraid these are not gonna stick in public consiousness. Shame really…

  • I prefer the dynamic designs entirely over the silhouette versions. The bright colours and line aspects sit well with me, although I can’t really see how they were ‘inspired’ by the London tube map – other than the fact that it says it was.
    I don’t particularly like the silhouette versions. They seem… blocky, awkward. But then again, I don’t like the actual London 2012 logo either. That said, it’s the London 2012 logo, and the infograms are part of that, so I support it on that front anyway.

  • Some of the dynamic versions have interesting images hidden in their lines.

  • James

    I understand that this is a design-led blog but if you park the ‘hate it, love it’ comments and actually think. This is not about going with the pictogram flow of the past, which had head sizes, line width and geometry consistent across the board like Aicher. This work looks, to me, to actual represent each sport individually not as a unified group. The aesthetic unites them visually. This way of thinking is a breath of previously undrawn fresh air.

    Each sport is different focuses on different aspects, I especially like the combat sports (although some are perhaps more sexual looking than others). They depict what could be a final blow (excuse the unintended pun). The cropped ones focus on the important bits The dressage rider even has what looks like a top hat and tails. Some may think of this as too detailed but it gives the pictograms unparalled character, not previously seen in the pictogram format. Much unlike Aicher’s which fail at this depicting each sport in a rather unrealistic purely representational way with no real attention to the detail of the sport. So I don’t see how people say detail hasn’t been paid attention too. These people obviously have no real clue about sport!

    However, I must say the 2D-3D thing smells of client intervention as so few are like this. Also don’t know about having an entire sailing boat, when all others (canoes and rowing boats) are cropped. Client?! The reason why clients shouldn’t be allowed to meddle with our creativity.

    I guess I’m going to wait to see these properly and not tiny Jpeg’d to buggery to pass my judgements. Like them though. I just hope McCann Erickson can restore a bit of design pride. Well done SomeOne (if that’s who did them).

  • Beautiful!

    On the Someone site they have how they work beyond what is seen above in the Cycling solution and the varying colours work great.

    The lines are going to be a big part of the games visual identity.

    I still love the main brand – and this solution wouldn’t exist without that – but I think the lined versions should be what roles over everything in the games visually. These will work great animated online and on TV. The city could be covered in these brightly multi coloured lines, all over buildings, all through the tube. Good times.

  • Just love it. The graphics is one side of the Olympics that is keep me up beat about the whole thing. The money issues have really dragged the whole thing down to much.

  • Wim

    why is there no mention of Malcolm Grear’s Atlanta pictograms – those were spectacular:


  • Cheezuz, I am embarrassed of the work and I didn’t even do it.
    Eff me

  • Alex Weston

    The 2012 identity has grown on me a lot and to be honest I do feel a little ashamed I was so dismissive of it after it’s initial launch.

    Overall I like these pictograms, specifically the dynamic versions. The 2D versions are fair stronger and it is a shame to see the mix of 2D / 3D. The use of 2D / 3D doesn’t seem to have any necessary relevance to the individual sport. BMX, Mountain Bike, Cycling and Track Cycling are good examples of this. Why is the Mountain bike discipline version 3D and not BMX as well? Others have mentioned this could be client intervention. Which I know all to well can really balls the process.

    I don’t understand the reason both variants are being used together on the posters. I don’t think one compliments the other at all. I think the dynamic version on the posters look great. The posters don’t benefit from the additional silhouette version.

  • Carola

    Well done. Bang on brand. Bang on brief. Works marvelously with the rest of the 2012 branding… which is unfortunately crap.

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Wim
    Thanks for bringing up the similarities with the Malcolm Grear Atlanta set – I have added that into the story now

  • one1

    Pity they are just masculine, could have done something much smarter with the brief.

  • jessica

    for once the athletes look like they have athletic physiques.

  • Em

    Sorry but, “touch and inspire everyone..?” Hardly.

  • Excellent though they are, for me they are more ‘picture’ than pictogram. The level of detail just tipping them over the edge.

    And as you say, the Otl Aicher act is a very difficult one to follow; difficult to improve on something that has been so utterly designed and rationalised. But who said ultra-rational is the only way to go? The automotive industry has bucked the trend; the new Mini, Beetle and Fiat 500 are all wide of the mark according to their original rationales (the mini isn’t even small for god’s sake!), but have demonstarted how a concept can be successfully re-invented.

  • oh dear oh dear, text should never sit at a weird angle..

  • Anis Bengiuma

    I agree, you can see the compromise made but all in all they look good and lets see how they pan out reality in 2012, we just been working some pictograms for sports event a few months ago and it is one of the most challenging projects to do and working with 2012 mark I think makes it even more challenging given the time frame which allows for evolution.

  • Des

    The silhouette versions are RUBBISH. OOps am I allowed to say that – which clip art book did someone at Someone nick those from.
    The dynamic set are a move in the right direction, for what is overall a RUBBISH brand, designed by a monkey down the pub one Saturday night for 10 million quid.
    Yeh I’d probably say someone did it rather than put my name to it too.

  • Em

    Sorry but, “touch and inspire everyone..?” Hardly.

  • Kev.

    I really like them. Particularly the dynamic ones. I can just see them being used in all kinds of iconic pieces and maybe Banksy doing his own versions! The silhouettes will more than do their job too.

    Well done SomeOne!

  • hmmnnn, incredibly difficult, everyone has a point, agree with many…

    “This is how the Track Cycling ‘dynamic’ pictogram, with the silhouette version inset will work”

    wot worries me is the necessity to have a dynamic pictogram, followed by a silouette version AND THEN it is spelt out (and I’m afraid don’t like the tyepeface)… so the non English Speaking world are supposed to understand these… stand each on its own and I’m sorry I’m not convinced.

    What I can’t figure out is why?
    Client and brief.
    When the agreement amongst designers seems to be the great works of Munich and Mexico have stood the test of time (we still use Bodoni and the alphabet!).
    Why didn’t someone have the balls to say to the client, look keep these, Mexico/Munich as par of the brief, as part of your Olympic brand and allow the designers the scope to work within these parameters to’ their location and times they are a working in’. I don’t see the five rings being changed.

    Wood and trees, design for design sake?

  • Dynamic version is painfully hard to decode. Trying too hard. Pretty good for the “shooting yourself in the foot” event, though. Shorely shome mishtake?

  • James

    Just noticed they all ‘read’ left to right. Nice bit of consitency not shown by any others given the way we read.
    Again more details paid attention too. Another nice touch, I think. i-D

  • Tan Khiang


  • Sasha

    They are illustrations not pictograms. And link to London Underground map is one of the greatest cliches in graphic design.

  • Richard de Pesando

    I have to be honest, I think they are ugly.

    I totally appreciate the nightmare that a job like this can be, the committee stages and heirarchical processes – the ‘in situ’ renderings are better because of context – but I find them cold, spikey and unattractive. They look laboured and tense – they is no joy, life or movement in them and they leave me cold.

    Jobs like this are a poisoned chalice – sometimes you need to know when to throw in the towel, we have all learned that the hard way – if you can’t do something ‘inspired’ – then leave well alone, the ‘tube’ concept was great – the implementation, just horrible.

  • My main question/gripe is that the Olympic pictogram design (generally speaking) is a more often than not a case of breaking the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” rule. I understand that each game has its own visual language — but I think everyone can agree upon the fact that Otl Aicher pretty much nailed it. Every subsequent Olympiad (2012 included) can’t help but use the Aicher set as the standard and use it as a jumping off point, inadvertently overcomplicating the message.

    In the 2012 case, I have to admit I like the way the dynamic version is applied, and it becomes a bold, colourful abstract graphic (kind of losing its intended function perhaps?) and fits within the overall 2012 look. But looking closely at the graphics, the line work seems… muddled and unclear — as if scaling up the image thickened the strokes.

  • Someone should have let someone give it an iconic feel, that represents UK in 2012 not 1812.
    Letraset clip art just got dragged back from the vaults kicking and screaming, saying “No
    I don’t want to go!”
    No medal!!!!!!

  • Ian McLaren

    As one of Aicher’s team, I can speak with certainty that these are NOT going to be useable in a number of the required applications.

    Aicher’s set have been extended to a wider collection numbering hundreds. I hope this doesn’t happen to these!

    Incidentally, I am also old enough to have been one of Harry Beck’s students. He must be gyrating in his grave.

    Ian McLaren

  • After seeing them in context in some of the marketing materials, I don’t mind them, although I am not a big fan of the font they selected to go with it, it seems to be a little too much like the illustrations themselves. I think they could have use something that was just a bit further apart in style than this font. All caps could have been nice too.

  • It’s 2009 and I’m already sick of them.

  • Georges

    A set of vector drawings (they are emphatically not “pictograms”) that answer the brief’s content and context perfectly. The content being an embarassingly bad logo — or “brand” as it’s referred to — and the context being a shambolic, ill-thought out, marketing-and-corporate-sponsor-driven embodiment of mainstream British culture: the London 2012 Olympics. File the Microsoft Office-esque sports clipart alongside malfunctioning services, high street mediocrity and the tyranny of marketing committees: a true ambassador for contemporary Britain indeed.

    Wolff Olins and SomeOne (that conjoined name! another illustration of the modern British malaise in a nutshell!) are successfully contributing to the demise of Western civilisation. They’re the design/branding counterparts to people like Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton. Yasmine laughs at the ‘Old Europe’ of Aicher (“things have moved on!” ha ha, silly old Otl!) while lauding, nay “hailing” the ‘New Europe’ in the “new element of our brand”, primarily an asset for “our licensees and our partners”. They admittedly now torture only our eyes and our intellect, but it’s just the beginning…

  • York

    I feel like I must have got stuck in a time warp.
    What year is this really?

    Ok, I know the 80’s are semi-back, temporarily. For better or worse.

    But there just is no excuse…… at all, for dragging 2012 back to 1984.
    And there seriously is NO excuse whatsoever for continued use of THAT pink!

    It does match the logo, however. In other words, diabolical.

  • Leon H

    These pictograms are very nice. They have a comic book look that I like personally. Like someone had already commented, the figures look more natural, which brings attention to the sport each image represents.

    I don’t understand the necessity for two sets of pictograms, and if the dynamic set is supposed to be more “dynamic”, why the lines are vertical and horizontal straight lines shooting out of random points. It reminds me of 1) Tron and 2) Lines you draw to make something look like it’s sparkling.

    They might have been better off creating motion lines that showed movement.

  • K.Widdows

    Strangely, the figures in silhouette convey a sense of anger and futility to me, bordering on violence. Not very flattering to the athletes I think. The ‘dynamic’ figures look OK all together, but separately I think they look awful, especially when used at a larger size, as in the posters.

  • Peter Willis

    I’m gutted that all the branding for the London olympics is so crap, a massive disappointment and an opportunity lost!!!

  • Gary Aston

    No-one can take away from the simple brilliance of Aicher’s pictograms. However–even if I don’t like them in a subjective way–I applaud the designers of these 2012 pictograms for having the balls to do something different, in much the same way I appreciate Wolff Ollins attempts to take the tradition of the Olympic ID system in a new direction.

    Look at http://www.vancouver2010.com/ — inoffensive and totally forgettable. Which Olympic graphics have sparked as much debate and conversation as 2012? That can only be a good thing. I feel future Olympic ID systems will be judged against 2012 not in their beauty but in their impact on society.

  • Leo Saunders

    Great to see so much comment and interest for the set of symbols – I like the dynamic versions more and more for their individuality and for the way they fit with the other visual elements of 2012 Olympics.

    I’d love to see the student who designed posters for the Olympics previously featured in Creative Review have a go at this set – the poster work for ‘tennis’, ‘sailing’ etc. that they did was superb.

  • Craig Hewitt

    Bloody awful mess

  • Joel Beachman

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch calling these pictograms. Sure they are nice illustrations. Legibility is a real issue when they are small or a long way off. Maybe by 2012 there will be a backlash to accessible design and it will be “cool” to confuse people that are hard of sight.

  • Perhaps it’s a case of design by “Olympic” Committee…

  • I personally really like them and think that SomeOne have done a brilliant job. I can imagine that the Olympic comittee are not the easiest of clients to work for with as there are so many people to keep happy; but the colour schemes, the ideas, the movement of the line work all works really well and is keeping up with modern times.

  • I like the ‘dynamic’ set, especially when you see them in situ on the bus stop poster etc. In fact i REALLY archery poster (I’m a sucker for some solid CMYK) and the use of them on the concourse area floor. As mentioned in the article I’m guessing these were the first approach and the ‘silhouette version’ a bit of an after thought and it shows.

    ‘silhouette version’: Why did they fill in the strokes? I think they would have really worked as a ‘pack’ if the ‘dynamic’ set had just been kept as outlines, loosing the movement and horizon lines (as they have done) and reversed out of black lozenges. Filling them in and adding definition indents and lines makes them look like they have been done by someone who doesn’t know how to use bezier curves in Illustrator!

  • Jessica

    [Comment deleted by moderator] I think they’re uncomfortable to look at and confusing to read. I just hope the London Olympics are not as embarrassing as the identity.

  • MAD

    Coming up with a whole set of pictograms is a hard job, specially if they’re for the Olympic Games, and even more so if the identity was created by another studio. I think SomeOne made an incredible work in capturing the escence of what Wolff Olins intended for the London2012 brand, and taking it all the way into a complex, yet simple visual system.

    London’s taking a huge leap on how the games will look according to the Olympics standard, but isn’t it the whole Olympic spirit? Stand out! And I think this is what the city does in a daily basis, be and stay in everyone’s mind.

    If you don’t like L2012 brand and now the pictograms set, it’s very easy, don’t see them and forget about them… which will probably be hard for just one simple reason: they work.

  • Gradders

    Just noticed they all ‘read’ left to right. Nice bit of consitency not shown by any others given the way we read.

    That’s the whole point, 70% of the world doesn’t read (English) and certainly doesn’t read left to right.. and does not suggesting movement left to right confuse, how does the illustration work with a left directional arrow or straight ahead directional arrow for someone from who is NOT from Laard ern? (They are going to have enough trouble with the language, bye gum duckie, aye up lad, begorrah t’b sure, awae the noo, why aye, oo aar, rar there [sorry if left anyone out and apologies to all – illustrative of the many UK regional accents]). Can the illustrations be reversed? Will they all be accompanied with ‘English’ to explain what they are and what they say? Sorry still not convinced. It’s all in the thinking, not ‘the design’.

  • Matt Stillwell

    These are going to date soooooooooo badly…

  • Gradders

    Just done their job for them!
    Design by democracy.
    Take an open crit, (via Creative Review etc) ‘revise’ the design (take on board comments) for implementation!
    Let’s see how hey change over the next 12/24 months?
    Nice one.
    Good darts.

  • patrick murphy

    These pictograms are so badly executed, they have a severe lack of movement and energy. They look like an in-store graphic range for Debenhams. But then the choice of a poorly realised logo in the first place made it impossible to create anythng of value!

  • I like them. They work well with the olympic brand, and I disagree about the execution, personally the pictograms have a sense of primitive shapes and the rush of adrenaline, which from a sports point of view is what is experienced by the athletes. I also enjoy the interaction of the lines to create the pictogram forms and the dynamic look.

  • The energy, power and movement of the represented sports are captured brilliantly in these pictograms. Especially in the 2 colour dynamic versions. They make the Munich pictograms look almost static in comparison.

  • Mark Batley

    Why not use an existing style of Olympic symbols? The Munich Olympic symbols are a cleaner and elegant in terms of graphic design, and ironically look more modern than the new London set.

    Mark Batley

  • Matt Bridge

    This whole thread just shows how massively subjective design is.

    Personally i think they look great, and SomeOne has done a great job with the brief!

  • Gradders

    Can’t wait to see the directional arrows that must accompany this set, and REALLY looking forward to seeing the toilet signs!

  • Geoffrey Bean

    The wider applications work very well. Overall the pictograms are a very good from what must have been a very difficult brief but a shame that the elbows and knees are inconsistent. Some a sharp and pleasingly graphic (fencing and handball) others are softer and compromise the integrity of the style (volleyball and weight-lifting). Also the horse figures seem to have been drawn by another artist altogether.

  • Kel

    Does anyone have a link to a PDF or larger version of these graphics, I’d like to look at the detail a little more closely as the small versions on screen don’t show the intricacies of the figures very well. I’ll reserve my comments until I’m fully informed.

  • Matt Bridge

    This whole thread just shows how massively subjective design is.

    Personally i think they look great, and SomeOne has done a great job with the brief!

  • andrei

    good job and boring, boring comments -_-

  • ross

    I’m beginning to think you chaps at CR like your jagged edges. Not only is the non-antiailiased font* used on these pages difficult to read but the images are not resized to fit the page. Any comments from CR about this?

    * I know HTML text isn’t anti-aliased by nature but need it be so heavy?

  • Wayne Edwards

    Will it make sports biscuits more edible?

  • I think when you look at the Otl Aicher pictograms you tend to mentally place them within the identity of the Munich games.

    It’s harder to place these in context as the branding for the games is on-going; but I like the way they fit with the overall style.

    The brand guidelines for the games are a great example of how to allow individual agencies/designers etc. freedom within a framework. I think it’s too early to judge if it’s a success as an identity but that approach to branding is great to work with.

    And I don’t think you can judge the pictograms in complete isolation – even Otl Aicher’s wouldn’t stand up to that.

  • I have been a fan of the graphic identity of the 2012 games since the controversial logo was launched a few years ago (?). I think the ‘look’ of what I see is really strong. My own particular tastes draw me (no pun intended) to the id with its graffiti-esque shapes and colours. The logo and now these icons/pictograms have character and movement, vibrancy and a fun style which reminds me of the London I know and in particular the youthful potential that the games in the east end promises. I appreciate the simplicity of the earlier or original pictograms (68 and 72) just as I appreciate the design of motorway signage. Info design is difficult to get right.

    I think full credit should go to the folks who have put this together. Hats off.

    I would also like to refer to an earlier, related post on CR: http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2009/may/olympics-movement-posters


  • Hatred

    Yoshi you big snobby handbag!

  • Ian

    Not a fan of these at all. Also I’m not buying the Olympic Committee argument… I mean to do the Olympics would be a dream job, I would swim through Sh*t to get the opportunity. I really feel like these are unfinshed and unrefined. They tried too hard to do a “Strong” design, when in fact what was needed was a refined approach. One that informed people of events instead of screaming at them.

  • The dynamic versions are interesting and could be quite memorable but the ‘plain’ version just smacks of compromise. Too much detail and manner, combining to create an overly stylised infographic. At a guess, the dynamic version came first. Too many stakeholders, but it goes with the territory.

  • Jay

    The white on black pictograms are very poor. It slike bad clipart on a ‘coreldraw’ cd from the 90’s.
    They did a good to make it in line with the logo ; )

    So they will be reminded more than recent made pictograms, but not in a positive way.

    And i get a bit irritated about the ‘holy’ 1972 pictograms. If these were made today we would laugh at it as well as the ones above.

    It is ofcourse a big job to do and probably a lot and to many people involved.
    The lines and colours make it more interesting yes, but still, there is no real character or thought behind it.

    The Vancouver 2010 are much better a good example how to do the job. Although they are less interesting to make than pictograms for the summer olympics. The classic sports.

  • James Jarvis

    I’m singularly unimpressed by these. A successful pictogram is reductive; it depicts an abstraction of reality. These are too illustrative and literal. I don’t think they fit in with the logo which I think is genuinely modern and forward looking in its conception. I think probably the pictograms are representative of what seems to be the creative process at LOCOG: everything out to tender but no Creative Director at the center of things to take responsibility for making sure everything works together.

  • Ashley

    I find it strange that people define what a pictogram should or shouldn’t be.

    Question is…

    Do they Clearly represent the sport they depict?

    Yes. In what seems like great detail. I find it better these are more detailed, every sport isn’t the same. The Olympics is at times brutal and these show genuine energy unlike most other passive pictograms of the past.

    Job Done here, anything else is subjective. I’m glad they aren’t a rehash of ’72 like every unoriginal Olympiad since Munich.

    I like the way the watersports join up on the floor, using the consistent water line. Be cool if they all joined together to form one matrix. Or if the lines that flow away from the pictogram could draw other stuff like arrows for signage or other pictograms.

  • Looks student

  • I like the colour ones, not crazy about the mono. Thankfully the colour pictograms don’t look like tube maps as that would be really cheesy, what’s more the tube map means nothing to anyone from outside the UK.

    I still prefer the Chinese ones as they actually say something about Chinese culture rather than just random design for it’s a own sake.

  • Rob

    What a job to undertake! I know what it takes to get a job like this out and signed off and hats off to these guys. Having said that the black and whites are almost pointless and in my opinion make no improvement over 68/72. Balls in hand should have delivered only the stylised ones.

  • The strategy for London 2012 seems to be inclusivity – sport and healthy lifestyles for all, inspired by elite atheletes. Hence the ‘street style’ of the logo and now these B+W icons. The whole strategy worthily differentiates London’s bid from the usual and helped us win.

    The visual problem is that not appearing elite has been interpreted, since the adoption of the Wolf Olins logo, as looking like graffitti. The approach of avoiding slick corporate style has resulted in deliberately avoiding excellence in design execution. It’s a tough brief but solvable. I applaud the desire for London to differentiate. Sadly however, the work by Wolf Olins and now Someone is being misread by most of us as just badly done and amateur.

  • Canada Guy

    The Olympics are self destructive. With the threat of global warming we cannot afford such flagrant displays of excess and overconsumption. The best way to avoid 300,000 tons of emissions is for people to simply stay at home.


  • Pinky

    Stare long and hard at Otl Aicher’s, then scroll to the new stuff. For that reason, I’m out.

  • Ellie

    How utterly disappointing. I have always presumed that London and the UK was a centre of excellence for design. Looking back on on the historical images for the olympics it is a joy to see the 1968 Mexican images. They are clean, modern and beautiful. And then I look at the london 2012 images and they are a mess!!!

    This is from a normal Mum of 2 who is looking forward to having the olympics in our fair land…. but certainly not for the design.

  • Ricardo

    Just to keep all this controverse in a technical, less personal level, I would say that, with so many unecessary lines, so much maneirism, we can hardly call it a pictogram… technically speaking its more a picture than a pictogram.
    Looks burocratic, dated, boring… A small bit of creativity would have resolved… London could have done it better… a bad episody for the UK design scene… I am affraid.
    I guess Prince Charles must be quite happy with these pics(tograms?!)

    I hope Brasil will come up with something more interesting in 2016

  • James Cahn

    These are awful! What’s wrong with WO. they are intent on ruining the reputaion of the UK/London design industry..
    Appointing them has to be the worst decision the games authorities have made.

  • James Good

    You know, with over 112comments, these pictograms are probably doing exctly what the designers intended… getting a reaction.

    Sure, they’ll be clear enough to get people to the Velodrome on time.

    But the real genius here is designing them in a way that allows the creative community to find them — horror of horrors! — actually interesting.

    Surely a radical coup in such a cynical sector. Even the controversial logo launch only gleaned 30 or so comments on this esteemed Blog.

    I’d say, amongst all this ‘I don’t like them’ or ‘They are cool’ subjectivism — the pictogram designers have pulled off the ultimate trick… answering the basic brief of ‘symbols for the sports’ then over delivering with a exiting brand extension that gets the creative world talking. Surely no bad thing.

    Well done SomeOne. This is no mean feat!

    Well done 2012 for letting the designers go the extra mile.

  • Robert

    Really love the sketchs! I think they look great in black and white but I’d love to see them uplarge!

  • Ricardo

    C’mon James Good, your theory would justify any bad work… it’s pure retoric… A good work is a good work… it doesnt need so much retoric…

  • What a load of rubbish. The drawings are in consistent, badly drawn, horrible to look at. What a shame and how embarrassing too. We’re supposed to be world leaders in Design. This is a joke.

  • Martin Smith

    I love these, and Adidas have just used them on some new shirts… looks like 2012 is starting to turn cool.

  • “I’d say — Easy to knock, hard to do.

    Can you imagine how many meetings you would have to go through to get these out there?

    I think SomeOne have done a great job here.

    They are a pretty smart solution, I’ve not seen other Olympic pictograms do anything like this (with the two versions) and the tube map connection is a nice way of getting it connecting with the city and the branding.

    I’d say this a clever way of connecting all the parts together and finally making sense of the branding.
    Benjamin Martins”

    “People forget about the input clients have in todays industry. It’s easy to criticise work. I do it occasionally, we all do. But so often when working on a brief I and everyone else gets pushed around, or toned down by the idiot client. And it is infuriating.

    I really like these. I think the agency has had to bear in mind the style of the 2012 logo which can’t have been easy, and I can imagine that the IOC aren’t the easiest people to deal with. Each one was probably heavily scrutinized by the client hundreds of times to get it to where they are.

    I especially like the ones with horses. the swimming and the fencing. Not so keen on the synchronized swimming.

    What the world doesn’t need is more of this…


    Who’s not really in the position to be judging work of this caliber.

    Best 2 comments on here, We can’t add anthing more to this.
    Apart from we like them alot and understand how hard this would have been to do.

  • They are nice as graphic decoration and translate well into decorative artwork, but I think they are a wee bit fussy for their basic purpose of signage. They don’t even work too well reproduced here on the computer screen… little jiggy bits make them feel disjointed.

    I guess the Aicher originals were the ultimate answer and anything else will only be a deviation from that for reasons of style, not communication.

  • The posters look sexy, and like others have said the brand really looks fleshed out now.

    Don’t think the silhouttes look too bad either, and think the pictograms overall have a very aggressive feeling about them which is nice.

  • Ed

    Well they are a sunstantial improvement on the initial design for the London Olympics logo which has to be one of the worst logos ever. Sometimes I think that the design industry lives in its own little bubble, charges the earth and continuously fails to produce anything relevant. However, I do like these dynamic images, I think that they work well, much better than the main logo!

  • John Smith

    Typical that you guys across the pond sacked baseball from the London games. Afraid it would overtake your cricket in complexity and popularity, do you? I would have thought you would have found it a challenge, given the amount of skill and tactical expertise it requires…. but I guess not.

  • Sandra

    A little bit more modern approach. Well done :)

  • Bringing the pictograms up to date. Good work.

  • Milly

    On the surface I think they are pretty and suit the London 2012 Olympics branding as a whole, but I find it hard to distinguish some of them, for example if you read http://101.gs/fgx626, there are four different biking events. If I was given the list of events and four pictures, not sure I could match them together correctly. Great if you know a lot about the Olympic services and events, not so good for “newbies” like me… I do like the posters though, very bright and eye catching.

  • Initially I felt pretty uninspired viewing these, but the ‘dynamic’ set are more like it, great energy. They remind me a bit of an old UK Subs album cover – ‘Diminished Responsibility’ I think it was called. Very 80s retro, like the logo.

  • Graham Peake

    tough gig, well executed by SomeOne – they deserve a decent mention by the LOCOG lot…

    …which is far more than can be said for the “2012 London logo”.

    Was it really “designed” by a “TV/motion expert” or is that just a vicious rumour I’ve heard?

  • WWN

    I think SomeOne have done a great job here – the dynamic versions sit nicely with the London 2012 logo, which couldn’t have been easy to achieve. I also agree with Patrick that they have great potential in terms of animation.

  • Some really cool images, not that keen on the orange and black ones, but the rest are really good indeed. Roll on 2012

  • I’ve always liked Otl Aicher’s set for Munich in 1972 and it must be hard trying to create something of this unique quality with a modern feel. Each pictogram is clearly self descriptive and has an element of movement, adding energy and excitement. They are all very consistent except for one which I’m not going to mention, but it must have been designed on a Friday after an afternoon in the pub. Great job, well done!

  • Nice work, I think they look good I wonder what we will see within the olympics

  • Ric

    @Vekta. Do you mean sailing? That’s the odd one for me. They still feel good to me now, they have a level of dynamism and character.

  • Edgar

    Hello, Somebody know were can i find london olympic pictograms in vectors ai, cdr, psd, etc? thanks

  • Jono

    I like them. I think they are bold, colourful and easily identifiable. I appreciate the risk the illustrator has taken and the pressure to conform to conservatism would be immense. Well done for going with your gut.

    Good on you for being brave.

    It’s easy to criticise.

  • Majid Khosravi

    I really like them. they are creative and so nice.

  • There are some really mixed comments on here, I rather like them, far better than the monstrosity of a logo we currently have. Nice work!!!

  • The line designs are amazing! It is very original and different, not something I usually say about modern art haha

  • Loved the pictogram designs – worked really well at the games – have forwarded this to my son who is studying design at A level