Those Olympic posters: some alternatives

Earlier this month, 12 posters by leading artists for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were unveiled to a largely skeptical public. Given the same brief to respond to, Kingston University students have come up with their own versions

Earlier this month, 12 posters by leading artists for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were unveiled to a largely skeptical public. Given the same brief, Kingston University students have come up with their own versions

Over the current term, I have been doing some lecturing with the third year students on Kingston University’s graphic design and photography courses. A couple of weeks ago, following the release of the 2012 Olympics artists posters, course director Rebecca Wright and I asked the students if they would like to respond to the same briefy given the artists. We asked them for a personal response to the idea of the London Olympics and the intersection between art and sport. Here are their responses.

Leanne Bentley and Ben West came up with this cheeky and somewhat damning response to the artists involved with the official series: DNF stands for Did Not Finish, the ultimate Olympic fail.

For her poster, Ran Park overlayed images of athletes performing various sports to create this beautiful composition


A lot of the student responses were quite critical or dubious about the supposed benefits of the Games coming to London. Here Libby Wimble compares LOCOG’s ambitions to those of a Stalinist Five Year Plan: presumably she feels they have as little basis in reality as each other. The background to the poster is made up of 250,000 tiny tractors


Rosie Palmer and Helen Ferguson were also dubious, focusing on the terrorism threat


Tamara Elmallah was concerned about all the overcrowding the games will bring to the Tube, overlaying an image of spectators rendered in all the Olympic colours until it becomes a brown sludge of humanity


And Alice Tosey wants us all to ‘mind the gap’


And Paul Chanthapanya points to the insidious nature of sponsorship at the Games


While Stephen Messham points out that suffering in the world will not go away just because the Games are in town


Others, though, chose a more positive view. Benji Roebuck and Clara Goodger created their poster from the word for ‘hello’ in the languages of competing nations, allowing the ink from one word to run into another suggesting the coming together of different nations at the Games.


Coming together is also the theme of Jo Hawkes’ poster


And this cut paper piece by Fred North


Hannah Parker had a neat idea for a digital display in which segments would gradually appear over a period of time running up the opening of the Games until the image was completed


Maddy Whitty’s rather beautiful image of the madding crowd of spectators was created using jelly beans


Sam Carroll plays with those famous rings


While Signe Emma created this image from tape which she then photographed


Sophie Burt reminds us of the different races taking part in the games


While Felix Heyes, Josh King, Paul Nelson and Ben West cleverly capture the excitement of the starting block


The same team (minus Paul Nelson) also came up with this wonderfully witty idea. ‘Who’s there? The Olympics!’


Thanks to all the students who took part. They only had just over a week to come up with these, alongside all their other work. Set alongside the efforts of our illustrious artists, I think there are some worthy contenders here.

Read our opinion piece on the official 2012 Olympics posters here

  • Wow, nice job I like these. So many really good ideas!

  • I wish I went to Kingston instead!!

  • Some brilliant examples here. I particularly enjoyed Paul Chanthapanya’s sponsorship poster—it made me realise how quickly I could recognise the masked logos even with such little visual information. Scary, really!
    Always good to see new talent.

  • Some really great work but I love how cheeky Leanne and Ben were with their effort.

  • Alexander

    I hope those commenting on the original posters saying they wished designers had been asked to take part will be quiet now. Beyond dreadful indulgence. Why are no designers happy with an idea? It always has to be an ‘Idea’

  • ollie

    great work guys

  • zuko

    The ones at the start criticising the ‘artists’ posters are having their cake and eating it. You can’t say ‘designers would have done a better job’ whilst simultaneously completely ignoring the brief.

    Love the ‘Ring Ring’ one though, and the faces made of tape

  • It really makes me wonder why the committee went to professional artists at all. A student design competition would have been much more in keeping with the spirit of the Olympics and provide a unique opportunity to spotlight someof our very talented young designers.

    Richard M

  • Some really good ideas… but the bottom red line on the ‘mind the gap’ is a slightly different colour to the ring so you can see where they meet. :/ Shame as it really spoils the poster.

  • Brunowski

    Some absolutely fantastic images here. Brilliant work.

  • Some really great ideas. The Olympic Committee missed a trick on this and for the logo/branding. When pitching for London back in 2005 the Olympic Committee suggested that it would be for the people and that the country would be involved. Instead they’ve kept it corporate and exclusive, when it should have been inclusive. Why not hold competitions for all designers to come up with branding and poster ideas to showcase the talent we have in the UK? This little snapshot has already proved that these images already say more than some of the poncy images that have been chosen. Shame Olympic Committee. Nice one Kingston Uni!

  • LOVE THEM ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • James Davis – StudioSeven

    Before reading any info I thought this looks exactly like a student effort. Some nice ideas but they all fall short on the old aesthetics.

  • some very nice ideas – good work!

  • jim watters

    so much freshness here!. and what do we get. well we settled for second best. these are brilliant.
    Well done I love all of em….

  • Rosalind Pearson

    I think these should be printed and offered to the public, they are excellent; well done to the students and their fantastic talent! Hooray for Kingston.

  • Really fresh ideas, someones connect The Olypics with insigths. Great creative and graphic work!

  • Some awesome work here. For me the ‘Ready’ poster by Felix Heyes, Josh King, Paul Nelson and Ben West is great. Not only a great idea, but visually arresting and the right look/feel for use in a commercial/promotional situations which will be very useful when they start working on paid briefs.

  • Really great feedback. Thank you Patrick Burgoyne for giving us Kingston Students a voice.

  • Better than the commissioned posters.

  • Frank

    as far as ideas go yeah these are slightly intresting but jeez, aesthetically they’re all pretty ghastly. They just all feel rushed and lacking in any craft.

  • Tony

    Some are great. Some are horrendous.

  • The last two – very nice. Smart stuff.

  • Michael

    Earlier this month when the ’12 posters by 12 artists’ post was published on this blog, I said that setting the brief to students would produce much more interesting results….BUT my entry wasn’t deemed worthy enough to publish….

    Heck, Hem! some credit please.

    Aside from my self -centeredness, nice work….

  • Maddy Whitty’s is great. Felix Heyes’, Josh King’s, Paul Nelson’s and Ben West’s is a cracking idea too just needs a bit of polish on the execution. Nice to see the positive efforts as they’re much harder to pull off than the subversive pot-shots! Keep up the good work!

  • David Stimson

    Thought provoking ideas behind (in most cases) bad execution. Why on earth are some concentrating on negatives here? Is this how students are feeling? Surely a missed opportunity to embrace and celebrate the excitement and energy of the biggest sporting event in the world coming to our country.
    The world is watching, we’re supposedly one of the most creative countries in the world, so let’s not let ourselves down. Let’s be positive, upbeat and passionate, not damning and critical.
    Maybe your lectures need to be more upbeat Patrick?

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Michael

    Nothing to do with it not being deemed worthy. I’ve been back through all the comments submitted for that post in the CMS and there is nothing under your name making that suggestion so I can only conclude that there was some kind of glitch when it was submitted.

  • @ David Stimson

    Patrick gave us the same brief that the artists were given, to create a PERSONAL response to the Olympics. It was then up to us to decide how we dealt with it. As we had all done an Olympics bases project in first year we all had our own views/opinions and facts that some have continued to focus on with their posters here.


  • Michael

    @ Patrick

    My apologies. Great initiative to get students producing some alternatives….they look great.

  • dan hopper

    love the ring ring poster, very clever…. Although I’m sure some of the commentators here saying a competition should have been held would possibly be the same people complaining about spec work….. Also agree about the some of the negative designs, but thats what universities ask of our students – come up with something different!

  • Chris

    I think Ran Park’s is the coolest. Though without the explanation of the shape the viewer would be a bit confused. Conceptually it sums up the Olympic spirit for me. All of the sports and their competitors forming the whole.

    Leanne Bentley and Ben West’s effort exists only to place themselves on a pedestal. I admire the audacity to write off respected practitioners like that but the real world and the slayed artists await the both of them ; )

  • Hank

    This gives me hope for the future

  • micha

    was going to say they’re just as awful as the originals but the a couple of the last few made me smile.

    i’d call it even.

    which is probably still quite damning on the originals, imho

  • Alex

    The negative ideas just seem like they’re done for the sake of it.


  • lisa

    Can anyone work out what Sam Carroll’s poster says?

  • I really love the one with the corporate logos. Cynical, but sot very true sadly…

  • Dominic James



    Took me some time as some lettershapes do not follow conventional forms (T = two overlapping circles). It may be that the design is intentionally obscure/difficult, counter to the idea that it has to be understood in first 5 seconds, or that decoding is somehow a part of the design.

  • Helen Bamborough

    Agree with the comments about the negative responses as not sure what the ‘wooden spoon’ poster has to do with responding to the original brief – it’s more a take on the student’s response to the original artist posters no?

    @ Richard M and Mandy great idea about inviting the public to respond the brief. It’s amazing in a time when promotions and campaigns are aiming for interaction and audience participation that the LOCOG didn’t go ahead with an idea like this.

    Here’s my response to the brief – – this is what I felt about the Olympics after an epic day at the office!

  • Paul Wick
  • Stephanie Eaton

    My favourite was Ready by Felix Heyes, Josh King, Paul Nelson and Ben West. Overall, I liked some designs more than others which is unsurprising given they are a fairly wide range of styles. Can’t comment on the technical expertise as others have done, but as a mere consumer of graphic design most of these would make me stop and look. Good work by tutors and students.