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

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