London 2012: the look of the Games

As final preparations for the London Olympics continue, the LOCOG design team gives CR an exclusive tour of the Olympic Park and the installation of the thousands of graphic elements making up the look of the Games

As final preparations for the London Olympics continue, the LOCOG design team gives CR an exclusive tour of the Olympic Park and the installation of the thousands of graphic elements making up the look of the Games


As you enter the Olympic Park from the Westfield shopping centre, following the route that 75% of visitors will take once the Games begin, the first thing that greets you (after the Commandos and their metal detectors) is the Stratford Gate. This huge magenta angular construction (by Surface Architects) is unmistakably part of London 2012. Its form comes directly from the graphic language derived from the 2012 logo, its lettering combines Gareth Hague’s 2012 font with TFL’s Johnston typeface.


But if you have arrived here on the tube, if you have spent any time in a London borough, seen the Torch Relay or even if you have come direct from the airport, you will already have been thoroughly exposed to the ‘look’ of the 2012 Olympics. LOCOG claims to have taken the development of a consistent, comprehensive graphic language for the Games further than any previous Olympiad with ‘One Look’ applied from the airport all the way to the venue.

Just how this ‘One Look’ was developed from the original 2012 brand created by Wolff Olins will be explored in detail in the August issue of CR (our Olympics special, out July 25) where we have an exclusive interview with LOCOG director of marketing, brand and culture Greg Nugent.



The project was led by Futurebrand (with global ECD Shane Greeves and creative director Matt Buckhurst) which developed a comprehensive visual language out of the Wolff Olins work to a stage where the LOCOG design team could (again working with a 20-strong team at Futurebrand) apply it to dressing the Games. That dressing includes everything from street banners, to the Tube, to the Torch Relay to the Olympic venues themselves. When Wolff Olins revealed the 2012 logo in 2007, we were promised that the brand would really come alive once we saw it applied across all the Olympic elements. Finally, that vision is coming into being and the real potential of what has remained a highly controversial identity is being fully exploited.

All over London, banners proclaiming the upcoming Games have been going up, conforming to the standards set out in the London 2012 Look Book.


Olympic banners on Goodge Street, London W1


Tube travellers will also have noticed the Olympic signage going up in stations around the network. But it is in the Olympic Park that things really come together.

The Tube signage is all in magenta (one of the few colours not already used by the network) and the New Johnston TFL typeface. That is repeated on the Park itself. Wayfinding is led by Surface’s giant beacons whose architecture, like the Stratford Gate, takes its cues from the shard-like visual language derived from the logo.


The hierarchy of the beacons starts with major venues (typically the stadium) at the top as an aid to orientation, followed by smaller venues, entrances and exits and finally, nearest the ground, estimated walking times to points within the Park. Their gigantic size is mean to aid traffic flows as people will not need to gather too close around them to read the directions. LED displays top each structure.


Additional signage also takes its physical form from the shards generated from the logo.


The angular magenta wayfaring signs are carried through into the venues. This is from the athletes’ area of the Aquatic Centre (note the directions to the Synchronised Swimming ‘vanity area’ – a line of make-up mirrors and hairdryers ready for those last-minute touch-ups before going poolside).

Each venue has its own specific colour: as you near, say, the Aquatic Centre, the banners lining the paths change to the colours of that venue (blue and yellow in the case of water sports) leading you to where you need to go. These colour schemes are also carried through to the tickets (more on the tickets here).


Those specific colour schemes are then used to ‘dress’ the venues inside and out. Here, graphics panels for the Water Polo venue are being readied for installation.


Within the venues, the ‘prime asset’ of the Olympic Rings takes pride of place, while the London 2012 word mark is used in preference to the main logo. Below, graphics are being applied to the velodrome. In a first for 2012, the LOCOG team worked closely with photographers and broadcasters to ensure that not only would the venue graphics not interfere with their shots, but also that as many shots as possible would be able to feature 2012 branding. As a result of talking to photographers and TV directors, the LOCOG team have gone to extraordinary lengths to brand each shot, placing logos on, for example, water polo goal posts, the end of poles on show jumping fences and the top of the struts holding the pole vaulting bar.


Many of the Olympic venues are temporary, allowing the look of the games to be incorporated into their architecture. Here, for example, the temporary yellow and white seats in the Aquatic Centre use the shard pattern (as do the seats in the main stadium and the hockey arena).

The Olympic hockey stadium as shot by aerial photographer Jason Hawkes. For more on Hawkes’ work, see our post here

The hockey stadium’s distinctive blue field was the result of a request from the International Hockey Federation to LOCOG to help them raise interest in the sport. The LOCOG team developed the new colour scheme after extensive testing with players and broadcasters.

Even the floodlights of the main stadium were designed in response to the Games’ angular look, as was the wrap around the outside of the stadium which doubles as a wayfaring device (seat block numbers are printed at the bottom of the white strips).


Within the stadium, the look has even been applied to the numbering of the lanes on the running track which use the 2012 font.


In a nice touch, each venue also has what Nugent calls its “Anfield moment” – an image from London 1948 of a sign featuring Baron de Coubertin’s famous quote on the Olympian spirit which all athletes must pass on their way out to the playing area. This one is from the water polo venue.

The LOCOG team of 40 designers (Beijing apparently had around 800), led by head of look and feel Richard Hill and brand manager Maria Ramos, have had to produce some 250,000 items of design for the Games and the Paralympic Games (after the Olympics are over, the team has to redress all the venues with the Paralympic branding).

Even non-sporting venues have received the full ‘One Look’ treatment. Here’s the interior of the press centre.

Illuminated pictograms are used in this section for press releases on each sport.


And here the main press conference room.


The scale of the project on the Olympic Park alone is extraordinary as is the level to which the Futurebrand and LOCOG teams have gone to ensure a consistent, coherent visual experience. The logo will still have its detractors, but the way the look has been created and applied, across the Olympic Park, London and all over the UK, with the cooperation of local authorities, the GLA, TFL, sponsors etc is unprecedented. We were promised a brand and not just a logo, a comprehensive visual experience to an extent not seen in previous Games. Futurebrand and LOCOG have delivered just that.


The August issue of CR, our Olympics special, features an in-depth piece on the development of the look of the 2012 Games and an interview with LOCOG director of marketing, brand and culture Greg Nugent. Out July 25

Update: The team at LOCOG would like to pay tribute to Rik Zygmunt who was a member of the FutureBrand design team who developed the Look of London 2012. Rik tragically passed away on the 7th July, our thoughts are with his family and friends.



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  • Charlie de Grussa

    Bloody lovely

  • The olympic font is awful. It looks like when people gaffer tape their house number on their wheelie bin.

  • Chloe

    I’ve been lucky enough to go inside the Olympic Park and have been really impressed with all the design aspects. Like everyone else it took me a long time to warm to the branding but now i’ve been won over by it’s originality, bluntness and the fact it isn’t worrying about being timeless because it doesn’t need to be.

    woah… a positive thing about the Olympics…. didn’t think it was possible!

  • Steve

    Still can’t stand that typeface..!

  • Fran

    It’s unconventional but I think it’s reassuring to see all the assets coming together – they work beautifully together on the whole. Can’t believe I’m saying it after all this time, but it looks awesome.

  • dcoz

    When I fist saw the 2012 logo I kept an open mind however I was never keen on london in the logo lowercase.
    Always felt we should be proud and shouting its in London and not a pathetic shy ‘london 2012’.

    They seem to have addressed this in the installation/branding but for some reason kept it lowercase in the logo.

    Surely the first rule of branding is consistency?

  • JK

    The signage will, I’m sure do the job it’s meant to do and is in the end OK.

    But considering that the Olympics is meant to be a showcase of London and the UK as a whole and the UK is meant to be (one of) the leading centres for design art and creativity, the patronising ‘Dads dancing’ logo and appalling psuedo-greek font must surely negate much of the positive effects of such a showcase. It shows what London can do given billions of pounds and 8 years – come up with a sub-supermarket look for a kidz graffiti t-shirt (logo) and feta cheese promotion (font)

    Compare the font to the tfl one and the difference becomes quickly apparent.

    Could have done better and once the mistake was made should have quietly minimisied its use or created an equal but alternative look.

    I’m also ashamed and annoyed that TFL are defacing all tube stations with this crappy logo. Everything the logo touches cheapens – The torch is a great design but with the logo it’s turned into a piece of toyshop junk

  • I remember a lot of people came down quite hard on the logo in 2007. Which was a little sad and reactionary. Maybe small minded even. I think it’s pretty darn good and they’ve proved themselves competent applying third consistently and rolling this out as your images suggest. They should be given every credit for creating something quite lovely which still carries the essence of the original but much derided launch statement. I’d like to offer my congratulations and wish the tournament every success.

  • After seeing Universal Everything toy with the brand years ago I was sure it would work..Still hate Locog though.

  • Liz Farrelly

    Wow; a “first look” comprehensive review of a major branding achievement; and funnily enough the magenta is growing on me, it certainly works against sky, whether its blue or grey!

  • I could spend a whole day at the Olympics just taking in the design, let alone the games!

    The depth of work that has gone into branding such an event is immense – whilst being almost every designer’s dream to work on such a project of this scale and magnitude, it’s easy to stand back and comment, criticize, scorn or say how we could have improved either the individual elements of design such as the typeface, colour palette, logo etc (can’t say I was a huge fan when the logo was first introduced but it’s grown on me somewhat), or improve the overall process as a whole, without remembering that maintaining such a coherent level of branding & identity across the board is extremely hard to accomplish so well and quite successfully (in my opinion).

    And I have no doubt that there were many cases where ‘designed by commitee’ situations arose (a designer’s nightmare!), but the consistency, scale and quality of work shown are to be respected and rewarded by designer’s and non- designer’s alike…

    Bring on the Games!

    Sorry if I went on a bit…

  • Micha

    I quite like it, but then again I always did.
    Font works with far better with numbers. With letters it looks pretty horrific.

    Who the hell did that photoshop on the look book cover?

    Jesus wept.

  • Nic Hughes

    It’s a magenta ‘Gitmo’. The identity perfectly mirrors the States: ocular violence, Olympic ‘state of exception’ and general war against the populace (visually and legally).

  • Ed

    Aesthetic preferences aside, you really can’t fault the consistency and strength of the brand as a whole. The scale and extent of the executions is really impressive.

  • Martin

    The logo has grown on me but this execution is poor. Sorry…

  • Despite the ridicule the logo has had the supporting graphics do seem to have impact. All said it isn’t that memorable though and the font is quite awful.

  • mandy doubt

    [deleted by moderator. Please make some kind of meaningful contribution to the debate]

  • Jeff W

    its ok – cant help but feel it could have been so much better though. It just looks a little cheap.

  • Decimal

    The unifying look of any Olympic site is surely affected by the lack of advertising. Putting the logo on every surface doesn’t necessarily make it a successful brand. Only the Olympics gives you a canvas on this grand scale – painting it seems more perspiration and compliance than inspiration and creativity.

    Part of that is because the Games are like Bond films – you have mostly the same story in mostly the same clothes with a few signature pieces. They’ve done okay but I think protecting metropolitan/national pride is a factor here. I see very little to rival Vancouver 2010 let alone Munich 1972. The Canadian Olympic Team used the exact same method to get patterns from their maple leaf, by the way:

  • Andy K

    The sentiment of the original logo, which I liked, has all but gone. This just looks like any other corporate blanding exercise. I realise that it just has to do a “job” but I think it could have been more creative than it is.

  • Jane

    Woop woop, well done Surface!

  • The magenta is working well and bringing a much anticipated touch of class to the whole look.
    I would have liked to see the tracking adjusted between each letter, it just looks to clumsy. On the whole an effective and recognisable staple though, when tagging or labeling fuctional areas with either numbers or letters.

    The logo should be treated with care in terms of effective colour application as it can look flimsy, I also agree with the popular comments about the font inside the logo looking awkward.

    What is effective is how the look hangs together so well and compliments the stark, minimal white of the venues within the Olympic Park, as well as accompanying terrifically more traditional British architecture.

  • Henry

    Nothing from the original logo being revealed in 2007 to the various elements released along the way such as the pictograms, tickets and mascots speaks of a coherent or intelligent solution to the problem.

    Seeing all these elements together is the final nail in the coffin for me, it’s a massive and horrifically over-designed mess.

    Mostly, I feel disappointed that this is what we are making the world see. It’s a waste of a chance to showcase how we do things and can make things look. To me this only proves we don’t know what we’re doing at all.

    Finally, the combination of the 2012 font and Johnston is simply wrong. The use of Johnston, which is a fantastic font, is a cop out because it only serves to highlight the illegibility, and therefore redundancy, of the 2012 font.

  • The logo was always ok with me, not great but ok, but that font…. it doesn’t look any better. It’s like an angular Comics Sans. Awful.

  • Mexican

    It’s been stolen from a small agency in Monterrey, México

  • There are some cases where multiplicity of a logomark or “look” can strengthen something that is somewhat lacking on its own, but this does not happen here.

    I am still amazed that the athlete illustrations with missing hands and feet made it through the process. Awkward.

    Although I think the press centre design and track numbers are strong in relativity.

  • Tom

    Has anyone had the same nightmare experience as me working with this logo?

    As excited as I am for the actual Olympics, the branding is terrible, only works on a large scale such as signage and the typography is horrific.

  • K-S-T

    To be honest, I have to give credit to this design team. They have done a master task of bringing it all together as one unit. Some things you would Improve but overall a good functional system.. that’s different.

    I’m gonna get a lot of stick for this, but to have the font used for the numbers on the Olympic track is just Genius. Come on now… who wants simple legible numbers over and over again, room for change is a room to grow, and in a room that grow, history is made.

  • lovely work. I actually love the typeface.

  • Ben

    Hats off to producing a project of such immense scale, but there is no denying that the logo is still a sham and reflects badly on the reputation of British design internationally.

  • Molly

    i love the whole look, except the font. there are BILLIONS out there, and this was selected? would like to see what other fonts were in the running, and the reasoning behind choosing this particular (eye searing) option.

  • Mateus

    Whilst there a some elements I like the vast majority of the design and system is awful, its not a different taste its just ‘Very Badly Designed’ Wolff Olins just havent got a clue!

  • Bec

    If nothing, I appreciate this identity for its controversy.

  • nice photos

  • Jon

    The numbers on the running track are stunning. Really impressed with how this has all come together.

    Also, what a ridiculous comment above to say “Wolff Olins just havent got a clue”. Are you serious?

  • What’s with the generic arrows and toilet symbols?

  • “The LOCOG team of 40 designers (Beijing apparently had around 800)”.

    Sadly it shows. I’ll bet the 800 designers for Beijing were worked a lot harder too. There are a few nice ideas, but unfortunately the whole identity seems to lurch between the bland and the ridiculous. I dare say that Futurebrand have done a good job with what they were given. But great swarths of magenta and woeful ‘masking tape’ typography just don’t do it for me.

    With this identity, the logical conclusion would have been to dress the volunteers up in day-glo 80s shell suits.

  • After all this time I still can’t get used to 2012 London graphics, I find them hard to love.
    1.The edges of graphics are rough
    2. Too abstract – I can’t reffer to something from nature in the designs
    3. Too futuristic – in this regard I like it, but maybe in other context, somthing like X-Games

  • Bespoke fonts clearly give a brand ownership of its written elements but like many on here I find the font truly ugly and the larger it’s rendered the worse it gets.

  • Cheesy

    Wheelie bin comment is hilarious.

    Not a fan of this myself.

    Pretty awful looking.

    If I had thought of that it would have been an “in the wheelie bin idea” from me.

  • Martin

    I like the general feel of it, the signage is good, clear and informative. The logo has grown on me over the last few years. But this branding will never be looked at in years to come as a benchmark or as any mark on the Olympic creative directory.

    Has any Olympic branding stand out?
    Munich Olympic 1972 stands out for me (design wise, and not the terrorists!).
    Great use of the understatement unlike modern olympiad.

    Which one stands out for you, if any?

  • TM

    I was hoping this look would come together at the end but sadly not.

  • jason claisse

    Still hate the typeface – sorry

  • Cam

    You just can’t unsee the BJ in the logo. Call it juvenile, but that really should have been addressed – even subtly.

  • Ian

    Like most things there are the odd redeeming components to the design. But overall it’s a failure. It’s a tiresome design to look at, I find it visually fatiguing… I can’t imagine being bombarded by it in London everyday. When the Olympic branding screams louder than advertising you have a problem. Why everything has to be on angular shapes baffles me, despite the fact it’s wasteful and cost more to produce.

  • I like the effects of all the signages with the same shapes, really looks cool and I wish I can be there!

  • Really seems to divide people. As an effective coherent look it works really well, there’s no mistaking which elements of signage around London belong to the Olympics.

    I think a lot of the comments highlight people’s inherent conservatism when it comes to breaking certain ‘rules’ in design. An Aicher rehash isn’t what we needed.

    The main weakness for me is still the icons. Viewed at distance or digitally you really struggle to decipher them. For example on the BBC Sport website I had to roll over a number to find football, which should be evident from the icon, not a roll over word.

  • This will be a nightmare for the athletes. The distorted angles will throw off balance and depth perception. There will be massive complaints.

  • I’ve noticed the purple stickers on the inside of tube maps, looks like cheap vinyl slapped on top of the normal map.

  • Sunjay

    Johnston is such a cracking and timeless typeface.

  • The first time I saw this logo it literally hurt my eyes. As does the website. I think it’s one of the worst design concepts, and implementation I’ve ever seen Digital or not. It’s borders on being unreadable, literally painful to look at and decipher, and a complete zero in terms of usability. The design group got way to far away from function and in trying to be creative created a little thorn in the side of i fear most people. Logo’s and fonts and design should not be something that people have to get used to.

  • Jim

    stupid fonts and awful dazzling colors.

  • P Hardwicke

    I was so disappointed when I first saw this design. What an opportunity missed to make a real statement about this great country and it’s history – gone. I can’t believe this was even considered. I’ve tried to keep open minded and see the positive in the whole concept, but all I see is a complete waste of time and money. Bad job. Whoever is responsible should be ashamed.

  • Sally Smith

    Everything is absolutely fabulous, I particularly like the font, the colours (I live in Spain where colour is “muy importante”), and how the logo works with all the other designs. Many congratulations to the team – fantastic!

  • Devraj

    Here the designer has transformed the numbers into abstract ones and used dazzling colours to bring a huge ‘visual shock’, but for what? The name ‘Olympic’ itself is compelling enough to attract. The designer could have used this oppurtunity to potray something like ‘royalness’ or anything which is dear to the Britons and also pleasant to the world!

  • My personal response upon seeing the logo in 2007 was indignation and a feeling of slight injury. I wasn’t a fan.

    Although I could say that after seeing the ticket design for the opening ceremony AND watching a recording of the ceremony I can say that it is a design job well done. I’m impressed by the consistency of design execution in so many products (signage? track numbers? the fact it didn’t clash with any of the tube lines’ colours?) and have come to appreciate the thought processes that the designers went through. I’m still not a personal-taste fan of it, although professionally it has a certain cohesiveness and well-rounded risk-taking to it.

  • Dan

    Where are the images showing the banners that decorates the venues’ interior??

  • sky

    Nice photos, but I agree with ThinkNuts… I don’t like that logo.

  • Franz

    I didn’t love the logo at first but as London 2012 passed I kinda grew to love the look. It wasn’t as “trying-hard-to-be-monumental” as Beijing or Athens. It clearly just wants to accentuate the energy of the games. Aesthetically yeah not good but in some way it does help give the place an energetic feel.

  • Sam Q

    When interviewing designers or design firms I often show them the 2012 Olympic logo and mascots. If they have anything positive to say about either I know I’ll never work with them. I can’t understand how something that ugly was designed and approved.