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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