Olympiad challenge

Design consultancies that missed out on previous 2012 briefs because of procurement hurdles could get a second chance to compete, as a raft of partner-led cultural projects search out branding help. Emily Pacey reports

Designers will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of artist Anish Kapoor, whose £19m interactive sculpture for the Olympic Park was unveiled at the end of last month.

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games’ prohibitive procurement processes are a bone of contention in a design industry champing at the bit to create for the 2012 Olympics, but which feel thwarted by its turnover, size and recycling policies. However, a new fount of potential work for smaller groups seems to be opening up in the form of the Cultural Olympiad.

Programming for the arts element of the games, which was recently taken over by new Cultural Olympiad director Ruth Mackenzie, centres around nine major projects covering film, theatre, music, art, museums and public spaces. Some of these projects are being led by Locog, while others will be run by partner organisations.

’Most opportunities for designers will come from the partner-led groups,’ says a Locog spokesman. These groups are free to choose their own design consultancies to create marketing materials and branding, but Locog itself is tied into a contract with McCann-Erickson and stablemate Futurebrand to provide its advertising and branding services.

One of the six partner-led projects is Somewhere To, which is currently in pilot phase. Funded to the tune of £5m by Legacy Trust, the programme will help young people to access spaces for sport, dance, music, art and showing films. The project will revolve around a website, with design and branding created ’to appeal to young people’.

The branding is already in place for Somewhere To, created by Caroline Pay, formerly of Mother, with graphic designer Neil Perera. A holding site has been created by Unit 9 while Legacy Trust seeks a host organisation to run the entire programme, which will include appointing designers to create a new website and marketing campaigns. The winning host organisation will be announced next month, with the pitch for the website design being launched afterwards.

’There are lots of opportunities for marketing and digital coming up, with the host organisation managing that entire process,’ says Helen Platt, executive producer of Somewhere To during its pilot phase.

A second programme, Stories of the World, will allow ordinary people to run exhibitions at about 50 museums and galleries across the UK. The project promises to provide ’all sorts of print and exhibition design opportunities for consultancies across the UK’, says Vanessa Harbar, 2012 project manager for the Museums and Libraries Archive. ’The best way for designers to get in would be to make local links with the lead partners, starting pretty much now’, says Harbar.

Other projects include the BBC’s Sounds, which will include composition and performance programmes such as the River of Music, a curtain-raiser to the 2012 games. The BBC says of Sounds, which is still in its early stages, ’We will be looking at the branding opportunities for Festival 2012 with Locog as the project progresses.’ It has declined to give further details on its design plans as yet.

There is also the World Shakespeare Festival, which the Royal Shakespeare Company is leading. ’The festival has its own vision within the official cultural programme for 2012, and it will have a distinct Web presence closely integrated with the RSC’s website,’ says RSC associate director Deborah Shaw. ’We are looking at developing new ways for audiences around the world to participate virtually, with a platform for user-generated content,’ she adds.

Another possible opportunity for a digital group is to design the dedicated Festival 2012 website for the Cultural Olympiad. While Locog is tied into its contract with McCann-Erickson and Futurebrand to provide all its branding services, it is understood that the contract does not cover digital design. ’As far as I know, we will be looking for a separate design group to create the site,’ says the Locog spokesman.

Designers seeking to work on the partner-led projects would be wise to consider the existing Olympics branding. ’All the projects should be part of the overall London 2012 look and feel, and we’re all working together to make sure that it is all joined up,’ adds the spokesman. Platt concurs, saying, ’The thing that will influence the website and any branding’s direction will be its relationship to the 2012 brand, as there will be times when it needs to sit very much in the Cultural Olympiad family.’

Arts festival

Ruth Mackenzie, director of the Cultural Olympiad, has introduced the idea of a 12-week nationwide arts festival to coincide with the 2012 games. The build-up to this should hold opportunities for designers to work with commissioned bodies

October 2010 – Locog will make some teaser announcements about the festival’s content

June 2011 – festival website launches

October 2011 – list of festival events announced

31 December 2011 to 21 June 2012 – series of taster events takes place

For more about major projects, visit www.london2012.com/get-involved/cultural-olympiad/major-projects/index.php.

To find out more about Stories of the World and its partners, visit


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