Creativity and effectiveness will win over a cynical media

Wolff Olins chairman Brian Boylan said in a memo to staff last week that it is too early to assess the consultancy’s identity for the 2012 London Olympics

Wolff Olins chairman Brian Boylan said in a memo to staff last week that it is too early to assess the consultancy’s identity for the 2012 London Olympics. Well, he would, wouldn’t he, you may say, however crude many in design believe the work we have seen to be.

But, sources close to the project describe it as ‘a brilliant strategy’, disappointingly exercised in the versions shown in the media. As ever, public response is based solely on a logo, seen mainly in print and not in the context of the many applications it will have to work in. Many applications will be digital – on TV, mobile phones, websites and so on – and few identities yet win public acclaim for both print and digital manifestations.

Like BT’s ‘prancing piper’, also by Wolff Olins, and Lambie-Nairn’s rethink of the BBC identity, the media has focused not just on visual aspects, but on the cost to tax-payers.

The latter is easily answered, as all branding bears a cost, be it good or bad, but if it is done well it is an asset. As with the BBC identity, cost-savings can be actually achieved.

The first point is harder. A logo isn’t intended to work in isolation, as shown in the media, and, as Boylan intimates, the appropriateness and consistency of design and message can’t truly be assessed until it is fully implemented.

A great client can identify at those early stages what works best – using a ‘design czar’ the team behind the 2012 Olympics appears to lack. But designers too need to make the case as forcefully as possible about how branding really works.

One way is to win awards with work that crosses platforms in an elegant and thoughtful way. Design Week’s Benchmarks were set up with exactly that in mind, just as the Design Business Association’s Effectiveness Awards deal with the benefit of design to the client’s bottom line.

Support both and you’ll be doing your bit not just for your own reputation, but for that of the industry at large – and building the long-term value placed by the media on design.

Lynda Relph-Knight, Editor

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