The Olympic logo – one year on

We’re one year on from the celebratory haze of the London 2012 Olympics and there’s a great opportunity coming up to hear from two of the people responsible for one of its most memorable images.

The London 2012 Olympic logo
The London 2012 Olympic logo

I’m sure no-one needs reminding of the storm that was kicked up when the London 2012 Olympic logo was first unveiled, and two people who were at the eye of that storm were logo creators Brian Boylan and Patrick Cox, of Wolff Olins.

Now the Design Museum is set to reunite Boylan, who is still chairman at the consultancy, with former creative director Cox.

The pair will talk about the process of creating the logo, the complexities of the branding and (inevitably we imagine) the media furore that was kicked up in its wake, which saw the pair doorstepped by the national Press.

I saw Cox talk about the Olympic logo at last year’s Typo London, and he was witty, forthright and revealing.

London 2012 Olympics branding on Oxford Street
London 2012 Olympics branding on Oxford Street

‘Sometimes’, he said, ‘You don’t want everybody to be happy. Sometimes you want to cause friction.’

Cox and Boylan undeniably managed that. There were clearly flaws in the logo, but hearing Cox talking about the intentions behind it – ‘no stars, no brushes, no prancing, no nationalism, no nostalgia’, is revealing.

Considering the complexity of what the logo launch in 2006 had to do – ‘we had to claim a piece of the future, saying “this is a date to come and this is what it will be like”,’ – is pretty overwhelming.

And we can all agree that it came good in the end. Can’t we?

Brian Boylan and Patrick Cox: The Extraordinary Story of the Olympic Logo is at Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 on 10 September. Tickets are priced at £17. To buy tickets and for information on other Design Museum events, visit: designmuseum.org/events.

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  • Sean O'Mara November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Well its always interesting to here the stories behind the origins of design, but at the end of the day design is judged by the people that view and use it. They don’t know the stories. The work should and has to stand-alone. The reasons behind the logo and application may be noble and valid but it’s the execution that’s the issue for me.

    I would suspect with a design job this big and with so many people involved it may have been design by committee (that’s just conjecture on my part), which generally leads to a weak product. I am still struggling to see how this is good design. This was an amazing opportunity to put the best design minds into the pot to create exceptional design that people would look back on for decades and be an example really to the world how good we are at our craft. There can be a million lectures and discussions about what is good and bad design. Who am I to say but judging by the reaction at the time and general lack of support for it…it must be some kind of barometer. Of course taste and opinions do change. It might be all the rage in 200 years time.

    I didn’t like the logo when I first saw it. The supporting font was awful. Reminded me of the Greek style font on New York coffee cups which says “happy to serve”. Bad design is bad design no matter how you tart it up. When it was launched it was not explained well and it took along time for people to get used to it. However when I saw it in pink on the UPS vans and some of the knock through applications it did kind of work.

    When I see design I want it to touch my core and get me energized and inspire me, not learn live with it. The Olympic logo is one we have learnt to live with, as we had no choice.

    The graphic language and applications on the tickets etc was far better and kind of redeemed it a bit. But overall it’s not a great piece of design. It will only be in books because the event was important. If it were for something else it would have been panned and be long forgotten just like the British Airways tail fin fiasco.

  • Malcolm Gilbertson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I feel that the logo was rarely used or seen, I remember seeing ‘London 2012’ written everywhere in the supporting font which to me unfortunately was the most rememberable part of the brand. However, I loved all of the supporting graphics, icons etc. The above sting for Adidias is great and makes more sense of the actual logo.

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