Olympics 2012 branding backlash ‘damages profession’

As the London 2012 organisers and Wolff Olins get their thoughts together on how to deal with the negative reaction to the £400 000 branding, the work continues to invite widespread condemnation

As the London 2012 organisers and Wolff Olins get their thoughts together on how to deal with the negative reaction to this week’s £400 000 branding launch, the work continues to invite widespread condemnation.

At the launch on Monday, Lord Coe and the games’ chief executive officer Paul Deighton heralded the emblem as ‘dynamic, vibrant, contemporary, flexible and inspiring’, representing a ‘savvy world where people no longer relate to static logos but to a brand that works across traditional and new media networks’.

However, a raft of largely critical reactions have been flooding in to www.designweek.co.uk, and other news outlets, labelling the branding as visually confusing, disappointing, embarrassing and disjointed.

An on-line petition, signed by more than 21 000 people, has been set up to ‘call on the London Olympic Committee to scrap and change the ridiculous logo unveiled for the London 2012 Olympics’.

At the same time, there has been a degree of camaraderie among designers who have said it was a difficult task to live up to; and that it will appeal to the target audience of young people and work well across digital media.

Jim Richardson of Sumo Design has pointed out at designweek.co.uk that the negativity damages the way the design profession is perceived by the public and devalues its work in the eyes of clients. ‘When people ask why Wolff Olins was paid £400 000 for this identity, they are seeing just a marque, which they don’t like,’ he says. ‘A huge amount of research and development has been put into creating an identity. It is typical of our profession and our country to knock this logo before we have had a chance to see how it works.’

William Higham of trends consultancy Next Big Thing says, ‘It is looking at how the Olympic Games are going to be presented and broadcast over the next five years. They had to give the brand mobility to work across mobile phones and mobile TV.’

Wolff Olins was briefed to devise an emblem that represented access, participation, stimulation and inspiration. It aims to be flexible and to be read by people of all ages around the world. The consultancy declined to comment as Design Week went to press.

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  • ML November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The public has a right to comment on an identity which represents them. In 2012 we will all be judged on how good the Olympics are.
    We know a brand is more than a logo and no one would really question the cost of this identity if it was relevant/clever.
    The Olympics are a unique opportunity to promote the strengths of the UK to a truly global audience. Creativity is supposed to be one of our main strengths. Sadly the London 2012 brand identity looks like a lost opportunity. Let’s hope it is the last.

  • James Boulter FCSD November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The fiasco over the olympic symbol reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes where everybody knew he was naked but nobody dare say so at the risk of being thought a fool. London 2012 organisers – are they the fools? They are so engulfed by the hype that they cannot see what we, as lesser mortals, can all see.

    And another thought – the logo and its treatment is so “now”. In 5 years time will it be so “was”?

  • Dennis Sisterson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Re the Olympic committee’s defence that the logo should appeal to young people – it sounds like they think kids are only interested in graffiti. Has anyone asked these young people what they think of the logo? I’d be interested to hear.

  • mark taylor November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It should be legible if anything and this is not. First impression was of a shattered map of London and only after a few seconds could I make out the 20R. I know a lot of professional athletes who view the whole thing with despair as their message of hope & excellence in sport is lost in this media circus. Heading for another dome I feel.

  • Juliana Farha November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The trouble with the Olympics logo is simple: it’s ugly and meaningless. It is unclear what Jim Richardson means when he says people should give it a chance to ‘see how it works.’ In this case, the ignorant plebs are the citizens of London, who also happen to be the (effective) client. They’ve made it clear that they are not prepared to have so-called experts tell them not to trust their own eyes and minds. And I’m not sure what planet Richardson is living on when he complains about the way the design profession is perceived in the UK. I know of no other country that celebrates design the way this one does.

  • Mike Hart November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I love it. It completely changes your perception of the Olympic games. The new identity revitalises the senses like no identity before it. This will set the bench mark for challenging and inspiring how future Olympic games will be branded!

    It’s different. Change is good!

  • Michael Martin November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I fail to see ‘the big idea’ in this logo design, it is merely a fashion statement, and a bad one at that! What a sad state of affairs when at one end of the design spectrum a so called industry leader can command £400 k for this dog’s dinner and at the other end you can go to a so called ‘Logo Design Guru’ on the internet and buy a logo design for as little as £50. If this is indeed a reflection of the current state of the ‘graphic design’ industry, then the only word that springs to mind is ‘crisis’.

  • Jack Caban November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Well it has definitely got people talking if that was the aim. I was in Sydney when they unveilved the logo for the 2000 games and even that one (which was very traditional) received a fairly ordinary reaction and probably for the same reasons – everyone is so hung up on the costs and other whinges about the olympics that they hated it before they even saw it. Then to be presented with something as challenging as this … it was never going to be a smooth ride. I am sitting on the fence, I didn’t like it at first, but it is growing on me and I am excited to see how it will ‘evolve’. In any case, I give a big thumbs up for the concept (and for their bravery).

  • Goulash November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The public will not be fooled by whatever
    spin is used to defend this.

    Branding relies upon convincing clients
    that they need something which they really don’t.

    Is that controversial?
    No, it’s the truth which is shared by
    the public.

    An agency could have produced that
    for 10% of the fee, leaving the organisers
    to spend the rest of the money on
    more useful areas.

  • andrew November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I think this logo is genius, it challenges all the rules set by tradition. All the previous logos have been bland and boring and this isn’t. It reminds me of 80’s skateboard graphics which has now become something of iconic status. I can’t unserstand why people are getting so fluster about it….or is it just the over 40’s that it bothers.?!?!?!?!?

  • zoe November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    A design brief and branding is a delicate a difficult task to take up whether it is a small company or a giant event. Limited perspectives on what makes a brand, what it takes to produce it and how it is applied (that’s right, £400 000 wasn’t just spent on the logo, probably a large brand guidelines document was produced, stationery, animations and other collateral as well) shows that the public, as much as they believe they understand how to design and how it works, are ignorant of what a brand is built to do.

    By the way I don’t believe it is the strongest of marks, but as I wasn’t there, and as other designers would know, it isn’t always down to you…

  • Andy Sturt November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It gives the profession an opportunity to be heard by a wider audience. Unfortunately many of those who are being given the opportunity to voice their opinions are going with the crowd and reacting negatively which is great for the papers. This is more likely to to damage the games more than the profession. Let’s try and look at the bigger picture!

  • xian xial November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    This logo looks like the third option, that you stick in because the pointed hair boss likes it. The client should never ever have seen this.

    The olympic rings are the basis of what you work with. They have to be recognised even when the logos been faxed twice, same goes for the word london, custom font or not.

    Even if the 2nd 2 was the same as the first, it might be readable, if its supposed to be graffiti then get a bloody graffiti artist to do it.

    Theres how many working graphic designers and artworkers in this country, never mind the students (who we’ve all had work from) and none of them would come close to thinking this was a good logo/brand.

    It would be interesting to see what other designs were presented at the same time, they couldn’t have being any worse.

  • Jessi Long November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The brand of the 2012 olympics as defined in “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier (2005) is very strong. It provides a personal connection to the games. The brand inspires me to get up and be a part of the games. I feel as if I can make a difference for my country/the world by doing something I am physically capable of.

    However, the logo representing that brand lacks connection to it. I’m interested to watch the group responsible for it fight to make that connection in the next five years. It’s not good design according to the swiss model. It bears resemblance to the ’80’s street design and emigre.

    I don’t feel that it was necessary to stoop to low design to make people feel connected to the games, but I’ll be interested in watching the reputation of both the olympics and european design change over the next five years due to one logotype.

  • Helen Brady November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I feel that to just knock this logo without having the background information of the brief is easy. But I do feel that just releasing the static version to the public was fool hardy. The biggest thing that perhaps the brief and the end product has failed to do is connect with the end user. The public!

  • Rory Niles November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    To me, this logo is not a good image for Britain!
    I know several people in the “young demographic” that also think it is a load of rubbish!
    They should’ve stuck with the logo they used for the bid campaign – there was nothing wrong with that!

  • Jessamy Fox November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    In my opinion some very good ideas have been put forward and executed incredibly badly. The results are embarrassing and patronising on so many levels. Considering the obvious demand British society has to voice their opinions, and the daunting thought of the amount of money we will each be forced to pay out to host the Olympics, surely a development process that involves the public, giving them a sense of ownership and togetherness would have been more appropriate? This sort of audience feedback could be very cheaply developed and managed using the media and the internet and the vast number of people in the UK whose opinions come free of charge.
    I think it’s great that the design is to evolve and embraces new media, but is a “clever” design suitable in this context? Who says the general public are bored of Olympic circles, sports graphics and city skylines? At what stage did we all shout out “Give us a brand that alienates us all by being too clever and makes fun out of a niche reference group by using their style to represent the whole community!”
    If the audience were involved in a big way from the start, I strongly feel a brand that everybody is proud of and excited by could have been developed.

  • Joo November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I think the logo smacks of a marketing team getting involved where an agency could have produced a classic quite effectively on their own – look at the lasting brand developed for ‘Big Brother’ for example. its true that the brief is enormous but I can’t help thinking that the identity has been fully led by people that should be advisors and consultants to designers not in charge of the operation themselves.
    A few have mentioned that it is good to be brave and bold and challenge perceptions – I agree but let’s not forget that design is essentially ‘commercial art’ not ‘fine art’ and we(as designers) have to push the boundaries whilst also serving the function of the original brief – it’s no good designing a beautiful chair no-one can sit on…

  • Irwin Gueco November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    please stop with the innovative comments on how the 2012 logo is so innovative from the previous logos. I think the first one to challange that concept which they did successfully was Barcelona in 1992. it reflected the country of Spain and Olympic ideals beautifully. The concept of having a logo with no reference to the event or country is ridiculous! remember what British Airways tried to do in the 90’s with thier livery?…it’s the same thing….

  • Marc Jones November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The 2012 logo isn’t “young” it’s “now”. There is a big difference. IMO it talks down to young people by attempting to be young in its own right. It looks great alongside the Nu Rave culture that is currently seeping into trendy youth markets – revamped Nike clothes and cherry picked 80’s iconic images such as the Rayban Wayfarer revival – but it’ll look as appealing as a bell-bottomed hippy pastiche in 7 years time. The answer (and the nail to hit re Blair’s brief) would have been to make it truly inspiring to all and surely when it appeals en masse it’ll have hit the youth market as well. Aiming for the kids is just a graphic (pun intended) example of how our profession come sometimes look very middle-aged white middle class. The £400,000 would have been better spent on a prize winning initial draft from a high school or it would have been better spent setting up an X Factor style competition!

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