London 2012 design icons – the Olympic logo

The London 2012 Olympics identity has had an interesting existence so far. Unveiled in 2007 to a less-than-enthusiastic reception (with some commentators memorably suggesting that it resembled Lisa Simpson engaged in a sex act), the identity has, for the last five years, been rolling out on touchpoints across the country – on more than 250 000 individual designs.

Logo

Much of the original criticism of the logo came down to two issues – the first was that Wolff Olins, which designed the mark, was unable to fully discuss its design rationale, due to media restrictions.

The second was that the real purpose of the identity wasn’t as a standalone logo, but as a brand that  had to come to life in the run-up to, and during, the Games. It was very difficult to imagine, in 2007, how this might work.

Since Wolff Olins developed the identity, it has been handed over to Futurebrand and Locog, who have been beavering away at the brand applications – from tickets to shops to Olympic venues. The aim, according to Locog, is to create a brand environment that ‘extends across every aspect of the Games, from spectator arrival into Heathrow all the way through to the colours and designs of the seats in the venues.’

Olympics branding on Oxford Street
Olympics branding on Oxford Street

So now we’ve had five years to digest the Olympics identity, what do people think of it now?

Nick Couch, managing director at Figtree, describes the identity as ‘Bright, energetic and slightly dysfunctional… It reflects London.’

His main gripe has been with the brand application since it launched, ‘It’s an identity that promises diversity and yet it’s been used like a stamp since it launched.’ Couch points to Matt Pyke of Universal Everything’s Adidas Olympics animation as an ‘integrated’ exception to this.

Paul Bailey, partner at 1977 Design, was another who was receptive to the branding’s potential when it launched, ‘I would be lying if I said that I was a huge fan of the logo in itself, but I did think that the approach had a certain energy and potential, and so was willing to give it time to develop.

‘The fact that it was far from an obvious response appealed to me; it could so easily have used clichéd national references.’

Bailey says that having seen the different brand applications, he’s still a fan of the brand’s ‘personality and energy’.

Ticket designs
Ticket designs

‘For all it’s faults – I’m not saying it is perfect – the brand environment for London 2012 has an energy and a distinct look. The fact that it doesn’t use stereotypical “British” references and also avoided design trends (remember this was launched in 2007) has been a big benefit to how well it works as a distinctive brand.’

Jack Renwick, formerly creative director at The Partners and now founder of Jack Renwick Studio, says, ‘When the identity first launched I wasn’t a massive fan and found it quite ugly and dated but I appreciated its bravery. London is different, we’re edgy and cool, we have a history of risk-taking and irreverence, maybe this was going to be the “London” way.

‘I don’t like to put the boot into anyone else’s work but I’m still waiting for the exciting, radical communications to transpire. Any visual identity should inform and inspire, none more so than a worldwide event like the Olympics. Instead I just see disparate pieces of communications, and most importantly, the emotional rallying cry behind the Games is almost entirely lacking.’

Olympics branding on Oxford Street
Olympics branding on Oxford Street

Renwick places some of the blame on the ‘difficult-to-read’ font, which she says, ‘makes it difficult to absorb that communications are anything to do with the Games.’

She points to the much-maligned artists’ posters as a ‘classic example of trying to show off creativity at the expense of communication’.

‘It’s alienating for people who don’t “get” it’, says Renwick, ‘and the lack of any strong visual system means that if you fail to spot the ever-changing logo in the corner you can mistake them for any other London cultural event.

Work Number 127 by Martin Creed, produced as an artist's poster for the Olympics
Work Number 127 by Martin Creed, produced as an artist’s poster for the Olympics

‘The idea of a flexible, do-what-you-want system sounds great in principle, but when you have so much ground to cover you need to keep it simple. In it’ attempt at demonstrating diversity it’s simply stretched itself too thinly.

‘The irony is that from wanting something radical, I’ve now found myself craving some classic posters with actual sporty stuff on…’

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Comments
  • Nat November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Loved it from day one. Well done WO.

  • Julie Giddens November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I thought the logo was rubbish when it was launched and I think exactly the same of it now. The consultancy who designed the London 2012 logo should have had an opportunity to work on it. Having said that the various applications have been quite good such as the street banners and the tickets. Team GB looks good too. It all smacked of politics at the time and nothing since then has changed my opinion of it.

  • Petroula Zamani November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I think its a laugh for the UK to present itself like that! A very ugly logo which actually has ruined all the memorabilia that has to follow! Designer.

  • Dean Chillmaid November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I’ve always like the logo. I think, in a typically British way, people just poured scorn on the logo jumping on the bandwagon, simply because everyone else disliked it. Its fresh, young and has attitude. What else do you want… the expected river going through some rings via a few London landmarks? Where would the creativity be in that?

  • dj November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It’s an old story, but this work was a noble attempt at capturing Britain’s diversity for sure – a bit ‘street’ and certainly noteworthy.

    The big challenge is that when created a few years back, a sense of future thinking, irreverence and hope was still gripping Britain.

    Post Jubilee glorification of all things traditional, combined with our dour, conservative feelings around the so called austerity times have dampened it’s appeal and made it look and feel like an Olympic sized joke I’m afraid.

    I feel for the designers, but also agree it’s not Britain’s finest design hour.

    By contrast, I think the TeamGB kit is stunning; a sense of restraint and modernity well harnessed..

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

    I’m still not a big fan of it but it’s definitely going to be remembered for a long long time.

    Outside of the Olympic rings I can’t remember much of the past logos and certainly none of them have stuck in my head like this one.

    I won’t forget it any time soon and I think that kind of makes it a success

    From the logo and typeface you instantly know what it is, it’s London 2012

    …or Lisa Simpson

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

    When the logo was launched; I didn’t get it.
    It looks like one of those accidents you have while deleting anchor points. It looked cheap, and I couldn’t see the craftsmanship.

    Now… I like its application. I like the brand development. I like how it works when placed next to other company logos… It’s energetic, and it works.

    But… it still looks cheap.

    From a Designer/Brand Manager

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

    What IS Lisa Simpson doing with that man?

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

    Not very keen the 2012 logo. For me there are a variety of things that are amiss. Firstly, it is ‘ too hard, ‘ lacking flow or movement and does not read very well but overall it is very ugly. The five colour rings that are used still work better.
    We could have done a lot better, there are design houses capable of a more eventful design. db

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

    Great how the look and feel has come to life. Love the edgyness/thinking behind its rationale but with so much negative feedback (rather than pride), you have to question its execution. I do think Tiswas when i see it. (Was half expecting the Phantom Flan Flinger as the official mascot)

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

    we were all told to expect clever and imaginative developments of the logo/ brand as the olympics approached. we were told that would be its strength going forward – how the disassociation with normal trammelled thinking would help us understand how clever it was. How it would become liberated with all its applications.

    Yet I still wait.

  • Nigel P November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I didn’t like it at all when it came out. The last ‘2’ was broken and the pink was horrible, but now I see it as a brand I think its great.

    Now that the logo is from the same font family as the rest of the text used elsewhere it looks great. I like that it is different and the term ‘street’ really describes it well. It is young and cool.

    Well done to the designer for the forsight to see how the brand could be developed. The team kit is great and so are the ticket designs. I proud to be british again!

  • Clare Whiting November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It’s an awful logo, nearly as bad as the previous BT logo, the God Pan, with his legs cut off!

  • johnny smith November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Worst logo ever. What is Lisa Simpson doing to Bart?

  • Stuart Chapman, The Big Picture November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Sometimes designs that seemed shocking at first can later mature like a fine wine – is the London 2012 identity one of them?

    Read our Guardian article on this topic – http://www.guardian.co.uk/media-network/media-network-blog/2012/jul/25/london-2012-logo-identity

    Stuart Chapman, The Big Picture
    http://www.bigpicture.co.uk

  • Rebbe Lation November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    What brought my attention to this awful logo initially was that it did not function as a brand (logo) it had an odd proprietary font, bad typography, extra characters and placement was strange.
    It almost resembled a Japanese “Tan gram” puzzle.

    http://flickr.com/photos/83600074@N03/sets/72157630772777532

    However, once I started to look at it as a puzzle it started to make sense. At least to me it makes sense. If you print out the original style logo cut out the shapes and put it together, the cut out paper pieces you are presented with,you can form the numeral 9. Two towers with what could appear to be a plane flying into them (forming the number 11) and other pieces form the Pentagon.

    Other people look at this and either think I am nuts or a little too Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code).

    If it was only the original logo that bothered me, I would say it might be coincidence. Just maybe.

    Looking at the Paralympics made me even crazier. It was like being given more puzzle pieces.

    View images of the logos deconstructed and reconstructed in layers.

    http://flickr.com/photos/83600074@N03/sets/72157630772777532

    Comments Please

    Rebbe Lation

  • Rebbe Lation November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    What brought my attention to this awful logo initially was that it did not function as a brand (logo) it had an odd proprietary font, bad typography, extra characters and placement was strange.
    It almost resembled a Japanese “Tan gram” puzzle.

    http://flickr.com/photos/83600074@N03/sets/72157630772777532

    However, once I started to look at it as a puzzle it started to make sense. At least to me it makes sense. If you print out the original style logo cut out the shapes and put it together, the cut out paper pieces you are presented with,you can form the numeral 9. Two towers with what could appear to be a plane flying into them (forming the number 11) and other pieces form the Pentagon.

    Other people look at this and either think I am nuts or a little too Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code).

    If it was only the original logo that bothered me, I would say it might be coincidence. Just maybe.

    Looking at the Paralympics made me even crazier. It was like being given more puzzle pieces.

    View images of the logos deconstructed and reconstructed in layers.

    http://flickr.com/photos/83600074@N03/sets/72157630772777532

  • Rebbe Lation November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
  • Damien November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The logo, the typography and the brand as a whole is an unforgivable abomination. It fails to capture the spirit of the Olympics and the logo and font appear hopelessly amateurish. Sadly, the font seems to be an attempt at reflecting the characteristics of the logo and given the logo has no redeemable character, the entire brand has been dragged down. A disappointing shame to say the least.

  • Michael St.Mark November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    As if clumsy nightmareish design isn’t enough, the brand is also a plagiarism of a 2006 London artwork titled “Infinitude II” – copyright infringement claim still ongoing. To view background info’ search Olympic Logo Dispute, or OlympicLogoDispute.blog.co.uk

  • Dave Bowers November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The comments here strike me as an exercise in trumpet tooting… by going with the flow, ganging up on someone else’s creative work, the inference is that you can do better, without having to actually put your money where your mouth is. The design industry is plagued with this cowardly oneupmanship, particularly when it comes to high profile branding projects.

    For what it’s worth, I think the branding is refreshingly different and represents the spirit in which we’ve hosted the games – to no-one’s template but our own.

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

    The logo was atrocious and the brand looks exceedingly cheap.

    It may be radical but this is a step too far!

  • Carl M. November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I have to say that the symbol has grown on me slightly over the last few years. It is still far beneath the quality of what could have been created, but it does stand apart, feels rather “East London” and is certainly memorable. But then again, so is foul smelling rubbish. Overall I’d give it a D (American terms for a near failure.) The graphic element that eclipses this visual horror is the “London 2012” typographic treatment that one sees far more often at the games than the symbol itself. This design (if one can call it that) is truly an embarrassment to not only the the British people and to designers everywhere, but frankly to anyone who can read. It is absolutely the worst bit of typography I have ever seen created.

  • SM November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    This logo was always a mess – style over substance, an attempt to be too clever by half – and it still looks like a splodge. At an event this week I pointed out to my 19 year old daughter that the logo was in fact 2012 and, after 5 years of seeing it, the penny suddenly dropped.
    And as for the associated strange cuddly toy mascots – I’d be surprised if there aren’t many many available afterwards for half price. Even the BBC is using a different cuddly toy on their swimming coverage.
    Some of the executions – for example the tickets – have been lovely, but that’s because they seem to bear little relation to the main logo.
    It seems so obvious but why didn’t they cleverly use the London Transport logo as a basis for the lOndon Olympics? the answr: too obvious, too clear and too good for smartass designers.

  • Michael St.Mark November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The logo’s basic shapes and function are claimed to have been copied from a 2006 artwork.
    And through that portal, gone on to inspire Olympic graphics ranging from the stadium wrap to the basketball arena….right down to the ticket design.
    This jagged shapes that change colour are everywhere!
    http://www.olympiclogodispute.blog.co.uk

  • maxwell macleod November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Stupifyingly hideous, how do we allow such ugliness to be accepted?
    Here in Scotland our entire devolution experiment has been overshadowed by a hideous building, just as the olympics has been over shadowed by this mess. Might i suggest a little democracy in iconic items should be allowed?

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

    I have loved the logo since day one but understand peoples doubts towards a different logo style, but like in previous comments this logo and the london olympics will be remebered for a long time to come. I think the logo looks most successful when displayed in and around the olympic park for example the centre of the basketball court, swimming pool and on the tickets. Its small aspects like this that i think makes the logo stand out and give off a great visual perception.

  • Richard Williams November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I have never warmed to the logo. It lacks any sort of consideration, style or elegance – it’s a piece of graffiti and, heaven knows, we have enough of that already. Even worse, is the accompanying , clunking, typestyle a complete aberration.

    Who voted this crap through?

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

    I feel bad for all the people who had to use white duct tape to put “London 2012” all over town. You’d think they could have sprung for some precut letters from Fast Signs.

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

    I don’t like either the logo or font. It’s clearly trying to be edgy, but it ends up looking like a throwback from the 1980s.

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

    What designer says about word ZION in logo?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OORy-KRl6OM&feature=related

  • shadow of my former self November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I hated this logo when it first appeared. How can this ugly, brutish, jagged mark symbolise the games in London? Why isn’t it slick, shiny, streamlined, elegant, superficial and shallow. Why isn’t it the modern equivalent of the woolmark or Faber and Faber logo’s? London isn’t happy people all holding hands, perfect buildings, and perfect weather, it’s has evolved in a haphazard way over the generations. It’s gone through population explosions, cultural upheaval, design and technology changes, wars and austerity, boom and bust, and most of you know our history. Although you could apply this to most cities the difference is that they gloss over it. The real personality conflicts with the image presented. I realised how clever Wolff Olins had been at breaking the mould, coming up with something that is irreverent, energetic, individual, powerful and in your face! It doesn’t hark back it shouts. ‘here I am, I am the graffiti on the high street, the chipped paving stone, the housing estates, the designer architecture, the ancient streets and institutions, the multicultural communities, the rush hour and traffic jams, the groundbreaking arts culture, the social network, etc. The Olympic logo’s of yesteryear are a mixed bunch, so predictably crafted and some quite beautiful but none of them are as distinctive as 2012. Look at the logo for the Rio games which looks like an over photoshopped version of a logo created in the late 1980 for private healthcare. Compare it with the logo for The Commonwealth Games 2014 in Glasgow which is overly complicated, rigid and devoid of life.

    This 2012 logo has worked perfectly on all types of media-from the humble sticker to phone apps and large screens. It has also managed to contain the Olympic rings symbol and extra type. Bravo WO for daring to be different. This ugly mark has got more column inches than any other and I suspect will stand out for many years to come. Love it or hate you cannot ignor it. It’s so bad it’s good.

  • caroline Lees November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Where can I buy a street banner for the Olympics please. 2012.

  • Matt Shelley November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The version of the logo with the union jack was easier on the eye, and maybe more relevant, but to be honest, it’s made me question whether our preconceptions about branding are genuine.

    Paul Rand said if you see something often enough you get used to it and I kind of agree in this case.

    Come July 2012 no one was walking round London tutting at ‘dated’ colours. It was just part of the visual landscape. And backed up with that unique font, and bold, brash colours it was impossible to be confused or get lost, or mistake the olympic branded collateral for anything else.

    Already the Rio logo looks amorphous and bland.

    I don’t love the logo, and can appreciate the reasoning most other people use to dismiss it, but actually it’s worked really well, whether we like it or not. And after the success of the games, in hindsight, it’s just a logo.

    The real London Olympics ‘brand’ will live on for decades.

  • n November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    n

  • n November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    nii

  • Georgette Lee-Magin June 25, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    I find it hard to love the logo despite the efforts of branding… Sure is memorable for a bit too much of negative reactions though. For me a “good logo” is something that everyone should naturally love. Forget about the complication and trying to be different; olympics and London is something everyone should relate to.

    Magin Web Design
    http://www.magin.co.uk/worst-logo-designs/

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