Why did the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organisers decide to ditch their logo after just one month? Not because of plagiarism claims, they say, but because of “lack of public understanding” around the identity.
During the month it was in use, the logo’s designer Kenjiro Sano has faced accusations of copying from around the world, has had his back catalogue raked over and has became the focus of internet shaming.
Sano’s identity first hit a hurdle when Belgian designer Olivier Debie suggested that it was a copy of a logo he designed in 2011 for the Theatre de Liege.
Plagiarism claims still denied
Whether or not Debie’s accusations are justified (and he is reported to be suing the International Olympic Committee over the claims), both Sano and the Tokyo Olympics organisers have consistently denied any plagiarism – and continue to.
Announcing the decision to ditch the logo this week, Toshio Muto, director general of the Tokyo organising committee, said the move was being made not because of copying, but due to “lack of public understanding” around the identity (rather ironic considering the number of column inches it has received).
Muto said: “We have an understanding that the design shows enough evidence of being different [to other designs] and, as Mr Sano suggested, the design is recognised as being an original by Mr Sano and the design committee has agreed with this assessment.
Lack of public understanding
“However at the same time, when the issue has been expanded upon this far without gaining an understanding from the general public, we find this to be a problem.”
He concluded: “The decision to make a fresh start in creating a new logo seems to be the most appropriate.”
So the logo isn’t a copy – at least according to the Tokyo organisers.
Stadium design already ditched
So why drop it? And what is the result of this decision? The Olympic organisers now look like they couldn’t organise anything.
They have ditched the logo weeks after scrapping architect Zaha Hadid’s designs for the Olympic Stadium – just as they were about to start on site.
Spiralling costs killed off the project, although Hadid insists she had warned the organisers about this since being appointed in 2012.
Designer hung out to dry
And logo designer Kenjiro Sano, a D&AD award-winner this year and one of Japan’s leading designers, has had his reputation dragged through the mud.
Forced to go public to defend his Tokyo 2020 work, Sano has subsequently faced accusations that he used unauthorised images in his initial logo presentation (he’d hardly be the first), drew heavily from the motif of Costa Rica’s national museum in a logo he created for a Nagoya zoo (?!) and ripped off Jan Tschichold in his initial submissions (well if you’re going to steal, steal from the best).
In a statement on his website Sano says he agreed to withdraw the logo “to protect my family and staff from persistent attacks” adding: “I feel the situation has become unbearable as a human being.”
Trial by social media
Even if Sano is guilty of plagiarism – and it’s a big if – surely there are better ways of dealing with this than having the Olympic organising committee force him to publicly defend the design and then hang him out to dry and then ditch him, reportedly without payment.
Guilty or not, Sano has become the latest designer to suffer trial by social media – a brutal courtroom adjudicated by commentators with little understanding of the realities of huge design projects like this.
How would previous Olympic designers Otl Aicher or Deborah Sussman have fared on Twitter? What sort of hysterical reaction might Lance Wyman’s Mexico 1968 Olympic designs have received?
For identity designers, the public unveiling of a big logo project – and they don’t get any bigger then the Olympics – used to provoke feelings of excitement with an underlying fear.
Now no-one would be surprised if they only feel fear.