Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
June 10, 2007

Olympic 2012 Logo: What Is It



(click for full size)

I wanted to weigh in on the controversy raging about the new London 2012 Olympic logo.  I think a large part of the problem is that people are looking at it as a static element, whereas the intent of it is to actually float, fill and/or move.

If you look at this launch page for London2012, you get a better sense of how it functions, and morphs, as both a structural and functional element.  (Also check out this image on a screen at this IHT story.)

This article in the Telegraph, too, seems to “get it.”

The photo accompanying the article (second shot, above), in its literal replication, gives a better sense of the kinetic essence of the logo.  The Telegraph article also describe another key aspect of the design, which they call “in fill.”  The idea, in other words, is for organizations, events, sponsors — even individuals, to use the “logo” (which, more realistically should be described as a “template” (or floating window fragments) to do with as they choose.

I think the Olympic committee realizes it has an element that people won’t understand, or be able to relate to, until its “starts to do things.”  Along those lines, check out this quote from Wally Olins, visiting fellow at Said Business School at Oxford and “arguably the world’s leading consultant in branding” according to the Observer:

“It’s quite clear to me what they have done is look at what is going to happen over the next five years. The audience you’re addressing are kids between the ages of, say, eight and 16, and in a few years’ time they’re going to be 12 to 20. Those kids look at the web all the time, and what they look at is things that move.

‘If you look at that logo, at what it’s doing, it’s incredibly powerful and you can see everything from paraplegics throwing balls to people diving off very high platforms to people jumping to people running. Every time it moves it makes a very powerful display and it’s really clever and memorable. I can’t think of any logo that has that immensely powerful effect when it’s mobile.’

‘Where the criticisms lie, as it seems to me, are what happens to it when you look at it statically. The whole point of the thing is that it moves. It will appear year after year after year in all kinds of situations. Over the years, whenever you see it statically, it will remind you of what it’s like when it moves. I think it’s very imaginative and a very brilliant and brave piece of work, and if they keep their nerve there’s no doubt that it will work.’

If there is a problem with this “logo launch,” it is not the result of the design so much as a (practical) problem of how to “show something” across “the interactive breach.” to more effectively put the device to work.  Certainly, using it like a pulsating pinwheel so that epileptics end up in the hospital is not just careless — but unimaginative compared to what this thing can do.

Unless you are epileptic, you can see the offending launch video here.  Notice, though, that the promo, which goes special-effects crazy over the logo, also hardly uses it.

(updated: 11:11 am EST)

(image 1:  REUTERS/London 2012/Handout. London June 4, 2007.  image 2: Roger Taylor. June 10, 2007.

  • Asta

    CNN played the entire logo clip, and “float, fill and/or move” are not the words I would use to describe it.
    Seizure-inducing sensationally bright pulsating colors and patterns is closer to home.
    Which is what the CNN broadcast was saying, that some people who had viewed the animated logo had seizures as the result. I had to turn my eyes away, it was too painful to watch.

  • margaret

    Poor graphic design. Good design allows the mind and the eye to follow movement inherent in the design. The movement, here, is not coherent, does not follow through from one segment to another, as a beautiful athlete does when he/she executes an exercise. Flowing movement, rather than “epileptic” movement would give hint of the grace that is at the heart of athletic movement.
    I suspect that the designers, as it were, of this logo have spent too much time in London clubs, snorting cocaine in the midst of lightshow strobe effects.
    Frenetic visual movement is visually and emotionally exhausting, ultimately, and the viewers will find the real thing of the Olympics disappointing, perhaps, because there is a lot of waiting, and getting ready and then, the beautiful, much slower-than-logo movements of the athletes. One might end up thinking reality is boring and the virtual is where “it’s at.”

  • Karen

    branding, blah, blah, blah. I’m too old fashioned, I guess. It seems painful and unpleasant to watch and ugly. I’m reminded of Markos’ remarks regarding Daily Kos’ redesign a couple of years ago….something to the effect of memorability, not beauty being the goal and he was right, his orange effect is very memorable and associated with his blog. Still, it’s not as ugly and abrupt as the 2012 logo ….

  • donna

    Fugly. Graphics can be interesting as well as attractive. This is neither.

  • croatoan

    It’s Lisa Simpson giving someone a hummer.

  • Stan Banos

    Very Seventies!

  • Rafael

    I say very 80’s, especially the jagged edges and bright neon colors. I know that retro-(insert past era of the 20th Century)is all the rage, but somethings should stay in the past.

  • knerd

    It has always been the artists, the prophets, and the visionaries who function as an “early warning system” for a culture.
    To me, the logo depicts something breaking apart or coming together. What clearly is still together is the familiar Olympics symbol of the linked O’s.
    The most definitive thing I can say about the new logo is that it is interesting to me because it is so different and because of the outrage it has sparked.
    There is a deep level of discomfort that seems way out of proportion to just “a change” in a logo for the Olympic games. It is obvious that those who have traditionally looked to the annual games as a constant example of what is best in humanity now feel betrayed by the “incomprehensible” design.

  • Sandra D

    It spells Zion

  • MonsieurGonzo

    post-modern, fractal swastika. brilliant.
    ref : “One might end up thinking reality is boring and the [condensed/edited=packaged, produced & podcast] is where “it’s at.”
    precisely, because for what, ~98.6% of the people who to view = to experience, thus not The 2012 Olympics, but The 2012 Olympics product : London does not exist, really; and, ‘The Olymics’ is not some place else, it’s right here, on my screen, no further away than my fingertips; and most importantly, I was There, when it happened = when all of us consumed the media product meal.
    so-called ‘virtual’ -vs-en vivo’ is essentially the same paradox as seeing a beautiful star-lit night, n’est-ce pas? i mean: none of those stars actually exist there today, do they? As we hold hands and you revel in their beauty, how rude it would be for reality to shatter your rapture; how horrible to suggest that your horoscope is without meaning?
    “Were you there, when Kennedy was shot?”
    “Yes. We all cried, and went outside ~ gathered in Times Square ~ to mourn The President.”

  • lowly grunt

    Is ballroom dancing an Olympic event now? Cooooolllll!!!!

  • Asta

    If nothing else, it makes a really lousy souvenir poster. I thought the Atlanta Olympics launch logo (remember the “whatizit?”) was embarrassingly the worst, but I think that torch has been passed to London.
    BTW, Sandra D’s and MonsieurGonzo’s observations are quite the eye-openers. Subliminal advertising has always fascinated me and I completely overlooked the hidden messages, but now that is it pointed out, it is so obvious!
    For those interested, you can find images of all the Olympics posters here:
    Berlin’s logo, of course, reflects the pre-WWII Nazi Super Race idealism.

  • Peter

    Why does this matter?

  • Peter

    y’all are obviously not avant-garde enough.

  • Kitt


  • readytoblowagasket

    I think a large part of the problem is that people are looking at it as a static element, whereas the intent of it is to actually float, fill and/or move.
    It’s not the people who are looking at the logo that’s the problem, it’s the design.
    If the design were successful, it would function both kinetically and statically. That’s the job the designers had in front of them to solve. Well, they didn’t solve it. The consensus that there is a “problem” means the design fails.
    But why does it fail? Because it’s ugly on the inside.
    It’s ugly on the inside because it was designed by people who lived during a time that permitted a reckless war of unbridled aggression and blatant domination, a time of overwhelming cynicism about the value of life on this planet (not to mention the life of the planet itself), a time of disillusionment about the public servants whose lust for power was so great they didn’t once hesitate to make decisions that would kill civilians who were in the way of business interests, a time of profound pessimism about the chances for a harmonious and peaceful future.
    No wonder the 2012 logo evokes a mirror image of the Nazi SS logo.
    No wonder the 2012 logo is all blocky sharp angles and slicing edges (like knives and shards of broken glass) and aggressive, acid colors (created by the yellow “drop shadow,” which occurs unintentionally when something is off-register, creating a sickening, out-of-focus visual effect).
    No wonder the shapes clash, crash, and stab around frantically and senselessly when they move.
    No wonder people hate the design. There is no spirit of cooperation, sportsmanship, or grace, just aggressive self-centered competition simply for the sake of beating an opponent.
    So what if it moves around a lot; it’s in-your-face hostile.

  • nrglaw

    I looked at the sites that are supposed to show this silly thing looking good. Not impressed. I had an office with a view over the Thames very similar to the one pictured in the site, with that logo in the middle of the window (!!). Heaven forbid, they should put that in any more such windows!

  • nrglaw

    Seizure inducing, probably not. I know whereof I speak on this one.

  • fisheye

    People just don’t understand it?
    It looks like it belongs on a Japanese gum wrapper.
    Chewy chew chew.

  • garyb50

    Whenever I start a logo or graphic project I purposefully do something godawful to get all the BAD out of my system and get the juices flowing. Obviously, these people use the same technique except they forgot Step Two.

  • futurebird

    I think it is the best olympic logo I’ve ever seen. Even if it is a manufactured it has a feeling that reminds me of the street art I enjoyed when I lived in London for a year. It’s young and strikingly anti-corporate. Of course people hate it. That’s part of it’s charm.

  • Asta

    I finally “understood” Croatoan’s comment about Lisa Simpson.
    Note to self: Must get off anti-depressants, losing my snark.

  • error27

    The eighties are the new seventies! Woohoo! MTV!

  • MonsieurGonzo

    ref : “So what if it moves around a lot; it’s in-your-face hostile”
    said ready to blow a gasket,’ as he looked into the Mirror Crack’d :)
    No wonder people hate the design. There is no spirit of cooperation, sportsmanship, or grace, just aggressive self-centered competition simply for the sake of beating an opponent.

  • readytoblowagasket

    MonsieurGonzo, thanks for noticing. I confess I was delighted by that unintentional juxtaposition too. = :~D
    Um, but how do you know “he” am a he?

  • readytoblowagasket

    The Brits, btw, are trashing the logo with characteristic inimitable humo(u)r in blogs. The trouble with making a moving logo is that other people will inevitably make it move too: in the simplest yet clearest obscene gestures possible.
    I forgot to mention at the end of my initial rant that the 2012 logo was perfect for our time. After seeing the irreverent alterations already floating in the blogosphere, I now think the whole fiasco is genius.

  • MikeTheLiberal

    It’s the number “2012″ with lots of jaggy edges.
    I mean, it only took me a minute to get that. I was too fixated on it being a geographical representation at first.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    ref : “It’s the number “2012″…
    ahhh >rorschach< : gesundheit!

  • Caslon

    I think this logo exemplifies the condition of the contemporary world. Ugly, schizophrenic, fascist, and artless. In that at least, it has succeeded brilliantly.

  • kevser

    RTBAG: You are not wrong.
    I see 4 explosions.
    Flames and glowing metal.
    crashing towers split in two?
    Shock and Awful.

  • Ben

    It says 2012. It still sucks though.

  • Synak

    Pay special attention to the first shape in the Olympic logo. It clearly (among other things) takes the form of the letter Z. Then look inside the shape where the word “london” is written. I believe there is a reason why the first letter of that word is not capitalized and resembles another letter this time being I. Combine the Z and the first half of “london” and you get the word ZION. All of this is deliberately placed accordingly. What is left after the word ZION? It is “don” or rather “dawn”. Again, also in specific order. Dawn of Zion and or Dawn of Zionists.

  • VivienneQuek

    The Brits did not like the emblem, most probably because there is nothing related to British history and culture to make them proud of. Nationalism is evident in the graphical execution of Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 emblems.

  • Jeff

    The world is currently a very ugly place, and the collective human mind and heart are tipped toward ugly, competitive, sharp-edged and fragmented. This logo nakedly sums up the zeitgeist of these times. Look at it an weep.

  • TT Joy

    ZION Why else have that dot

  • LanceThruster

    Well, at least they trademarked it so that it didn’t go viral from all the people helping themselves to its awesomeness.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes