2012 Olympics posters – a case of really bad framing
So the famous artists commissioned to design posters for the 2012 Olympics have had their work unveiled. You can see the full set here. For what it’s worth, I like Martin Creed’s podium, which has something of the underground map in its style to my eye. Well, that’s what I thought before I read his explanation in The Guardian: “The colours are based on the Olympic colours but they are changed to make them nicer.” Which perhaps illustrates the gap in approach between artists and commercial artists.
But what do you think? Do they match the randomly selected examples from the past displayed below?
Certainly the reaction from the design community has been rather mixed. That’s a nice way of saying there has been much rolling of eyes, gnashing of teeth, and ‘why didn’t they ask a professional?” But as this is a blog focused on the crossroads of marketing and design, what lesson might we take from the reaction?
I think the campaign has been poorly introduced – the words used to frame creativity are vital in our appreciation of it, and describing these as prints (rather than posters ) would have made all the difference to the way they were received. In other words, by using a misleading word those representing the work have framed it badly.
Here’s one definition of a poster: ‘A large, usually printed placard, bill, or announcement, often illustrated, that is posted to advertise or publicise something.’
What seems to be the case with the Bridget Riley and Tracey Emin images (the first two shown on this post) is that the artist is using their well known style to bring a bit of personal expression to the subject. Nothing wrong with that in a print, but a bit self regarding perhaps in a poster supposedly advertising the event to a mass audience. Posters tend to be produced using graphics – the marriage of idea, image and words to create a memorable message. The word free visuals presented by the artists are lovely (if that’s your kind of thing) but not generally communicative. They also have nothing to do with the Games’ identity, which love it or hate it should be a springboard for any poster encapsulating the event.
I don’t think this is the fault of the artists or their work. It’s the fault of whoever set up our expectations by calling them posters. Words, as I say, are not just there to keep our mouths warm before the work is revealed. Let’s enjoy them as prints and assume a more general and stunning 2012 Olympic’s poster campaign is being designed (yes, designed) as we speak…
Anyway, I’m a designer. So I asked an artist I know for his view, for a little balance. He was more ruthless – below are his views…
“Instant ‘punters’ response – doesn’t look like much effort has been put in – and as in much contemporary art we’re left as observers thinking have we been hoodwinked – are these contemporary artists just using their elevated status to pass one over on us and run laughing to the bank? Is there not much more innovative visual images being shown on Behance, Tumblr, Saatchi Online, Juxtapoz – that would reflect and inspire creative energy in the UK in 2012?
However, bearing in mind Gerhard Richter’s assertion in his recent interview with Serota, that as an artist he’s ALLOWED to do what he wants – and bearing in mind Duchamp’s Law that whatever the artist says is art IS art – then we can look at the images with a sympathetic eye. Also, what’s worth bearing in mind is that all of the artists selected are well-respected, peer-reviewed and have achieved their ‘establishment’ status via a long history of making innovative and outstanding work. “
However, the artist I asked summed up the entire group of work as looking like a kid’s outing. Ironic – I thought that was the sort of thing ‘us philistines’ are supposed to say!
N.B. Creative Review have made a similar point about posters Vs prints, but I had written my tuppence worth before reading theirs, so have pressed on regardless!