An Olympic masterpiece
It seems safe to say that London 2012 has been a triumph. The usual British cynicism giving way to flag waving and crying to orchestral anthems from the moment the brilliantly conceived and executed Opening Ceremony began. The images of the 5 rings being forged, Underworld’s score, Boyle’s imagination, a parachuting monarch and Heatherwick’s triumphant cauldron centrepiece won the world’s hearts with clever thinking and humour. A theme extended into the Games themselves with horses jumping over famous monuments recreated as twee model villages and incidental pieces of music being chosen to suit the moment, such as James’ ‘Sit Down’ when players got sin binned in the Hockey. The closing ceremony at times did its best to bring you back down to earth prematurely and remind you of how ill-judged these Games could have been, but seeing that flame die out at the end was emotional closure that brought to an end a most wonderful fortnight for Great Britain.
Indeed such has been the sense of joy at athletes over-achieving in disciplines previously unheard of, we’ve put the issues surrounding the Games that were a little more unsavoury into the background; the nature reserve that got flattened for the Park, the cost to the taxpayer, paranoid sponsors taping over hand drier manufacturer’s logos and – most bafflingly of all – the infamous 2012 logo.
As most designers who have worked on a large mainstream brand know, the tendency is for the eventual outcome to try to say a lot of positive things in order to appeal to every man and his dog, meaning you end up with something slightly generic designed by a committee. Whether or not this occurred wasn’t taken into account however when the logo was unveiled; the world media seemed baffled, the design industry crucified it and ran competitions for people to do better (though interestingly no one seemed to) and the public delighted in mocking it.
What I do think is interesting in hindsight is the visual identity the logo inspired. A large collection of designers, agencies and artists all worked together to flesh out and implement the look of 2012 and I think it’s generally been highly successful. Much of this is down to the team building on what the logo was already doing; angles and grid lines were extended from the logo which gave birth to shards of colour embedded into the main stadia, the design of the medals, the iconography and the banners around town.
Even the BBC studios seemed to fit the angular look and feel.
Other things which at first seemed jarring have turned out to be very useful. The neon colour we all laughed at for being gaudy has made navigating London these past few weeks even easier than usual. Heading for an Olympic event? Look for the giant illuminous pink banner.
The use of colour beyond the event navigation has been great too. Each sporting arena has had its own look and the colourful banners up around Olympic towns have been bright and cheerful, though you need a few of them to achieve this effect. Some parts of the drive to Hadleigh, Essex only have a couple up, making the place feel a bit like when your hometown half-heartedly puts up 4 Christmas decorations in November.
Of course in time, the memories and lasting impressions of the Games will come down to a few choice images of the real stars of 2012: the athletes. But it’s good to know that the graphic design of London’s Games – forever to be seen slightly out of focus behind Usain Bolt – was considered, eclectic, fun and – like the country itself – a bit odd.
By Sean Thomas, Design Director, jkr.