Pictograms for London 2012 Olympics


The Olympics pictograms. I’d say the assignment that big and complex needs:
1. A skillful, nifty, experienced and knowledgeable head of one creator with a small team of mouse pushers.
2. Enough development time.
3. The mindful, experienced and respectful client.

In the case of the London 2012 Olympics pictograms I have a hunch none of these conditions were present. The well awaited were released a few days ago and they look like this.


I am terribly sorry but what we see here is a job of such a poor quality, I am at awe. I haven’t seen worse Olympics pictograms. I don’t even dare to compare them with Otl Aicher’s work for Munich 1972 Olympics. Every single Olympics, the Winter Olympic Games included, had better pictograms.

Let’s see for example Sarah Rosenbaum’s for Lillehammer Games in 1994. They are particular ones, highly imaginative and excellent in execution.


Or not to forget the Masasa Katzoumie and Yoshiro Yamashita pictograms for Tokyo Olympics of 1964. It is not the style of the age which makes them excellent, it is the thinking behind them.


I understand that when comes to assignments like this, clients are in plural. I hear that today’s industry gets involved in the pure core of design concept, and I hear: designers are working on a brief and “gets pushed around by the idiot client”. That’s a bunch of rubbish excuses. Agencies pay people to do a job of persuading, and no, no client is an idiot. They don’t know better, they need a specialist to tell them what is the best for them.

It is actually terribly sad. In this release I see a design-project manager team which didn’t work. I see a haste and not much development, no study, no thinking. Drawing is thinking. Design is thinking. Just look: people are formed as if someone was sketch-practicing, they are disproportionate, images are mashed together in a rush, a lot of them unclear, crumpled, with no balance, no refinement. It looks as if someone creating them was utterly confused.

On the London 2012 official blog a Yasmine (no full name given) of London 2012 brand team explains: “The agency had to come up with something that fitted in with our brand identity but at the same time create something new and exciting.” Well, dear Yasmine, I say you certainly succeed to force badly analyzed formal characteristics of London 2012 identity but you certainly didn’t create anything new. Disappointing failures like that can be seen on every home-made leaflet advertising stuff of dubious quality.

At the end I wonder if the clients realize how huge is the cost they’ll pay for this shabby work. I am not talking about numbers although I am sure the amounts here are far from modest. I am talking about being remembered by the worst designed pictograms in the history. Pretty high price, wouldn’t you say?

One Response to “Pictograms for London 2012 Olympics”

  1. 1 Mary

    I actually think they are quite effective. They are a lot clearer than the other pictograms as you can tell which sport is being played and the figures look human. The second one looks a bit like it has been created using Microsoft Paint.


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