Stuff I'm Thinking About

The London 2012 Fiasco

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Armin Vit, of UnderConsideration fame, posted a link to a great discussion regarding the London 2012 Olympic Games logo (which he very accurately describes as being two years late) on one of UC’s many sites, Quipsologies. Having rekindled my own thoughts about the logo I thought I’d share them here, even though no more really need be said on the subject. (Come on, who doesn’t like flogging a dead horse?)

Firstly, let me say that as of the writing of the post*, I loathe the ’80s aesthetic. Clashing colours, prevalent narcissism, women with shoulder pads big enough to land an airplane on; being a child of 1985, I’m glad I do not consciously recollect much of “the era”. With that said, it seems logical that I am on the side of the majority when it comes to liking the logo: I simply don’t, and I didn’t from the get go. It screams ’80s. (Seriously, take a look at the logo, and then go dial up Saved by the Bell on YouTube. Amazing, isn’t it?) However, having read the arguments from Bryan Bedell and Mark Ritson, it coloured my opinion about the logo a little less extreme.

Opening the discussion, Bedell, who for all purposes here I’m assuming is design-based in experience, gives quite a few good reasons why he likes it. What he explains, and what resonates most with me, is that it’s “different” and “a basis for a graphic system”. Now the basis for a graphic system I definitely agree with — the ideas provided by the logo leave a lot of space for dynamic graphics. And it’s certainly different, which Bedell re-examines with a few other points like “unexpected” and “it’s not boring”. Defending its “being different”, sometimes you just need to take risks. This may not have been the perfect place to experiment so boldly, as so many eyes are going to be looking at this, but perhaps that’s the point: no one is not going to recognize this logo. Oh, one other thing that I really agree with Bedell on is that this logo is totally ’80s rave scene, but I disagree that that’s a good thing for a logo that’s not on a 25-year-old t-shirt. After Bedell, Mr. Ritson picks up the baton for the opposition and he makes some good points as well (although he does sound a little stereotypical “marketing guru” in areas).

“It’s s#$%,” he declares in the opening sentence. That was my opinion when I first saw the logo unveiled, reeling in horror at what, on its own, appears to have no real aesthetic consideration; it looks so random and unpolished, reminding me of an amateur working Illustrator unaware of how to make curves. And while I still feel it’s very unrefined, I wouldn’t call it downright shit — sometimes you just need to see things in action. Where I think it’s weakest is that it sorely misses the mark in terms of engaging the public, immediately lessening any ability for the mark to produce a sense of confidence and pride in the host country — which is, I think, what the Games are all about. The fact that 68% of the country’s general public despises the logo (from a report cited by Ritson) illustrates this problem quite well. Where I strongly disagree with Ritson is his holding the client (in this case the general public) so high. While I agree that you do need to make sure the customer is happy with the product, you can’t simply hand the public a questionnaire and expect good design; design by committee rarely works.

I do enjoy the dynamics of the identity system created and expanded upon throughout the print and visual collateral — even though it’s so damned ’80s — and you have to admit: it takes some flippin’ big cajones to put what one blog commenter referred to as “Lisa Simpson doing something rather rude” in front of the world. But as energetic as the graphic system is, and as much as I admire being brave to the bones, I really don’t feel this is successful in creating a mark that represents both the host country and the Games as they will exist. Ultimately, only time will tell, as one example that pops to mind instantly proves. Sometimes the people don’t get what they need, and sometimes they don’t know what they want until you show them.

*I say this only to recognize that peoples’ tastes, including my own, tend to fluctuate and even flip 180 degrees over time. I’ve recognized this change within myself a few times already, and I’m just shy of 24.

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