In defense of the London 2012 olympic logo

Alex Bigman

The world has not been kind to the London 2012 Olympic Logo by Wolff Olins. Having watched the games play out, we’re now prepared to rush to its defense (better late than never, right?) In fact, we think it’s the best Olympic logo yet.

From a design perspective, people mocked it for for being “ugly.” Consisting of jagged points with no verticals or horizontals whatsoever, the design evokes broken shards or an impossible puzzle. It bucks pretty much every current design trend and takes a minute to decipher (it actually says “2012” with an ambiguous dot in the middle, though some detractors claim to read “zion”; others, “nazi”; and still more perceive Lisa Simpson performing a sex act).

People don’t much like the acid colors either — vibrant fuscia or turquoise backed by highlighter yellow. In total, many have declared it “a disgrace”; simply “unlovable.”

The London 2012 design (right) is a far cry from the city’s 1948 Olympic emblem (left)

In an interview with Adweek, Wolff Olins chairman Brian Boylan describes the freeform technique that produced this controversial beast:

“The mark itself came from an energy grid we drew of lines that moved around, contained within a rectangle, which we stopped at one particular moment… We used the term ‘prescribed anarchy’—it wasn’t [that] we just wanted to draw something spiky.”

Where others read failure, Wolff Olins managing director, Ije Nwokorie, sees total success:

“The critical reviews tend to point out the rules we’ve broken, and in that sense they tend to be correct; the only disagreement is whether those rules need to be broken. Take a look at the attacks: ‘It’s too dissonant.’ Absolutely, the dissonance was intentional. ‘It doesn’t reflect any of London’s famous landmarks.’ Absolutely, the world knows about those, we don’t need to tell them. ‘It’s too urban, it’s too young.’ Absolutely.”

London 2012 from Wolff Olins on Vimeo.

Indeed, we see an edgy, youthful, unforgettable logo that boldly reflects both the energy and chaos inherent to the Olympic games (for a catalogue of said chaos, see this continually growing Wikipedia page). In ditching design conventions and stale nationalistic imagery, London 2012 stands as the first ever Olympic logo that manages to evade being completely, utterly boring and/or dishonest.

Take a look at the past 20 years’ Olympic logos (or check out this list of Olympic logos going back to 1924). These safe, conservative markings fade to obscurity before they are even printed. London 2012 alone makes a splash.

Winter 1992, Summer 1992

Winter 1994, Summer 1996

Winter 1998, Summer 2000

Winter 2002, Summer 2004

Winter 2006, Summer 2008

Winter 2010

Summer 2012

Winter 2014

Summer 2016

What do you think of the London 2012 logo? Share your views in the comments!

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