The Summer Olympic Games is a huge and important quadrennial event in the world, and a successful one can have an enormous impact on the host countries, influencing its status, economy and even people’s livelihoods.
Recently the long-awaited 2020 Tokyo Olympics logo design was revealed, with reviews and comments appearing on the internet soon after from all over the globe. Overall the public’s evaluation was not great:
“Are you kidding me? i guess that is a teaser logo.”
“It´s a weird solution, not because of the graphic theme chosen, but because of the content it represents.”
A designer, Olivier Debie, even accused the Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo creator, Kenjiro Sano, of copying his work for the Belgium theatre (FIG. 1) and hopes that Japan will not carry on using it, “[I have] decided on an action to ask for the withdrawal or the change of the [Olympic] logo.”
Aside from Debie, the design has not rated well within Japan, and some locals expect a replacement. Faced with such allegations, Sano made a public response to clarify that his logo is an original design with a graphical ‘Tokyo 2020’ following the same style. (FIG. 2)
So far, neither the designer or olympic official’s explanations of the concept availed the general public into appreciating it.
1964 vs 2020
Another popular online comment was the design’s classic retro flavour – I think this results from having a nod to the Tokyo 1964 logo design (FIG. 3): both look simple and make use of red and gold coloured geometric shapes that reflect traditional Japanese tastes.
But if we focus purely on aesthetics, we would easily agree that the 1964 design is the better of the two. The logo was created more than fifty years ago by Yusaku Kamekura and has become a classic piece of design. It depicts the idea of the sun rising from a shimmering sea; by turning the coloured olympic rings to pure gold it gives the appearance of the reflection of the sea during golden hour, which combines with the national flag of Japan to a striking effect.
The concept behind Sano’s Tokyo 2020 logo are the three T’s: Team, Tomorrow, Tokyo. With clear intentions to be positive, there are no surprises to be found here. The element of the logo’s “T” mark is simple but not unique, a better choice of typeface could have been made for “Tokyo 2020,” and when compared to the 1964 gold rings, sticking to the standard five colours seems somewhat generic. Overall the older version has much more strength in both meaning and memorability, and since its conception nothing has come close to imitating it stylistically.
London 2012 Summer Olympic Games
Back in 2007, when the London 2012 Olympic logo design was released, the response surrounding it was even greater than Tokyo 2020 with the majority of the voices being highly critical:
“Terrible, look like a kids competition entry to me.”
“Maybe its just a joke, I sincerely hope it is …”
Three years have passed since the 2012 Olympic Games took place, and I think many people changed their minds over the design after seeing the success of the whole brand experience in action.
The original idea “Everyone’s Olympics” proposed by the Wolff Olins team worked – it was simple, relevant and reflects the international spirit of the games. However, at the time most of the public thought the distorted shapes making up “2012”, which represents different nations coming together, was naive. Its bold and jarring appearance, although not sophisticated in a traditional sense, certainly broke conventions of being visually related to the host country, and makes an impression whether you like it or not. (FIG. 4)
A few years later, a distinct ‘look’ for the visual system was created and applied to every event touchpoint. Based off a dynamic grid drawn from the lines and shards emanating from the logo, the effect was immediate and captured the electric feeling of the world’s biggest festival. The branding achieved its goal to reinvigorate the games for today’s interconnected audience and also influence future design thinking.
I look forward to seeing how the Tokyo 2020 design team will develop their own creative brand after the hum surrounding the logo fades.
EDIT: Tokyo eventually to scrapped their Olympic logo embarrassment on 31 Auguest 2015: “We became aware of new things this weekend and there was a sense of crisis that we thought could not be ignored. The reason we’re withdrawing (the logo) is because it no longer has public support.” by Toshiro Muto, director general of the Tokyo Organising Committee.