Wow, did you see it? the Olympic opening ceremony? Sideburned hobbits, a parachuting Queen, Mr. Bean on keyboards, Golden Balls in a speedboat and the much-maligned London 2012 logo? Way back in 2007, in a time before the ubiquity of Facebook and Justin Bieber, the emblem for the London Olympics was unveiled. Created by Wolff Olins the logo consists of the numerals 2012 set in an aggressive chunky font with garish colours. The unorthodox design was widely derided, and prompted much hilarity amongst the British Press and countless desktop design critics. Armed with poison pens and vivid imaginations, the emblem was compared to everything from a Nazi SS emblem to Lisa Simpson performing fellatio. Citius, Altius, Orgasmius. Five years on, and with the games already beginning to bore, now is a good time to re-evaluate the design.
The emblem was compared to everything from a Nazi SS emblem to Lisa Simpson performing fellatio
In our opinion, the London 2012 emblem will never belong in the pantheon of great Olympic logos. As a standalone mark, it does not possess the aesthetic or communicative qualities of the icons for Mexico68 (by Eduardo Terrazas + Lance Wyman) or LA84 (Robert Miles Runyan). It reduces badly (looks crap at small size) and is poorly executed (our sister could do better). Nevertheless, the logo does have some redeeming features. Like the aforementioned design classics, the London 2012 mark expresses a sense of place and culture. It is the perfect visual embodiment of the host city’s bold, edgy and eccentric spirit. The design is intentionally divisive. In pop-group terms, it’s Sigue Sigue Sputnik – not Spandau Ballet.
However, these opinions could have been formed in 2007. What is really disappointing is that the promised dynamic applications have not materialised. The original launch videos by Wolff Olins may have caused epileptic seizures, but at least, they heralded an exciting graphic vocabulary. The films proposed a design scheme that existed beyond a static logo. They showed the London 2012 emblem as a window filled with vibrant and energetic content such as photography, illustration and art. The scheme aspired to touch the heights of the day-glo pop-art of LA84 or the dazzling concentric stripe patterns of Mexico68.
Sadly, none of this has transpired. Instead, FutureBrand and Locog (who are responsible for the brand applications) employ the logo as a stamp – sticking it rather unimaginatively on everything from tickets to pavilions and the indispensable fridge magnet. It’s a pity. The promised vanguard image of 2007 has been reduced to mediocrity, dull repetition and a pink splodge on the side of a Happy Meal box.