Olympic Fever

July, 31 2012
Posted in Inspiration
Posted by Christine

Yep, guilty as charged — the Olympics have me glued to my TV every night. In between debating whether Phelps or Lochte will shine brightest in the pool this year, I’m checking out all the graphics that make this event one of the most amazing branding projects in existence. Talk about a huge target audience … only the WHOLE WORLD is watching.

So, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some highlights of Olympic design over the past century:




Los Angeles 1932
There is a lovely contrast here between the intricately illustrated shield and the clean, airy typography. It balances quite well and makes for a very polished lock-up.


Mexico 1968
So graphic, so 60s, so fun!


Montreal 1976
I like how the 5 rings are integrated into the main mark (instead of floating on top of or below it), and appreciate its simplicity and restraint.


Beijing 2008
I love this mark. It’s an athlete’s body, it’s a Chinese chop … it’s beautifully combined into one.

all logo images found here



This aspect of the branding might just be my favorite. I can only imagine how challenging it must be to try and depict the human body performing multiple athletic activities in a way that is both visually clear and artistically unique.


image found here

Grenoble 1968
An interesting and unconventional approach, these icons use lines of varying thickness to create the shapes of the athletes in the negative space.


image found here

Sydney 2000
While a little clunky, the incorporation of the boomerang shape into every pictogram is a clever reinforcement of the event’s location.


images found here

Athens 2004
These figures are legible yet playfully rendered, with irregular forms and white lines adding detail as well as dynamic movement.


image found here

Torino 2006
Depth and form is created in these figures with the layering of transparent shapes, and the curved lines add so much fluidity and elegance.


Print & Signage

And now for the real bread and butter — the roll-out of all the other pieces.


I’m enamored with the ticket designs from the games during the 50s, 60s, and 70s. There’s lots of graphic goodness going on here, from the bold stripes of color to the playful use of typography:

image found here


Design Manuals
These design guidelines are a great way to see how the designers intended the full suite of graphics to come together into a cohesive look & feel. This layout for the Munich 1972 games beautifully demonstrates how colors can help bring together very different styles of imagery:

image found here

And I’m so struck by the similarity between the Los Angeles 1984 color palette and that of this year’s games in London (as if it wasn’t already obvious, the 80s are back in a BIG way):

images found here and here


Environmental Graphics
Okay, I’ll admit it … the Torino signage is the reason I wanted to write this blog post. The pictograms translate beautifully to full color and the large scale format. The palette has been limited in each illustration to either warm or cool colors, so the abundance of lines and swooshes don’t become too busy or overpowering, and the black helps ground the brighter hues while adding sophistication. While I’ve never been a huge fan of the logo, I think the execution of the environmental graphics is stunning:

image found here


Do you have a favorite Olympic logo, mascot, or other design element? Let us know on our Facebook page. Now go home, plop down on the couch with a cold beer, and enjoy the games!


A quick note:
Major props to this website, an amazing resource for all things visual associated with the event. I highly recommend checking it out if you have a spare moment.

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