21st August 2019

In Praise of London 2012


by Alessandro Favaro

London 2012 Logo

London 2012 Olympics logo in use.
Courtesy of Wolff Olins.

The London 2012 Summer Olympics brand attracted criticism from each and every side. It has been mistreated by the general public and even by a considerable number of designers. Some even used words the likes of ‘puerile’ and ‘ugly’ to describe its logo. In the general perception, Wolff Olins’s London 2012 brand has become an example of what not to do when given a design brief.


Is all this criticism fair?


There are those, including me, who consider this an astonishing example of branding — possibly the best Olympics brand of all times, together with Otl Aicher’s Munich 1972 design.


One of greatest advantages of the London 2012 brand is that it stands out from the crowd of branding for the Olympics. It is immediately recognisable, and memorable.


Something else to keep in mind is the unconventional thought process behind its design. The team of designers at Wolff Olins cleverly created what they describe as an ‘energy grid’, a design system transcending the typical top-right-bottom-left rigidity of traditional grids.


However, the energy grid is not the only element challenging design standards. The dissonant colour palette is another example of deliberately breaking the rules. In doing so, it achieves to create a feeling of dynamism that is perfectly in line with the Olympics.


Criticism was likely caused by drawing inappropriate comparisons with the previous and following Olympics brands, which were bland and ‘safe’ more often than not. London 2012’s dynamism is, on the other hand, something hardly seen before. It brilliantly succeeds in questioning design rules that have become dogmas for no clear reason.


There is an element of youthfulness and energy that radiates from all the brand elements, including the logo, and this certainly played a fundamental role in the spirit of the London 2012 Summer Olympics.