When designing for the Olympic Games, there are huge challenges associated with communicating to a global audience of different age groups and nationalities, while encapsulating something memorable and iconic about the host city.

So, given the 2016 Brazil games are well and truly underway, we thought we’d take a look back at our favourite Olympic Games identities from the past.

with over 3.6 billion viewers, it’s hard to imagine a brand that attracts as much global scrutiny.


Jason’s pick

London 2012

This is going to be a controversial call, but my favourite Olympic Games identity is London 2012. Created by design consultants Wolff Olins, the logo polarised the world, as is to be expected when making a huge shift away from the traditional ‘figurative symbol atop the Olympic rings’ approach.

The brand idea was ‘Like never before’ a concept that was much bigger than the logo. The downside was that many people were confused by the concept of a flexible identity system when many past identities had been rigid and literal.

I can’t bring myself to love the unappealing, supporting typeface, which was jagged and unsettling to read. But this execution gets my vote for pushing things in a new direction, adding energy to a tired formula and creating something truly memorable.


Jesse’s pick

Mexico 1968

Created by a design team led by renowned American graphic designer Lance Wyman, the graphic system is influenced by intricate native Mexican art. Though it may lose points for legibility in some of the typographic executions, the whole system is very cohesive, distinctive and versatile. The lines, shapes and colour all come together to create a dynamic sense of movement and life.


Bianca’s pick

Tokyo 1964

The flag emblem may seem a little direct, but I believe it perfectly embodies the harmony, elegance and pride of the Japanese culture. The minimal identity also pays homage to the Swiss International Style; a popular design style of the era and my favourite graphic design movement.

Some minor improvements could have been made in the kerning of the type and the spacing of the graphic elements. It could have also been interesting to experiment with a more lively colour palette that reflects the spirit of the games.

In conclusion, we all have differing opinions on what makes a great Olympics brand identity. Given the broad audience, it makes perfect sense that most executions have played it safe, and the more transgressive designs have been harshly criticised. There’s already the promise of more controversy in future, with the Tokyo 2020 logo being redesigned after being accused of plagiarism.

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