Olympic Logo’s – Why Can’t we do better?

The Olympic Logos and mascots are lasting symbols of these great sporting events held every 4 years around the world.  They should be iconic symbols of the greatness these sporting events bring out in their athletes, but in this article by John Brownlee he speaks to what many marketers believe… Why can’t these graphic artists get it right.  Admittedly they need to design to the tastes of the many countries that participate and to balance design to not offend anyone might be a concern, but it does feel like they fall short in their concepts.   Why don’t they include imagery of the country where it is held, or the region?   

100 Years Of Olympic Logos: A Depressing History Of Design Crimes


If you’re not a fan of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games’minimalist logo, hey, it could have been worse. Much worse.

For proof, consider this slide show of all of the Olympic Games logos between 1924 and 2020. There have been some beautifully designed logos throughout the Olympic Games’ rich history, but sadly, that seems to be very much the exception, not the rule. Traveling back in time on this Olympic carousel, it’s interesting to spot design trends, and even more interesting to spot the design crimes.

FastCompany Slideshow of Olympic Logo’s

Starting in the summer of 1984, for example, a typographical mad man appears to have seized control of the International Olympics Committee, and in his subsequent 14-year reign of terror, lop the heads off any designer who suggested a typeface that did not come pre-installed with Microsoft Word. Okay, I kid, but bookmarked between what appears to be Sarajevo ’84s tasteful Paralucent and Nagano ’98s Amira font, the typefaces of this era are dreadful. Like, seriously, what is this, Barcelona?

Revisiting almost a century of Olympic logos, what stands out is how muddled, confused, and almost simperingly non-threatening the last 30 years of Olympic design has actually been. In the ’60s and ’70s, Olympic logo design was actually good. Consider the 1960 Winter Olympics in California’s beautiful, tri-colored emblem, the gorgeous typography of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico logo, or even the austere, almost Gropian spiral of Munich’s 1972 Summer Olympics logo. It’s enough to make you weep over what has been lost.

I’m personally of the opinion that the 2014 Sochi logo is one of the best Olympics logos in a while, but as we’ve written about before, there’s no denying that the modern political reality of the Olympics means design by committee, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Games’ official logos.

Let’s just hope over the next century’s worth of sportsmanship, that committee’s taste gets a tad more sophisticated, and fast. I’m not sure the 2018 Winter Olympics can survive its own logo, are you?

(All logos were originally collated by Colorlib.com and are reprinted here by permission.)


John Brownlee is a writer who lives in Boston. His work has appeared at WiredPlayboyPopMech, Cult Of Mac, Boing Boing, and Gizmodo.

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