However, on the periphery, I’m enjoying some of the spillover of Olympic fever onto the design blogosphere. Folks are assembling retrospectives of past Olympic design and branding trends, which make for fascinating surveys of how an esteemed brand evolves and, usually, responds to prevailing trends rather than shapes them. Looking at the logos themselves shows too how consistently delicate a political affair designing these logos have been; with few exceptions, they’re somewhat awkward hybrids in which site-specific marks contort themselves to accommodate the Olympic rings. They’re certainly not all bad, but neither are they all good.
What’s also striking to me is how little we’ve seen of Fuwa (the Fuwa?), the five official mascots of the Beijing Olympics. I wasn’t even aware that the current Olympic committee had commissioned mascots at all until I went Googling for them, and there they were. Aside from the one panda, I’m not sure if I understand who or what they are, though they’re inoffensive enough I suppose. (It’s probably that same inoffensiveness that has inspired the public’s widespread disinterest.) These mascots do make me miss my favorite Olympic mascot of all time, though: designer Javier Mariscal’s deftly charming Cobi, created for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Regrettably, Cobi seems underrepresented on the Web. And please, let us not discuss the 1996 Atlanta games’ Izzy.
’72 or Bust
Anyway, maybe the whole point of writing this hasty survey of Olympics graphics is so that I might draw a little more attention to this site dedicated to the graphics for the 1972 Munich games. (Which I first saw over at Rob Giampietro’s Lined & Unlined. There’s more of the work from these games at this exhibition site.) It’s a meticulous collection of the extensive array of collateral designed by the legendary Otl Aicher. I’ve been paging through it over and over for days, marveling at how exquisitely each one balances function with a pitch-perfect sense of minimalist form. Both at the item-by-item level and taken as a whole, it’s a bravura performance of Modernism at its most cogent and inspiring, something to truly hold up as aspirational. A reminder, perhaps, that the Olympic are capable of bringing out the very best in all kinds of people.
Right, from top: Games designers play. Photographs of Otl Aicher’s beautiful designs for posters, tickets, booklets, medals and guides, from the 1972 Munich Olympics. Much more available at 1972 munich olympics.co.uk.