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Fit for nothing

Jonathan Schofield ponders the Olympic logo and Manchester’s branding

Written by . Published on June 6th 2007.

Fit for nothing

You might think the epilepsy inducing logo for the London Olympics is too easy a target to attack. That when it comes to measured commentary, it’s unworthy of a serious writer’s attention, a soft target, a sitting duck. Good job we’re not serious at Confidential then because that London logo is truly crap.

If branding and design is supposed to deliver the single gripping image which stays in the mind, then this is dire. Click to the right to view it [sadly YouTube have been forced to remove the video now] and you’ll see a confusing mess of colours and shapes trippily spinning across the screen, slamming into the brain like a migraine in motion. This is as far removed as possible from (love ‘em or loathe ‘em) the golden arches of McDonalds or the London Underground sign (and surely Man Con logo? says Gordo).

Lord Coe, the London Olympic boss, who had the job of selling the logo on Monday, was struggling, almost sweating, when he called it a modern, dynamic logo designed to "build relationships with young people so the Games are seen as relevant.” The man’s heart, poor thing, clearly wasn’t in it.

A confusing mess of colours and shapes trippily spinning across the screen, slamming into the brain like a migraine in motion.

Of course the big idea behind all this, is a logo for the modern multi-media age. What brand consultancy Wolff Olins who created it seem to have forgotten is that the logo also needs to adorn less fluid media, it has to be a stamp for t-shirts, mugs, and pin-badges. And when static it has been described as a disfigured swastika, an arrangement of beer mats, a window kicked in by a football, a graffiti tag, and a scribbled joke - check out a couple of humorous versions on this page.

But are we, and the media generally, missing the point? Confidential called Ralph Ardill, one of the leading international brand and design consultants, now based in London but with deep ties to the North West, who had at least a degree of sympathy for Wolff Olins. “When you consider the old logo had a River Thames running through it then you can see what they were trying. Does London need something so literal as the Thames? We all know about London icons, they must have thought they needed something to represent a multi-cultural fast-paced city. Whether this does that, is open to debate. What is clear is that when it’s not moving about on screen the excitement of the design seems to leave it. Will it become a collector’s classic when static?”

Nobody but the designers and the organizers think so at present. Although as Ardill also said, “it’s created an uproar, if nothing else. Great brands tend to get talked about. But it will be interesting to see if London 2012 stand by it.”

We have experience in Manchester of this kind of thing. It recalls the nineties farce here when Marketing Manchester launched, at great expense, the ‘Manchester: we're up and going’ logo. Seen as plain stupid (‘going’ where, down the drain?) and plain ugly it led to several people losing their jobs – though not, as far as we know, at McCann-Erikson, the people who designed it. The campaign was immediately dead in the water, it was dumped not long after. Maybe the same will happen in the capital?

And are we so confident that the current branding of Manchester, the big M shown here, expensively dreamt up by ex-Factory designer Peter Saville and others, is any better? When on public display, on the streets of the city, it looks weak and insubstantial close to and almost non-existent from a distance. The differently coloured threads, a reference to the multi-cultural nature of Manchester and its textile past and so forth, seem particularly lame. London 2012’s branding and Manchester’s seem to occupy opposite ends of the spectrum, one too strident, the other too diffident.

Ralph Ardill again: “It is difficult to get it just right. Manchester's doesn’t seem to have been talked about. The London designers have gone the other way. They seem to have been so seduced by the prospect of using multi-media to appeal to a younger market that it’s difficult to know what their work stands for – you have to have a balance between form and function after all.”

Maybe that’s the crux of the problem. Wolff Olins seem to have taken their brief to get the kids involved too literally and fallen into that age-old trap of age gap. It’s a fact universally acknowledged that anybody over thirty has no idea of what people between 10 and 18 have going on in their heads. I showed the Olympic logo to my fifteen year old son and he said, “what’s it about? It’s just annoying.”

No immediate engagement with the London Olympics there then. Oops, £400k bites the dust.

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

BertieJune 6th 2007.

bugga, sorry, messed up link too!

WhoooshJune 6th 2007.

Can someone point at to those in power that Peter Saville is very 1980's and hasn't done anything ground breaking since Factory? Everything has its sell by date and London Loving Pete is well past his.

HenryJune 6th 2007.

yeah. Top image mb. I was thinking last night, the article might be dreary as hell but the image was fab and they must have some cool designers at Manc Conf, so credit where credit's due

LoxieJune 6th 2007.

This design is without doubt an utter piece of c%*p! It reminds me of the kind of thing I would scribble down as a lazy teenager trying to fill up a sketch book for my Art G.C.S.E. (or was that O Level?)Either way it still looks amateurish and completely forgettable - a bit like the sleeve for a dodgy 80's band - Kajagoogoo or summit! ...Emperors new clothes methinks...Even I could design 'em a new one for 250 smackers!

EditorialJune 6th 2007.

Si, thanks for pointing out the typo. Not sure how that happened :)

TechJune 6th 2007.

Credit added, cheers Monkey boy

AnonymousJune 6th 2007.

Typical london approach to design, if anything this will be the most laughed at logo for the games ever. How will this relate to the mascot?

monkeyboyJune 6th 2007.

Doh, messed up my link.You should still credit b3ta though, naughty people.

techJune 6th 2007.

Hi Bertie, fixed the linking, we were removing the < but now is fine...

monkeyboyJune 6th 2007.

Nice of you to credit b3ta for their a href="http://www.b3ta.com/board/7253564"&#62; chavved up/a> version of the image.

KathyJune 6th 2007.

Is it just me (dont answer that) or does it read 2NiR rather than 2012

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