I was working for a design agency when the logo launched in 2007 and clearly remember the negativity that surrounded it. It was probably the first time I ever saw people discussing a design subject – on the tube, in the office, on the street. To be honest, it was quite refreshing to listen into people's creative judgements - even though most of what I heard was harsh criticism rather than constructive criticism!
My creative director at the time insisted that the logo would have to be re-designed as there would be no possible way London could accept it as an iconic piece of design to represent one of the biggest sporting events in the world…
You thought that was a hard brief for a designer! Well, the brief for the pictograms was certainly a tricky one too! The agency had to come up with something that fitted in with our brand identity but at the same time create something new and exciting.
The public aren't familiar with what a 'pictogram' is - it's a very 'Olympic' word. So we wanted to make sure that whatever we came up with was a great piece of design but it also worked hard for our identity and really proved that our brand was developing in the run up to 2012.
Traditionally pictograms are used for way finding and signage at Games time, so people generally see them as just an Organising Committee's way of doing their own toilet sign! We wanted to create an asset that we, our licensees and our partners would use in more creative ways than just at Games time – and they'll be vital to the identity of our 'Look' programme (how we 'dress' the city).
The pictograms of the past have nearly always taken their cue from the Munich Games pictograms designed by Otl Aicher. Therefore, they are generally based both on old technology (things have moved on!), and are often stationary and frozen.
Below are examples from Munich (top row), Moscow, Tokyo, Mexico, Athens, Barcelona, Sydney and, finally, the Beijing pictograms:
They convey little of the speed, the energy, excitement and the power of the Games, the cultural events and the athletes themselves. We should be embracing a creative way to convey these core attributes for those competing and their audiences, while connecting with and complimenting London and its brand and identity.
One of the joys of London 2012 is the coming together and connection of the world's people, and so a more contemporary approach to pictograms offers an opportunity beyond pure informational signage.
We really wanted to push the concept for the pictograms and one of the outcomes of this was to create two style versions – a silhouette version used for high visibility and information-based applications, and a dynamic version used both as decoration and where a more exciting version is called for, such as on posters or banners.
So, for example, the Track Cycling 'dynamic' pictogram, with the silhouette version inset:
Both styles prove just how flexible the graphic is to use across different media.
A couple of years of research has shown that people have started to warm to our logo, and I have my fingers crossed that the public will embrace our pictograms, in particular the design industry.
Do I believe they could rival the Munich Games' versions? Absolutely, because I strongly believe these will touch and inspire everyone – whether in London, the UK or more widely around the world.
You've seen the logo, now welcome a new element of our brand! All hail the London 2012 pictograms!