Take 5... design's top Olympic logos

One category. Every two weeks. Five of the world’s most charismatic designs.

Welcome to Take 5 where The Drum, along with jones knowles ritchie (JKR) Singapore strategy director Katie Ewer, take a bi-weekly look at some of the design industry’s best imagined packaging design where you, the reader, are in control.

Every other Friday we’ll pick a theme and ask you to submit the design you feel deserves a top spot. You’ll have one week to get your entries in, the votes will be counted and the best of lot will be published the following Friday. (Make sure you scroll down to find out the next topic winging its way).

But back to today's theme: Olympic logos. Was the phrase ‘designed by committee’, loaded as it is with implicit scorn and negativity, first coined in relation to Olympic logos? Really, finding just five candidates worthy of an honourable mention is such a herculean task that it deserves a medal. In truth, receiving a brief to design an Olympic logo is a little like being handed a poisoned chalice – it must be virtually impossible to please an entire Olympic committee as well as several governments, with just some typography, a few marks and five coloured rings at your disposal.

Here’s 5 of the best. They’re all within a 16 year timespan.

Tokyo 1964

The story goes that this logo’s creator, Yusaku Kamekura, forgot about the deadline and he ended up having to knock this out in a couple of hours. Asia’s first Olympic games logo is striking, memorable and original. I think at this point, it’s worth noting that the recently jettisoned Tokyo 2020 logo was none of these things. I think it’s also worth mentioning that crowd-sourcing an alternative because you’re panicking is not necessarily a classy move. Well, now we’ve got that one out the way...

Mexico 1968

The Mexico 1968 Olympic logo wins the gold for cool. And why wouldn’t it? This was definitely the coolest Olympics. Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a stand for civil rights with their black power salute. It was the first Olympics to be transmitted in colour. And Swedish athlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall was the first athlete ever to be disqualified for doping (he drank a few beers before competing - what a legend). With its retrolicious quasi-psychedelic typography, the logo seems to speak to an era, not just a single event.

Munich 1972

The uncompromising aesthetic of this op-art logo feels a million miles away from 99 per cent of Olympic logos. It just doesn’t look like an Olympic logo. Naturally, it was extremely controversial. If you’re interested, it’s called the ‘Strahlenkranz’ and was intended to suggest the sun’s rays as well as the Olympic rings – all merged into one trippy Bauhaus symbol. Otl Aicher, the designer, also created the Lufthansa logo.

Montreal 1976

Symmetry and simplicity are at the heart of this one, which takes the five Olympic rings and then has a bit of fun with them, rather than just tacking them onto a separate mark. Apparently the logo represents the Olympic podium, the Olympic track (at a guess that’s the oval bits), and a ‘M’ for Montréal. Some people think it’s also a maple leaf. Hmmm.

Moscow 1980

This wasn’t just a logo for an Olympic games. It was the logo for an entire ideology that just happened to be manifested in a single event. This was Russia branding its side in the Cold War. This logo was Russia’s design weapon in the arms race of Olympic logos. When America countered with their own logo in the following Olympics, they fired a blank. But this Russian one rocks. It looks like Red Square, and bleak communist buildings, and a running track, and a rocket, all in one.

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