Graphic design fads and Olympics posters

Are there fads in graphic design? Well, duh! Check out these eras of Olympics poster design.

1. 1912-1924: the homoerotic era

homoerotic olympics posters, 1912-1924

2. 1968-1980: the geometric era

geometric and op art olympics posters, 1968-1980

3. 1996-2004: the era of bright, saturated colors

bright, saturated colors in olympics posters, 1996-2004

Which brings us to the present. Are we seeing a trend to patches of irregular shapes?

olympics posters today -- and tomorrow (2012)

The Beijing poster is okay, but it’s hard for me to imagine any graphic designer wanting to follow in the footsteps of of Wolff Ollins, who designed the London logo. And yet, the design has its champions:

  • London 2012 organising committee chairman Seb Coe: “This is the vision at the very heart of our brand…. It will “act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world…. It’s not a logo, it’s a brand that will take us forward for the next five years”
  • International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge:: “This is a truly innovative brand logo that graphically captures the essence of the London 2012 Olympic Games – namely to inspire young people around the world through sport and the Olympic values.”
  • Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell: “This is an iconic brand that sums up what London 2012 is all about – an inclusive, welcoming and diverse Games that involves the whole country.”
  • Former Prime Minister Tony Blair: “When people see the new brand, we want them to be inspired to make a positive change in their life.”

So there you go. What “young people around the world” want is random jaggy magenta crap. Because that’s inspiring. And because, after all, it’s not a logo, it’s a brand.


Update, 21 August: Subtraction on Graphic Design at the Games


images via Abduzeedo
London logo quotes via BBC SPORT


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  1. annexensen

    When I see horrible logos like the London concept, I think I should be making at least $100/hour! My dog could design a better logo with one paw behind his back!

  2. So, Tony Blair thinks that the magenta logo will inspire me to change my life? What has he been drinking and where can I get some of it? As far as pandering to what “young people want,” that’s pretty stupid because they change their minds about every 20 minutes. What’s in at noon will be out at midnight.
    The 1920’s were a great period for all sorts of design – sports and travel posters included. I always wondered about the homoerotic aspect of fascism as so many of their posters featured studdly blonde types. Nordic with muscles.

  3. It’s usually a mistake when old farts try to produce something to appeal to “what young people want.” They almost always end up making fools of themselves.

    Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to see anything positive in the London 2012 logo.

  4. lol, era of irregular patches, what about era of logos painted by elephants or monkeys? The Mexico logo just gives me a migraine, they should go back to something more arty like in the homoerotic era, but with much less homoerotism. Instead of trying way to hard, bad logos will discredit the event.

  5. Keep it simple and elegant, something that reminds us of the grandeur of the games held in Greece in the beginning. The event should never lose its roots and I hope it lasts for another few thousand years. Hopefully with logos that don’t degrade it…

  6. Madaline

    The do look quite cheap, the only one that looks eminent is first one. The others lack something to be called respectable, I am not quite sure what it is. The logo needs to be a representation of what the games represent, and it needs to instill emotion.