Olympic Design

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One of my favorite books for design inspiration is Pictograms, Icons and Signs by Rayan Abdullah and Roger Hubner. One of the discoveries within that I find most interesting are the Olympic pictograms, the little figures that represent the different events. It seemed like such an interesting challenge to represent each sporting event while keeping to the established style of that Olympiad. Some sets have been more successful than others throughout the years. The first Olympiad to really establish the precedent of a unified system of successful marks was the 1972 Munich games. Otl Aicher lead a team of designers in creating a unified system of logos, pictograms, posters, brochures, signage, uniforms, and even a cute Dachshund mascot. It was a successful, and dare I say awesome collection.

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Check out more of the incredible Munich games design here. I was a volunteer for the Salt Lake Winter Games in 2002 and my father was a competitive cross country skier when he was younger so the Olympics, especially the winter ones, always get me excited. Anyway, on to the point of this post. I recently visited British Columbia for the first time and was blown away by the landscape and could see the graphic evidence popping up everywhere in anticipation of the games (see the logo at the top of the post). The design of the games has its own section on the Vancouver 2010 website. The designers working on the Vancouver Games have put up their pictograms which are a stylistic departure from the past few Olympiads. They are clear, and while they are not as blatantly gestural as the Beijing games, they are more illustrative in nature than the grid-based Otl pictograms. The illustrations that look like they will be plastered over everything in sight are definitely pretty trendy, not a rare thing at all in the design world. Time will tell how well they will work. The Vancouver design team has put up a video discussing the visual direction of the games. Check it out.