Milton Glaser grades Olympic logos and his observations are pretty great. There have been some real duds over the decades, and the majority have been mediocre, but there are standout successes. Go read the whole list, I just have a few thoughts on a handful of them.
Rome – Summer Olympics 1960
What a great mark! I hope that there were sculptures of the logo all over the city. I love how tactile it feels. I also think it’s great how anybody who doesn’t know much Roman history would be totally confused by it.
Tokyo – Summer Olympics 1964
The best of the set. As close to a perfect identity as we have seen. I would love to have a poster of it by itself with plenty of white space.
Munich – Summer 1972
I disagree with Glaser’s dismissal. While the mark doesn’t say much on its own it is perfectly appropriate when seen in the context of the rest of the Munich Olympics’ branding. In a way, I think it anticipates the current identity trend of combining a logo with whatever you are talking about at the moment, like AOL’s rebrand, MTV’s historic contextual identity, or even the Obama and Hillary marks taking on different constituencies or issues. The Munich logo is forgettable on its own, but when seen in the context of the entire design system it’s appropriate.
Salt Lake City – Winter 2002
I’m biased, having worked for the Olympics in Salt Lake, but I think this logo is pretty great. The intent is clear and the execution is sharp.
Athens – Summer 2004 & Beijing – Summer 2008
Love the Olive branch, but what’s with the white strokes around the rings? Beijing executes this detail better. In both cases, I love the hand rendered quality of the marks.