Is the London 2012 olympic logo really that bad?

Everyone’s saying it, opinions seem to be unanimous, the London 2012 Olympic Games logo sucks!

Earlier today at a star-studded ceremony, Lord Sebastian Cole proudly unveiled the identity of Britain’s pride and joy, the London 2012 Olympic Games.

London 2012 Olympic Games logo

If reaction and publicity is what they wanted, it is most certainly what they’ve got. Lets just summarise:

  • David Airey asks what were they thinking?
  • Simon Kitson says it’s an awfully big let-down
  • Johnnie Moore calls it ‘brand-w@nk’
  • Tim Nudd isn’t impressed
  • Dave Cross says it looks like a car crash
  • The Lone Voice draws an alternative (genital-based) logo
  • Chris Doidge talks about vomit
  • Ed Hillan sees dog turd
  • The British public absolutely slate it
  • And I think you get the picture?

In fact, through digging around I have yet to see or hear of even one slightly positive response. So I’m going to take a step back, look at things in a calm and reflective manner, and try to identify if there are any positives.

It’s not a corporate logo

It’s important to distinguish between a corporate logo and a logo for a large sporting event like the Olympic Games. Companies operate in a commercial world where there is competition from rival companies. Corporate logos need to be instantly recognisable from the competition; if the public struggle to identify with a logo this leads to a loss of performance, loss of sales, loss of jobs and all sorts of bad stuff.

The Olympics doesn’t operate in the same kind of environment as this. There will be no other large athletics games competing for TV and advertising space in the summer of 2012. Lets face it, we’re all going to watch the games on TV, the stadiums will be full, advertisers are going to pay millions to have anything to do with the games, and the public feeling towards the logo will have absolutely no effect on this at all.

So without these commercial pressures I think this enables the designers to take a few more risks and be unconventional. This logo certainly is unconventional and I think that’s fine. In fact, I think it’s a good positive thing.

Are logos for large sporting events ever any good?

Lets be fair and compare like for like. Anyone remember the World Cup in Germany last year?

If anything the World Cup has a larger world audience than the Olympics. So the highest profile of all world sporting events must surely be what we look up to and measure ourselves against, right?

Germany 2006 World Cup logo

Oh deary me, that’s not very good. In fact the German World Cup logo was hated so much by the German design community that they went ahead and designed their own (much better) alternative version.

So can we take heart from the fact that logos for large sporting events are always just a bit dodgy? How does the London logo compare with these?

Collage of Olympic logos

The Barcelona Olympics logo, a stylised stick figure athlete clearly influenced by the works of Juan Miro, is a great logo. However, Athens’ and Atlanta’s logo are a bit ‘meh’.

Compared with these, the London 2012 logo really stands out. My favourite of these (Barcelona) is also pretty conventional. London is trying to be brave which makes it stand out… some might say like a sore thumb. This might not be such a bad thing.

A brand isn’t just a logo

The London Olympics will be identified by far more than just the logo. Over the next few years we will be seeing lots of bright blues, pinks, greens and oranges; we will see lots of jagged shapes and sharp edges. If this logo is anything at all it is certainly vibrant, and will form the foundation for a much wider visual style, which is colourful exciting and vibrant.

This visual style will also be accompanied by carefully selected and equally vibrant theme songs by cutting edge and trendy British rock bands. Adverts will feature these songs, Happy Meal boxes will use these colours, Coca Cola cans will replace the curvy swoosh with a jagged edge.

OK, I’m being a tad presumptuous, but to demonstrate what I mean by this I suggest watching the official brand video which I think is excellent and might even sway a few peoples’ opinion.

EDIT: There have been reports of a section of the brand video causing epileptic seizures. In the interests of health and safety I have decided to remove the video. If a re-edited version appears on the London 2012 website I will post that.

Lord Cole has already stated how they are trying to appeal to the youth and they are approaching this with a cutting edge, trendy and vibrant brand. Whether this concept is cutting edge and trendy is still open to debate, but it must be viewed as more than just a logo.


I’ve intentionally been very fair to the London logo – perhaps overly fair. My instinctive reaction upon viewing the logo was one of shock and horror. From reading the reactions of the general public and respected designers alike, not many people seem to like this logo and some are quite angry about it.

The purpose of this article was not to be different for the sake of being different, but to identify some positives. To a certain extent I am playing the Devil’s advocate, but the points I raise are valid.

Lets not forget they are designing a logo for something that is happening five years in the future. That requires a lot of foresight, and a need to be courageous. With the world watching, the designers and the London team could have quite easily announced a ’safe’ logo. Instead they have boldly hit everyone in the face with something outrageously different.

Whatever your opinion of the logo, which is probably low, the people behind it knew it would raise a few eyebrows today, and on that basis their bravery, adventurousness, or downright foolishness, must be acknowledged.

Over to you.