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Pride in design – and not in a good way

Isn’t it a shame when something that could be pretty turns out ugly for no apparent reason? Such is the sad fate thus far of the logo for the London 2012 Olympic Games, composed of obnoxious colors, rough typography and shaky geometric shapes. (Those, by the way, are meant to spell out “2012” in a square. Who knew.)

According to The New York Times opinion writer Alice Rawsthorn, designers weren’t the only ones to shield their eyes from the logo – the general public had plenty to say about it, too. It became a sort of Rorschach test: some said they saw in it a swastika, others caught a glimpse of Lisa Simpson engaged in a sexually explicit act. (By the way, once you extract that image from the logo, it’s quite difficult to look at it and see anything else.)

Business branding consultancy Wolff Olins designed the logo, and they – along with London 2012 organizers – have defended it, calling the design brave, bold and ahead of its time. They unveiled it to much criticism in 2007 and believed (or, rather, hoped) that by 2012, people will have changed their minds.

Three years later and that hasn’t happened. Will it by 2012? Might the collective taste change, as it does to one extent or another over time, to embrace what’s now considered unsightly?

Rawsthorn poses that question, along with a few other compelling thoughts:
1. What’s the point of designing anything if it isn’t as good as it can possibly be? Does it only matter when it’s something like this – something immensely visible and equally as expensive to create? Though any designed object might seem short-lived, cheap, or not worth the time and effort, it likely will stick around for years and in ways some designers might not even realize.

2. At what point do you, as a designer, ditch dogmatic thinking about a project and just start over already? When do you take stock and realize, “Hey, this isn’t working, it’s time to try something else”? Reluctantly letting go of the pride that begs you to adhere to an original idea shouldn’t be seen as a burden, but rather, as liberation.

It remains to be seen what will happen to the London 2012 logo. It, along with all of 2012’s marketing, has been handed over to the McCann Group, a global marketing communications company.

As Rawsthorn suggests, it isn’t too late to vastly improve the logo. Or to scrap it entirely.


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