When the Olympic logo was launched a few years back, it was greeted by almost universal ridicule … lots of ‘my five year old could have done better’ comments. But I say ‘well done’ to the team who stuck to their guns and who went on to roll out an truly impressive identity programme which has become the lynchpin of the games.
It proves the point that an identity is so much more than a logo which, truth be told, is where it ends for most businesses. They get a logo designed or – worse still – design it themselves or do it ‘online’, stick it at the top of their letterhead and website and, to all intents and purposes, job done!
There are three key parts of this identity that have made it so successful …
All visual identities have a practical purpose – whether it’s just your business card and a website or, in the case of London 2012, an extraordinary array of applications. Signage, uniforms, publishing, marketing, ticketing, tele-visual requirements, PR, merchandising and so on.
You can’t simply unify the thousands of items involved by sticking a logo on them. The ‘graphic support’ element needs to extend the principles of the logo cleverly so that every element is unified into a total ‘look’. You simply cannot mistake the London 2012 image when you see it. And that’s clever.
The only way you can achieve a totally unified look is by painstakingly creating a complete graphic identity that can be easily – and accurately – deployed by hundreds of suppliers.
If you look closely at the Olympic coverage you will notice a whole series of constants …
- Typography. What people mistook as ‘childlike’ lettering is, in fact, a very sophisticated part of the image. It was created for the games and is instantly recognisable and 100% identifiable with the 2012 games. It has been used on every single element; uniforms, banners, backdrops and every single sign in the London Underground and all the venues. When you are herding tens of thousands of people from one place to another, that’s a GOOD thing! And when you want millions of TV viewers around the world to instantly understand what they are watching, that is also a GOOD thing!
- The grid. Have you noticed how everything is based on an angular grid. Take a look at the floor and the desk in the BBC studios; the colouring grid on the stadium seats; and the pattern on the banners and ‘wrappers’ that transformed the interior of Wimbledon and other remote venues. They all use the system of angles that are an integral part of the logo and, both subtly and instantly, scream ‘London 2012’. With so many diverse venues, the designers have achieved the near impossible feat of making them all look like bespoke ‘London 2012 venues’.
- Colours. The logo is based on bright simple colours and can work in dozens of colour combinations. Now that’s really clever and some of the best identities are non colour dependent, making them mega flexible. The system uses different colours for different streams of sport; for distinguishing games makers from match officials; critically, for security; and for every conceivable requirement of signage. Anyone who has travelled in the London Underground this last 2 weeks will have seen the instantly recognisable signage, negating the need to work out which line you need to be on – just follow the pink!
The graphic detailing doesn’t just make everything look nice – it serves a real purpose in helping get people to where they need to be and helps deliver the information they need in an instant.
Passion and purpose
But finally – and MOST importantly – no amount of clever logos would cover up a badly organised and passion free Olympic games. You wouldn’t hear people saying, “I queued for hours and no-one seemed to know what was going on but, not to worry, the signage was great!” - it’s all about congruency of passion and purpose.
The fact is that the games have been supremely well organised and I for one am truly proud to see Britain plc showing itself off so well on the world stage. The logo and identity have pulled everything together and make it really easy for people to enjoy and experience the games, whether they are reading about them in the press, watching on TV or live at one of the venues.
And that should be the case in your business. If your ‘identity’ stops at your letterhead, the chances are that your target audience won’t really ‘get’ what you do, which will be costing you ££££s. If you have a clear passion and purpose, and you have invested wisely in design to help you express that through every part of your business, then the chances are you are already on the right road.
So ask yourself, does your ‘identity’ stand up to Olympic style scrutiny?
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