Logo for 2012 Summer Olympics in London misses the mark, communication design expert says

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The recently revealed 2012 Summer Olympics logo, which has gained widespread criticism across the world, is a chaotic design that has been "dumbed down" to appeal to a younger audience and will be out of date when the games take place in five years in London, says a University of North Texas expert in communication design.

Jack Sprague, a longtime professor in the UNT School of Visual Arts, says the abstract logo in colors such as shocking pink and bright yellow - seen on the London Olympics web site at http://main.london2012.com/en - fails to capture the Olympics' essence of sports perfection.

"The message that this mark communicates is that of chaos, disorganization, rebellion and youthful preoccupation with trendy fads," Sprague says. "Had this mark been done in the 1960s, it would have the characteristics of a tie-dyed T-shirt, which was never visually attractive, or a Jimi Hendricks album cover - great for popular culture, but not indicative of sports perfection and competition."

Some designers mistakenly think designs must be "dumbed down to unsophisticated street art" to appeal to a younger audience, Sprague says. But he says a good design can be daring, unique and youthful while still being well organized and well designed.

"A good designer should create a symbol whose attributes carefully reflect the aspirations of the Olympic event, and this requires an understanding of semiotics - the study of the meaning of signs, symbols, colors, shapes, texture and their relationships," Sprague says.

He adds that good design also "requires paying close attention to the relationship between all of the visual elements within a symbol."

"It is because of a lack of attention to these important details that this new mark is unsuccessful. This is the problem with using popular culture to influence symbols, and it is typical of young designers who do not understand graphic history and semiotics, content with being too wrapped up in their own visual zeitgeist," he says.

An animated version of the logo was pulled after reports that it caused epileptic seizures. The logo also inspired an online petition calling for its removal. Emotions tend to run high during the development of new designs, and controversy is not uncommon, Sprague says.

"But when it comes to designing a mark that represents the symbolism and the ideals of the Olympics, I believe that historians will not be kind when analyzing this new 2012 London mark," he says. "If one of my design students had submitted this for a class assignment, I would have sent the student back to the drafting board."

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