Due to the pandemic caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the celebration of the 2020 Summer Olympics, which were expected to be organized this year in Tokyo, was finally postponed to 2021. That’s the Japanese Government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed after a telephone conversation between the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach.
Despite the bad news, we have encouraged ourselves to set up a list with the top 7 best logos the Olympic Games have had along their history. We must say that it hasn’t been easy to make a ranking, because most of the logos we have reviewed are true masterpieces, however, we did our best to bring you those ones that, under our point of view, are the most beautiful and iconic.
Before continuing with the article, we think it’s important to clarify the following concepts: a logo is a graphic representation composed only by the letters or the typography (Coca-Cola, Disney, Microsoft), although it can be also used as a general term; an isotype is the pictographic element of a brand (Apple, Nike, Volkswagen); an imagotype is the conjunction between the logo and the isotype (WWF, LG, Amazon); and an isologo is a graphic representation whose parts constitute an indivisible piece (Burger King, BMW, Starbucks).
7. Los Angeles 1984
First of all, it’s important to take into account that during the 1980s the rivalry between The United States and the Soviet Union (USSR) was still alive. In that sense, the Olympics were just another battlefield during the Cold War.
The logo used for Los Angeles 1984 had the purpose of reflecting an enormous contrast with the logo designed for the previous Olympic Games, which took place in Moscow four years ago. While the Moscow’s logo had a design that portrayed –as we’ll be able to appreciate later– the communist idiosyncrasy, the Los Angeles’ one stood out for symbolizing the American spirit. For the isotype’s design, the star –one of the symbols par excellence of the American culture– was selected to project the country’s energy and dynamism. In this way, the isotype is composed of three stars, each one with a different colour (blue, white and red), placed horizontally and partly-overlapped. Also, each star except the one in the middle is made up of horizontal lines in order to represent movement, and to symbolize that energy and dynamism we mentioned before.
6. Montreal 1976
Despite its simplicity, the logo designed by Georges Huel and Pierre-Yves Pelletier for Montreal 1976 has several hidden elements. In this case, the isotype is a red-coloured figure which has the Olympic rings integrated in an abstract symbol. Said figure represents, apart from the rings, a podium, a running track and the letter M.
5. Moscow 1980
In the same way as we could see in the case of Los Angeles 1984, the logo designed for Moscow 1980 also used a particular style in line of the ideology of the country, in this case the USSR. Related to this, we can observe that the imagotype –whose designer was Vladimir Arsentyev– has two of the most representative elements of the communist symbology: the red colour and the five-pointed star. In fact, it was the first time in the history of the Olympics in which the whole logo consisted of only one colour. Another element worth highlighting is the use of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet in the typography instead of the Latin alphabet.In the following picture it can be appreciated that the imagotype is made up of the Olympic rings and five parallel lines that, pyramidal in shape, converge at a same point, that is, the five-pointed star located at the top.
4. Seoul 1988
Taking as a basis the samtaegeuk, a traditional Korean symbol widely used in the country as a decorative element in homes, the author of the isotype Yang Sung-Chun wanted to join in the same emblem the idea of the centripetal and centrifugal forces. In this case, while the centripetal movement was intended to represent global harmony and union, the centrifugal wanted to evoke humankind’s constant search for happiness and prosperity. As a result, we have a tricoloured spiral –very similar to the samtaegeuk– accompanied by the five Olympic rings.
3. Munich 1972
Designed by German Otl Aicher, the logo used for Munich 1972 is generally considered by experts as the best in the history of the Olympics. Called ‘The Bright Sun’, the isotype had the purpose of symbolizing the spirit of the Munich Games –by means of some elements such as light, freshness and generosity– as well as to recreate the light flashes that appear at the moment of lighting the Olympic flame in the cauldron.
2. Mexico 1968
Although we placed the logo designed for Mexico 1968 in the second position, it could have just as well been placed on the top. Made by American graphic designer Lance Wyman, the aesthetic of the logo is a mix between op-art (a style of visual art which uses optical illusions with pieces generally created in black and white) and Mexican pre-Columbian art (to be more precise, the Huichol crafts). In other words, we are in front of a logo which is the conjunction between the modern and the traditional.
On the other hand, the isologo consists of several black and white parallel lines which conform the name ‘Mexico 68’ with the rings over-lapped in the number of the year of celebration, being at the same time the only coloured elements.
Without any doubt, we’ll devote an entire article in the future to talk in depth about the iconography used in Mexico 1968.
1. Barcelona 1992
The logo designed by Catalan Josep Maria Trias for Barcelona 1992 deserves the first place for several reasons. Firstly, it was the first logo in the modern Olympic Games which used an anthropomorphic figure. Secondly, unlike the logos used in previous Olympics, the logo for Barcelona makes a direct reference to sport, having the drawing of an athlete as an isotype. Thirdly, another important characteristic is that the logo is distant from any localism or nationalist symbol, having its magic in its universal character. Fourthly, something that makes this logo unique and more in line with the artistic tradition of the city, is the fact of being hand-drawn.
The isotype consists of three strokes, each one with a different colour. The first stroke, a blue square, whose function is to represent the athlete’s head, is associated with the Mediterranean Sea; the second stroke, curved and yellow, is the athlete’s arms and symbolizes the sun; and the third stroke, a curved red-coloured line that represents athlete’s legs, denotes passion and life.
Finally, in the same way as in the case of Mexico 1968, we are sure we’ll devote a specific article related to the visual identity of Barcelona ’92 in the future.