Thursday, June 7, 2007

Anyone Can Design Better Than You: The 2012 London Olympics Logo Steps Outside The Familiar

There is a familiar theme that has come up in the design of the logo for the 2012 Olympics being held in London. There have been multiple layers of outcry over the design of the logo. People in London seem to not just dislike it, but truly hate it. It has been described as a "toileting monkey" and a "broken swastika". Nothing seems to be going right for this design. Over 25,000 people have signed a petition to have it redesigned. To make matters worse, the animation that goes with the logo has caused at least 8 seizures. Seriously.

The logo was designed by one of the world’s most expensive branding agencies, Wolff Olins. It took them a year to research which included consumer testing. How could there not be any feedback from their consumer testing that resembled a smidgen of this outrage? Clearly the testing was flawed if there wasn’t.

This is reminiscent of the furor over the design of the Vietnam War Memorial:

A jury of architects and sculptors unanimously selected a design by Maya Ying Lin, a 21 year old Yale University architecture student from Athens, Ohio, as the winner from 1,421 entries. Lin had originally designed the Memorial Wall as a student project. Controversially, the design lacked many of the elements traditionally present in war memorials, such as patriotic writings and heroic statues, and a flagstaff and figurative sculpture. Lin's Asian heritage was also a sensitive issue, and she was not even named in the memorial's 1982 dedication ceremony.

It is abstract in form, and strikingly in contrast to the figurative memorials, usually in white stone or bronze, whose tradition goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Thus, it did not meet many people's ideas of what a monument should look like. Veterans and others complained that it looked too much like an ugly scar in the ground, reflecting the attitude and stigma the American government and public had towards the war and its veterans. In particular, the fact that the wall sloped down below ground level caused some to claim that the monument attempted to hide the war. Others claimed the dark stone made it look like a gravestone rather than glorifying the dead.

All designers are a Maya Lin or Wolff Olins at some point in their career when we try to do something that steps out of the realm of the familiar. London Olympics? You need a crown or Big Ben! Vietnam War Memorial? You need soldiers with guns drawn looking noble. We’ve come to love the Vietnam War Memorial and the experience that surrounds it. The reflection you see of yourself as you read the names of fallen soldiers and etch their names with a pencil on paper are things that people are now moved by.

When a doctor, lawyer or accountant recommends something, the typical response is not that you think you could know better. It is often this way with design, especially when it is a design that is taking a risk. I often see people share their work and not have it questioned yet everyone seems to have an opinion on how a website should look or function.

Even though we may not agree on what they are paid, it's too easy to pick apart what is outside the norm. We should support risk takers.

1 comment:

geri grossman said...

I really enjoyed this article and your perspective. Always unique, clever, and relevant!!