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'Oh no' logo

By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine

Logo montage

It has received a mauling from the public, but what do branding experts make of the new Olympics 2012 logo?

Talk about pressure.

This is a logo which took a year to design and has to help raise £2bn of private money to pay for the running of the Games. So there were some understandable nerves among the London 2012 organisers when they unveiled it.

But they are adamant this is a logo which can engage with young people and excite sponsors.

"We don't do bland. This is not a bland city," says London 2012 chairman, Sebastian Coe. "We weren't going to come to you with a dull or dry corporate logo that will appear on a polo shirt and we're all gardening in it, in a year's time. This is something that has got to live for the next five years."

So has Wolff Olins, the agency briefed to reach out to young people and make the Olympics less corporate, succeeded?

CONCEPT

The objective here was to make the emblem inclusive, so it can talk to anyone, especially young people. An animated version (see internet links, right) will be used on digital platforms.

Tiswas logo
Uh-oh... a custard pie moment?
Chris Autry, managing director of digital advertising agency Fhlame, noticed a resemblance to the children's programme Tiswas of the 70s and 80s.

He says: "It's a difficult market to appeal to but by patronising that audience, kids will see right through it.

"It would have been better to stick to their guns and market it as something elegant and interesting that young people can aspire to.

"When a young person comes to London, they see things outside their realm they aspire to, not things they know."

But Michael Hamilton of branding consultants, The Hamiltons, says: "I love it. It's got vibrancy and youth and energy and fun. I think it will appeal to young people because it's different and attempting to really focus on them as a group.

"It promises the younger generation a different Olympics, a fun Olympics. It's interesting that it will work as animated as well as static."

Branding expert Jonathan Gabay says the youth market is the most sophisticated of them all and it takes more than jagged writing to make something "edgy". This insults the intelligence of Londoners, he says.

COLOURS

The aim was to create a palette of colours, lines and shapes that create energy, inspiration and interest. The logo comes as pink, orange, green or blue and the animated version online changes between the four colours.

The word London is in an inelegant font, which devalues London as a city
Chris Autry

Dan Clays at digital media specialist BLM Quantum says the use of colours "will stir some debate. But if digital media is going to be a big driver in the promotion of the event, they could even take this further by embracing the growth in people personalising web experience by allowing them to create their own colour schemes.

"The colours reflect the diversity of the city which is absolutely right. It would have been an obvious move if we had seen a variation on the nationalistic red, white and blue, or simply adopted the Olympic colours."

And by 2012, so-called "off-line" media like posters will universally offer a far more interactive, animated canvas for marketing to people of all ages, he says.

But Mr Autry thinks pink was a bad choice because primary colours are more fashionable now.

"My creative director thinks it will date very quickly. It won't withhold the test of time. And if it doesn't even stand up today, how will it in five years?"

THE WORD 'LONDON' & OLYMPIC RINGS

The designers deliberately avoided using sporting images or pictures of London landmarks. Instead the capital city's name is written in lower case.

The objective in resisting an iconic image was to emphasise that while the Games is hosted in London, it is not just for London, but also for the UK and for the world.

Putting London in lower case and in cartoon writing is a "disgrace" to the city, says Mr Autry, and there's an imbalance in having the word London and the Olympic rings both in the top half of the logo.

"The word London is in an inelegant font, which devalues London as a city," he adds. "It looks like a child's writing."

The font is called 2012bold and has been designed specifically, says corporate graphic designer Simon Murray.

"The style of a handwritten font helps to carry through the contemporary theme. It is quite refreshing that they have used a font that is completely unrelated to the standard Johnston typeface used on tube maps and generally associated with London."

STYLE

The intention was that by being bold, spirited and even discordant, it would echo London's qualities as a modern, diverse and vibrant city.

"It doesn't really matter that it's slightly illegible, that's exactly how logos work," says Mr Hamilton.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Do the decent thing and give us a logo we can be proud of and not this national embarrassment.
Natalie, UK

"People have long stopped reading logos. Another part of the brand kicks in because the brain says 'I've seen it before'. It's recognition of the shape, not the eligibility of the content. This logo will get that recognition and get that response in the brain."

Too many logos in recent years have been cautious in their use of graphics, he says.

Mr Gabay says: "Sometimes what happens is that marketing departments are too clever by half. They should tell people what the product or service is and be proud of it. This logo doesn't say much about their confidence in the product. All I can see is that it says 'So-R'.

"It should have consistency, meaning and above all, it's got to have truth. But it doesn't say to me anywhere 'The UK Games'."

The look and feel of the logo might raise a few eyebrows amongst traditionalists, says Mr Clays. "But ultimately hosting the Olympics is about opening the event up to new audiences and London does pride itself on being a city of innovation."

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