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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
One Olympics, similar logos
The Voyseys' logo (left) and David Watson's (right)

By Alex Kleiderman
BBC News

Two logos by different designers, one very similar idea for the 2012 Olympics... how could it be?

When the BBC News website asked readers to come up with their own design for a motif to the London Olympics, graphic designers Richard and Chris Voysey dashed off the logo above left, and e-mailed it in. It went on to win a vote as the readers' favourite.

But when fellow designer David Watson saw it, he was reminded of a similar idea (above right) he had come up with for a competition, four years ago, to design a logo for what was then London's Olympic bid.

TisWas (above) and the new 2012 logo
Even the official 2012 logo was seen as derivative by some
The key similarity is the graphic illusion of turning the first three letters "LON" into the date 2012.

Mr Watson's emblem was short listed by the bid committee at the time.

But if experts in the graphic design field spotted the similarity for themselves, they might equally ruminate on the theory that, in the world of logo design, particularly when it comes to a brief such as the Olympics, originality is hard to come by.

Perhaps that is why the startlingly bold official 2012 logo, unveiled last week, has proved more of a hit in the design community than among the public.

Clive Challis, who heads the advertising course at Central St Martins College of Art and Design in London, is not surprised that different designers can independently come up with similar looking Olympic logos.

They would strive to include what, in the industry, are known as mandatory elements in their work - in this case:
• the numerals 2012
• the Olympic rings
• the word "London"

"They would always look for some degree of synthesis and normally you don't have to accommodate three things together in the same logo," says Mr Challis.

"You can understand their dilemma - having these elements you don't want to complicate things."

Great minds

Back in 2003, David Watson, of Trebleseven Design Associates, spent more than 40 hours developing his logo and employed a professional lettering artist to finesse the project.

The graphical trick of substituting numerals for characters is in no way unique or novel
Chris Voysey

The logo, which appeared in the industry magazine Design Week and has extensively featured in his own promotional literature, was further developed with funding from the Olympic bid committee.

"I am just surprised the Voyseys' logo resembled mine and that they had not seen a design that was already in the public domain," he says.

"Despite all the time put into the official Olympic logo, it's amusing that the public seem more in favour of the rendition the Voyseys came up with, which resembles my own."

The Voyseys say they were not aware of the bid logo competition and had not seen any of the entries or the shortlist. Their logo design was not developed or researched in a way their other works might be.

"It wasn't a pitch, or fee-paying project," Chris Voysey says.

"Our design submission was made at a stage where there was no competition or poll being run - merely the BBC asking for reader suggestions - hence the limited time we spent on it.

"The graphical trick of substituting numerals for characters is in no way unique or novel - you see it every day on car number plates."

Zoomedia/Buffalo Design image
Zoomedia's effort
Indeed, Mr Watson was not the only one to seize on the visual LON-2012 trickery when the call went out for designs in 2003. Another design agency, Zoomedia, had the same wheeze.

"It's quite possible to get the same idea as someone else," says Robert Shepard, creative director of Zoomedia. "Only last week I took a logo to a client. The client loved it until someone pointed out it looked like a competitor's logo. The brief we had was probably quite similar to the competitor's brief."

As for the concept behind his 2012 bid logo, "It just happened to work. We had London 2012 written down and someone pointed out you can make the word London from that."

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