Why the 2012 Olympics logo is shit

I reacted somewhat strongly against today’s newly-released abomination of an Olympics logo. So have a lot of other people. There are petitions out against it. Even Stephen Bayley hates it. The mood of the nation is not good.

Steadfastly, Duncan Stephen has tried defending it:

But I like it for being bold and different. I like it for not being yet another one of those bland, anonymous, forgettable logos that usually accompany such massive events.

The problem is that Duncan (along with most of the logo’s few defenders), by regarding it as the opposite of “boring and forgettable”, has confused “glaring and clashy” with “interesting and memorable”. Boring it certainly is not, but that does not mean its interesting. To me, the logo is the graphical equivalent of the Fast Show‘s Colin Hunt – garish, attention-seeking but deep down highly confused and insecure.

The supposed rationale behind it is an appeal to youth, according to the blurb:

The new 2012 emblem will use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people. It is an invitation to take part and be involved.

And to appeal to the Internet generation:

The new emblem is dynamic, modern and flexible reflecting a brand savvy world where people, especially young people, no longer relate to static logos but respond to a dynamic brand that works with new technology and across traditional and new media networks.

Yet, it looks nothing like most logos you will find that are part of the Internet age. The overriding motifs in contemporary web design are of clean vertical and horizontal lines, often joined by rounded corners, with drop shadows and shade effects. White is used heavily, other colours used are generally soothing shades of red, blue and green (as befits when dealing with an additive colour space, where colours are illuminated from behind) and if they are bright, they are used sparingly. This logo, on the other hand, uses swathes of flat colour with no shading, diagonal lines, and shades of magenta, yellow and near-cyan that jar horribly when on a computer screen; they will not jar as much on paper (where colour is reflected from the ambient light), and coincidentally, make it much easier and cheaper to print.

The design is also incredibly busy, unlike the simple, smooth designs online. The irregular double edging on the shapes jumps all over the place for no reason, leaving slivers of yellow (or white) which will look utter shit when shrunk down to a low resolution. The numbers themselves, spelling out 2012 (or ZOiZ) are not at all immediately obvious – which is why everyone thinks it looks like Lisa Simpson giving head, or a man vomiting with his right arm raised. The fact it looks like so many iconic logos of the 1980s (such as the Tiswas ident) isn’t that surprising, if you consider the distinct possibility that was when the designer behind this logo actually was last young.

Even the detailing is terrible; the font spelling out the word “london” is like some bastard offspring of Comic Sans, unlike the soothing and graceful sans serif fonts that are often used today. The Olympic rings sit awkwardly within the “O”, their neat regularity totally clashing with the shape surrounding them. In order to conform to the colour scheme, the five colours the rings are normally depicted in (symbolising the five continents of the world) all have to be totally disregarded in favour of uniform white. So much for embracing and symbolising diversity.

In short, this was a logo designed with print in mind with little clue as to how it will appeal to an Internet generation. It confuses garish with interesting, and smacks of a deeply insecure yearning to be relevant and appealing to youth, despite being about twenty years out of date. It totally disregards Olympic history or actual diversity in favour of an incredibly narrow-minded preconceptions. In short, it’s a baffled designer left behind by the digital age, splurging their mid-life crisis over an Olympic Games that will only make them feel even older, with all the ?lan and comfort of a 40-year-old dad of two at a Klaxons gig.

Incidentally, the agency behind this, Wolff Olins (warning: shit website design), are also behind the PRODUCT (RED) branding – another mid-life crisis, that tedious songster Bono has been trying to unload on the rest of us; the same one that has struggled to raise significant revenue. You’d think they’d have chosen someone with a better track record before splurging ?400,000 on it.

And finally I can’t go without mentioning the BBC, in accepting user suggestions for new logos, inadvertently published a sight familiar to anyone who knows their Internet shock sites. Not me who did it, but I wish it was.

A slightly waffly post on snack culture, me, and the blog

Right, sit down. No, need a coffee first. Go off and make coffee. Sit back down again. Breathe. Relax. Start typing.

And I wonder why I don’t blog much now.

There are many reasons. Time, inspiration, a general sense of lack of self-confidence in the quality of my own writing, but one that’s really thrown it of late is the emergence of Twitter. Twitter is one of those things that shouldn’t work in theory, but does in practice (this is another example) Blogging in 140 characters? With only one link? And no tagging, or images? But what will the whingers and whiners and the turgid megapage bloggers do? What will happen to them? WILL NO-ONE THINK OF THE FISKERS?


On the one hand, it’s brilliant. It means every time there is a stray thought in my mind, I can write it down and stop it troubling me. On the other hand, it’s terrible. It means every time there is a stray thought in my mind, I can write it down and stop it troubling me. Thought such as this or this could have become witty page-long treatises on vultures or Fred Dibnah (or just one post about the both) three years ago, but now they get set into stone without moving on.

At least, that’s the excuse.

Wired some months ago did a special on “snack culture” – let down by a vapid lead piece by Nancy Miller which was outgunned by a much stronger counter-piece by Steven Johnson, he of Everything Bad Is Good For You fame, arguing the opposite. Johnson’s familiar theme that popular culture – film, television, video games, is now dazzlingly complex and nuanced and an enormous mental challenge that demands repeat viewing and vast discussion, and by doing so give birth to an obsessed and enormously knowledgeable following that will happily reconsume the product many many times. He’s the much more convincing of the two, leaving Wired‘s proposition somewhat dead in the water.

Yet the phenomenal success of services such as Twitter, and to a similar degree, that of pithy linklogging services such as del.icio.us and to some extent, status updates and wall posts on Facebook (microblogging for the masses!), shows that when it comes to producing content, we’re more then happy to go tiny and produce in very small pieces. Which worried me. Does this mean that despite Steven Johnson’s exhortations, we were beginning to turn our backs on complex culture, just as it was starting?

Some emollient words now from Warren Ellis:

Bursts aren?t contentless, nor do they denote the end of Attention Span. If attention span was dead, JK Rowling wouldn?t be selling paperbacks thick enough to choke a pig, and Neal Stephenson wouldn?t be making a living off books the size of the first bedsit I lived in.

He’s absolutely right – snack culture and five-course meal culture can coexist quite happily. Which is why, despite my Twitter addiction I have slowly regathered confidence in myself and recently started to reread Gravity’s Rainbow (something which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy) and tucking into both Heroes and 24 in bulk at the moment in great big wodges. And I’ve managed to prove to myself that my attention span is still there, when it comes to taking in all these wonderfully complex and fascinating things. Which is a start.

But as for producing lovely complex things, well. I’m not sure yet. But it’s worth a shot, which is why I’m now writing my first long blog post in months. It may well be that I’m just not able to concentrate on writing long things (bang goes that idea for writing a book then), or that spending too long in academia just put me off writing at length (which would be a terrible shame). It might just be some nuanced variant on the Long Tail, where I spend my cultural consumption time on a few, complex, items (the head), while I produce a large volume of many various things on many various channels (the long tail). Or am I stretching too far into Web 2.0 bollocks territory now?

Alternatively, I can quite easily remember a time when I did enjoy writing longer blog posts and eschewed the punchy and glib, and a bit of me think it’s possible to get back there, if I just get back into the habit. So once again I’m going to make the commitment to properly blog here more often, and this time I’m really going to do it. Honest.