oh puh-lease

You would think third time lucky. Imagine if you got the chance to promote one of the world’s most recognisable brands. A real world brand level of brand, easily as recognisable anywhere in the world as Coke, and perhaps more universally recognised than the nazi swastika, the cross, the crescent, or the star of david. What I’m writing about is the five interlocking rings that make up the Olympic emblem. I think that there are few corners of the world that some scratched up hermit perhaps wouldn’t wouldn’t recognise the emblem and if so, well, then they’re not our kind of people.

So. Third time lucky. London is getting ready for their third Olympic games in 2012. They’ve have it twice before – first in 1908 because the Italians were busy dealing with an eruption of Vesuvius and the Rome Olympics had to be rescheduled to London, and second in 1948, because the 1939 games were postponed due to playing war games instead. You’ll be pleased to note that building on this fine British tradition for success in the face of disaster the organisers have got themselves off to a fine start. In these postmodern times, instead of using natural disasters (the age of monsters), or wars (the other age of monsters), we’re in the age of money. The City of London has paid renown branding gurus Wolff Olins the princely sum of GBP 400,000 (about $NZ 1 million) for a new logo. Yep, a new logo. Oh, and a campaign to justify the logo, of course.

Surprisingly short memories these Brits. In one my past lives I took myself off to the UK to study design. Graphics, as it happens. At that time design study at the degree level wasn’t an option in New Zealand – fine art was all that was available. I ignored everyone telling me it wasn’t possible and got myself into college. One of the gods, because indeed, it was a time when gods still strode the earth, was Wolff Olins. I’ve tried desperately to find an image of the logo they used at the time. It looked like a scribble done with a crayon. When they opened their new office they caught a stupid tradesman trying to scrape the logo off the front window. Apparently the fool didn’t recognise it as a logo – he thought it was the work of some kid tagging the building. Lordy – what a hick! Back to hermit-ville for him.

Based on the scribble logo, the Londoners have paid another fortune for a logo for the Olympics, based not on the five rings, but instead – innovation alert – on ‘2012’. Whoa. Amazing. Stupefying. I’ve truly seen better design work from high school students – of course, to be fair, they don’t get paid a million for their design work – so what would they know? Kids, generally, have finely tuned crapometers so they’d never write this:

The new emblem is dynamic, modern and flexible. It will work with new technology and across traditional and new media networks.It will become London 2012’s visual icon, instantly recognisable amongst all age groups, all around the world. It will establish the character and identity of the London 2012 Games and what the Games will symbolise nationally and internationally.

To me the logo looks like a broken swastika, or a broken star of david. It speaks to me of a broken jigsaw, of not knowing what goes where. I don’t take a message of inclusiveness, but then I believe that’s true of postmodern Britain. The class system is as strong as ever – it’s about being inclusive if you’re already one of us. I did enjoy the video of the British team in training – apparently their cycling team store their bikes in the rustic shed at the bottom of the garden, and train with little kids, and do hill climbs against pensioners on mobility scooters. I think I could enter if that’s the strength of the competition.

Once Britain boasted the best designers in the world. I’m disturbed by how the empire has faded.

Hat tip to Alex Shifrin at eXile for the lead.

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