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2012 London Summer Olympics: How far can you stretch logo redesign?


With a countdown of roughly 50 days until the start of the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, the infamous 2012 Summer Games logo is beginning to resurface. During the initial introduction back in 2007, the 2012 logo sparked quite a bit of controversy and became front page news. Many thought it was strange, childish, 80′s-like, and even reminiscent of the Nazi swastika. More than 50,000 London citizens even signed a petition against the logo claiming it was an embarrassment to the city and needed to be replaced.

The 2012 logo was designed by brand consultancy Wolff Olins and selected by the 2012 Olympics Organizing Committee, who claimed that “the new emblem is dynamic, modern and flexible.” The goal was to design a powerful logo that would breathe freshness into the Olympic and Paralympic Games and engage with a global audience, particularly young people. The logo departs from the classic color palette, typography and iconography of local culture, sports logos and landmarks often used in the past.  Instead, the exaggerated shapes provide an interface for various event photography and illustration to take form. Between the lowercase script, fluorescent color and cartoon-like shapes, the 2012 logo design can be considered bold and edgy, but how far is too far?

This is another good lesson from design mishaps. Sometimes reinventing the wheel is a dangerous territory. Take Tropicana for example. The PepsiCo Americas Beverages division of Pepsico had to succumb to a public outcry against the 2009 Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice packaging redesign. Consumers claimed that the new design looked generic, unattractive and not the Tropicana they knew and loved. Due to consumer pressure and in hopes of winning back their support, executives had to discontinue the new packaging and bring back the previous version to supermarket shelves.

People form deep emotional bonds with brands and the symbols attached to them. There is a reason why Coca-Cola maintains the same logo and refreshes its design ever so slightly to stay current. Well-established brands have a much larger responsibility to the general public.

Logo design is a not a quick creative process and extensive research needs to be undertaken before launching a mark that will become the visual representation of a brand. A logo’s design is meant to create immediate recognition and inspire trust. While it’s important to reinvent ones identity to stay relevant, care must be taken to not depart too far from what the audience is familiar with as brand equity is not easy to come by.  Before implementing a logo redesign, it’s important to get feedback from customers, clients, peers and key stakeholders. This will ensure that the logo will be successful.

Points to consider for logo redesign:

  • Is it unique and ownable?
  • Is it versatile?
  • Can it stand the test of time?
  • Is it appropriate to all key audiences?
  • Does it represent what the brand is today?
  • Is it practical and simple in form?

In the case of the 2012 London Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games logo, the host city committee, the design agency or a combination of both wanted to put their own creative stamp on the logo. With a highly varied global audience, there needs to be a delicate balance with what design freedoms can be taken and assessment of possible repercussions. Change and innovation are necessary, but one must tread carefully. Before embarking on a logo redesign, ask yourself the above questions or better yet, reach out to BrandingBusiness for help.