The Olympic brand gets a refresh

Every four years, the world watches on as the next host country of the Olympic Games is announced. The anticipation surrounding that announcement is closely followed by the reveal of the design identity for each Games – an occasion that gets designers talking as much as the general public.

The design heritage for the Olympic Games is so illustrious that it’s easy to forget that the Olympics has a brand of its own to look after. And since the last development of its identity, in 2011, the organisation’s needs have evolved, explains May Guerraoui, the IOC’s head of brand management. So began an extensive process to evolve the brand, which has been revealed through a gradual rollout, and is expected to be implemented in full by the Paris 2024 Games.

The Olympic colours – second only to the iconic interlocking rings in terms of recognisability – have been “subtly optimised” to have more impact and flexibility, she explains. These have been joined by an extended palette of complementary colours reflecting the gold, silver and bronze medals, to be used for cases like data visualisation and infographics.

Illustration by Abbey Lossing

“Art and creativity have played a big role in Olympic history, and not only in the iconic Olympic Games’ design. From 1912 to 1948, art competitions were held alongside sport – with Olympic medals awarded to architects, poets and artists,” Guerraoui says. “We wanted to bring this idea of championing the arts back into the brand identity.”

Olympic Sans was designed by Fabian Harb; Olympic Serif was designed by Seb McLauchlan
Image: Naoya Suzuki

“For example, we have put the athletes at the heart of the evolved identity system with the Field of Play (FOP) design, a graphic system that expresses the Olympic brand through colour and geometry inspired by the Games,” Guerraroui says, from courts to tracks to lanes. “It was a way to incorporate the Games into the brand in a timeless way, without featuring a specific athlete or moment in a way that a photo would for instance.”

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