The London 2012 Olympic logo, were the critics wrong?

The logo for the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games was first unveiled on the 4th June 2007 to much criticism from the media, design community and public in general. Now exactly three years on, enough time has passed for the logo and brand to become established, so I think it’s a good time to ask - were the critics wrong?

The logo was created by Wolff Olins, a branding agency with offices in London, New York and Dubai, for a reported £400,000. The initial reaction in newspapers, on television and the internet appeared to be very negative, with all manner of insults used to describe the logo. But was part of the reason for that response due to the often quoted cost involved, which of course usually covers far more than people imagine. Or was it that many took offence with purely it’s look, often being described as childish and not representative of London. It contained neither sporting images nor pictures of London landmarks, instead aiming to be “unconventionally bold, deliberately spirited and unexpectedly dissonant, echoing London’s qualities of a modern, edgy city.” - Wolff Olins.

London 2012 logo

Variety of applications the London 2012 Olympic logo can be used for.

London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic logos.

The Paralympics logo (left) and four official colour combinations for the main logo.

The London 2012 logo was created in several colours to allow for a wide range of applications, and for the first time the same basic shape was also used for the Paralympic Games so that the branding would be consistent between the two. In my opinion, it’s this branding that’s played a major part in how the logo is now viewed, with my own reaction to the logo being different to what it was when I first saw it.

The logo can be used in a variety of ways (see top photo), such as being shown in a solid colour, as an outline or allowing an image to fill that outline. Also the custom typeface is so distinct that even when used on its own, it can be easily associated with the games. I think this flexibility was a major factor in the design of the logo and has really helped establish the overall identity.

London 2012 partner logos, including Cadbury, Adidas, BP, BT and British Airways.

Personalised versions of the logo, used by official partners.

The logo was designed so that is could be easily personalised for official partners of the games, incorporating their corporate colours and with taglines relevant to their business. I personally believe in this regard the logo works extremely well due to the shape being highly recognisable, so no matter what colour it is, or what it’s placed alongside, a quick glimpse and instantly I know what it is and more importantly, what is represents.

About the author

Paul Galbraith is a logo and brand identity designer, working with startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs in the UK, USA and beyond.