Magazine article The Spectator

You Get the Olympic Logo You Deserve: In Our Case, One I Could Draw on a Beermat

Magazine article The Spectator

You Get the Olympic Logo You Deserve: In Our Case, One I Could Draw on a Beermat

Article excerpt

'We're fearless. We challenge everything, especially ourselves. We seek the truth relentlessly.

We believe in we not me. And we mean it.'

Wolff-Olins mission statement There's been quite a fuss about the official new logo for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

People are aghast at the fact that it is a) hideous and b) cost £400,000. A child, a blind man, an ape let loose with a paintbrush could all have done better, the argument goes. Well yes, of course.

The jarring amalgamation of irregular shapes does indeed bring to mind the sort of graffiti one finds on walls near a home for the educationally sub-normal -- and there is the faint aftertaste of Adolf Hitler, too. Squint a little and the logo turns into a swastika; stare at it head on after a glass or two of schnapps and you can make out the bold letters SS. The logo is supposed to emphasise the 'inclusive' nature of the games. I suppose the Nazis were inclusive, in a fairly bad sense of the term.

But this public carping neglects two very important points; first, all corporate logos are hideous and necessarily stupid, doodles dreamed up by some ghastly little marketing rebranding monkey who feels himself infected with zeitgeist. And second, they are always, always, hideously expensive and a blind paraplegic ape etc. could do better.

The truth is, we've all got off rather lightly with an outlay of just £400k, as I daresay the executives at Wolff-Olins, the people responsible, are angrily muttering to one another at this very moment. After all, Wolff-Olins are the people who almost destroyed Abbey National with what was described as the most catastrophic rebranding in corporate history -- and they charged the company an 'initial' fee of £11 million for the privilege of so doing. Out went that pale red logo with the folksy umbrella sheltering people from an unforeseen shower, immediately recognisable by everyone. Out went that awful word 'National' -- a big, bullying beast of an adjective. And in came a logo where the word 'Abbey' was written in crayon by a spaced-out imbecile, followed up by some seriously bad TV advertising.

The aim of all this, Wolff-Olins insisted, was to 'demystify' money, but those of us who discovered how much they had been paid for this farrago ended up all the more bewildered by the quixotic nature of the stuff. I seem to remember that Wolff-Olins also created that prancing, homosexual piper who now adorns the BT corporate masthead. They also did Ikea and the job there was to 'democratise interior design'. That's one way of describing what Ikea does, I suppose.

If I'm honest, I don't object hugely to the 2012 logo, or at least no more than I had expected to. It has been argued that the design tells you nothing about London, that it fails to capture the spirit of our capital city.

But the same was true of Athens in 2004: if the Greeks had wished to capture the spirit of their capital city they'd have depicted an asthmatic kebab-shop owner choking to death on traffic fumes against a backdrop of the Acropolis, but they didn't. And similarly Peking next year -- never mind this androgynous bloke dancing in ecstasy, what's wrong with the interior view of a prison cell, maybe with a subtle rice-paper overlay?

But delve a little deeper and you will find that our design, our little logo, gives you a pretty good flavour of Britain and its delusions and confusions. …

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