• Dmhero

    BarberOsgerby: The Olympic Torch

Product Design

Designing London 2012: A look at BarberOsgerby's Olympic Torch

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Throughout the Olympics we’ll be taking a look at all the creative collateral, what it looks like and how it performs in the context of the games. First up as it wings its away to east London for its big moment tonight, we look at the torch that has travelled the length and breadth of the country in the past 70 days.

It always seemed to make sense that BarberOsgerby were chosen to design the torch. The young Hackney-based partnership fitted the profile that London 2012 wanted to show the world with a design portfolio packed with projects that combine flair, style and effortless functionality.

They were clearly thrilled when they were given the much-coveted commission, saying: “As designers, this is quite simply the best project going: to design an icon for the Games.

“We have worked hard to develop a Torch that celebrates the Relay, and reflects the passion for London and the Olympic Games. We wanted to make the most of pioneering production technologies and to demonstrate the industrial excellence available in the UK – it’s a Torch for our time.”

The triangular form was chosen because of the recurring significance of the number three – the number of Olympic values, the number of words in the motto, the number of times London has hosted the event. Then it was all about the 8’s – it’s 800mm heigh, weighs 800grammes and features 8,000 perforated circles representing the 8,000 torchbearers who would carry it on its journey.

  • Use_home_page_1

    BarberOsgerby: The Olympic Torch

Made of an aluminium alloy developed for use in planes and cars, its lightweight nature and heat resistant properties were crucial while the gold colour was an eye-catching if slightly obvious choice (and perhaps not quite in keeping with the idea of a pared-back so-called austerity games).

When it was released Nicholas Serota of the Tate called it “elegant, light and understated” although others were less convinced, one Telegraph article compared it to “a cheese grater or an ice cream cone.”

I first saw one up-close at the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year show and in person it’s less less garish than you might expect, the perforations counteracting the rather bling colouring.

When it took the top prize there were grumbles that it was a safe or predictable choice by the judges but Deyan Sudjic’s explanation made a lot of sense. ”Nothing is harder to get right than designing for the Olympics,” he said. “The lightness and simplicity of Barber Osgerby’s London 2012 Olympic Torch does just that. The torch not only captures the spirit of London as Olympic host city but also demonstrates how design can celebrate traditional ideas in a modern way.”

Maybe that’s the point, that when designing such an iconic object broad acceptance is pretty much the best you can hope for and of all the creative projects associated with the games the torch has certainly attracted less opprobrium than others,which is perhaps a victory of sorts.

Interestingly it isn’t an object that translates to other visual media very easily and when I have seen it illustrated or animated in TV spots it seems to lose its appeal, although I did see a brilliant balloon version outside an east London pub.

All in all when we look back we may decide that the torch was one of the more successful design stories of London 2012.

  • Alt_torch_white
  • Web_sls_1

    BarberOsgerby: The Olympic Torch

  • _mg_1438

    Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby with The Olympic Torch

  • Final_double_3rd_version_2

    BarberOsgerby: The Olympic Torch

  • Torch-2012-16

    BarberOsgerby: The Olympic Torch

  • Torch-2012-23

    BarberOsgerby: The Olympic Torch

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Product Design View Archive

  1. Hellotalja_kit-list-image

    Many a blue-sky-thinker and envelope-pusher has been extolling the virtues of meditation and mindfulness to pseudo-spiritually swell their business jargon lately. So it’s refreshing when a beautifully branded, creatively-minded product emerges that promises to offer that lucrative “pause from modern life.”

  2. List

    We often take colour for granted in this digital age where our rich tapestry of tones and hues comes as standard on a computer tool bar and getting the right shade is just a few clicks away. Columbian designer Laura Daza wants to shake us out of this complacency, and her project Colour Provenance is an investigation into the ancient origins of colour pigment.

  3. List

    Everyday 24 million journeys are made across the London Transport Network, which is why the unveiling of the latest fleet of London tube trains is a pretty big deal. Of all the design we come across, not much of it affects as many people as trains that millions of Londoners will use day in, day out.

  4. Fllistbompas___parr_organ_front

    It wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a Wes Anderson film or in a Roald Dahl story but believe it or not, the Flavour Conductor exists in our very own world. Magicked into being by the Willy Wonkas’ of the design world, Bompas and Parr, in collaboration with Johnnie Walker Blue Label, it is a musical instrument like no other. This is no ordinary church organ; it’s part of a multi-sensory theatrical experience combining music and imagery to transform the audience’s appreciation of whisky and even make its taste change in their mouth.

  5. List

    Innovative eyewear brand Etnia Barcelona has carved out a niche for itself through collaborations with artists like Araki, Yves Klein and McCurry, and its new collection riffs off the mainstream fashion trend for floral prints. Art Flowers takes inspiration from various flora and abstracts colours, shapes and patterns to create a striking new range with an expressionist aesthetic well in line with Etnia’s cultural cache.

  6. List

    These have been doing the rounds a bit this week but it’s not hard to see why – Israeli designer Lee Ben David’s Very Specific Cutlery range is a middle-class gourmand’s perfectionist dream. A graduate of the BEZALEL Academy of Art And Design, Lee believes “that the products that surround us should make us smile, laugh and think beyond,” and this project does just that.

  7. List

    It’s the little things that make a difference, as the expression goes, and the creative brains behind memobottle have taken this sentiment very much to heart. In a pledge to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic water bottles and to get rid of annoying clutter in your bag,they’ve invented memobottle, a drinks container the same size and shape as a notebook, or laptop.

  8. Ceramics_list_

    If we’re honest we lost interest in 3D printing for a bit there. After all the home-made gun controversy and the constant assurances it would democratise production processes forever more we had to deal very quickly with the reality that most desktop 3D printers were only capable of producing very small objects, and the materials they made them from were structurally unsound. We’re still holding out hope though.

  9. List

    Former Fabrica designer and art director Dean Brown has just upped sticks and left the confines of Treviso in Italy to set up shop in London. He’s spent the last four years honing his skills designing conceptual products, installations, interiors and exhibitions with collaborators at both Fabrica and COLORS as well as further afield. Last year we fell in love with his witty take on rug design, and now he’s impressed us again with his ability to turn knitwear into an engaging, immersive environment through texture and colour.

  10. List

    It’s no secret that Studio Swine are forever pushing boundaries in the world of product design, taking uncommon materials and putting them to universal use. But their latest project is extremely unusual, even by their own standards. For Hair Highway the pair ventured into the heart of mainland China to the epicentre of the global human hair trade. There they acquired enough human hair to use it as the basis for a number of luxury bespoke objects – the carefully-maintained strands preserved in deep amber resin, creating stunning patterns and textures. To top it all off they’ve made this lovely film to document their journey, the people behind this strange trade and the finished products themselves.

  11. List

    The interplay between design and the cultures they both respond to and help shape is not always easy to decipher. An interesting exhibition currently on show in London examines 20th Century Soviet Russia through the objects which defined it on a very human level – the toys and appliances, vehicles and sports equipment. There are products that became iconic such as the Chaika vacuum cleaner and others that may never have been feted before.

  12. List

    Epiforma is a brand new Portuguese design studio founded by Felipe Ferreira and Francisco Ribeiro in Porto. In spite of their newness it would appear they’ve long been busy working on all manner of projects across many facets of design. As well as practicing the more traditional graphic arts of branding and type design, they also produce high-end modular furniture, unusual board games and limited edition products. Judging by their website they’re also pretty good web designers and art directors too. In short, these guys appear to be very much the complete package and we’re excited to see what their first year of business holds in store.

  13. List

    I’m one of those people that will always need a desk-tidy. No matter how hard I try, I remain ineptly disorganised in the world of stationery – pens have missing lids, a pencil will rarely get re-sharpened and I’ve not been able to draw a straight line since I lost my ruler two years ago.