• London-2012-tickets
Graphic Design

Designing London 2012: The graphic elements – medals, typefaces, tickets, and THAT palette

Posted by Catherine Gaffney,

This summer in London, it’s everywhere – walking down high streets, wandering past billboards, and rushing through tube stations: that fluttering magenta, that slightly jagged, spaced out typography… Yes, it’s the London 2012 identity, greeted with trepidation by some and for months heralding, in its slightly medieval, banner-like fashion, the impending crowds, transport disruptions, and mass-excitement of the Games.

With tickets in people’s pockets, signposts leading the way, and medals being doled out left right and centre, we figure it’s high time we investigated the design of all this ephemera. Much of the work is pretty collaborative, with separate agencies responsible for different aspects of the overall appearance. But perhaps we should start with the top prizes, the traditional “well done” gold, siver and bronze awarded to the top three athletes in any given event. And so ladies and gentlemen, we bring you…

The Medals

The London 2012 medals were designed by David Watkin, Professor of Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalworking, and Jewellery at the Royal College of Art since 1984, and were produced at the Royal Mint’s headquarters in Llantrisant, south Wales. The front of the medal carries the traditional imagery used at every summer Games – the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, stepping out of the Parthenon to visit the host city. The reverse side features a bespoke design, with the London 2012 logo placed upon various intersecting linear elements and a thick curving shape that represents the Thames. The geometric architectural lines are supposed to represent the fabric of the city, while the medal-ribbons themselves are purple on account of the Queen’s jubilee this year. Might just be nice to see a few more around Team GB necks though…

The Tickets

I was only vaguely aware of the hullabaloo surrounding the purchase of tickets way earlier in the year when I had neither the time nor the money to give it a thought. Now… I definitely want one, so will try to figure out how to make that happen! Right this minute though, I’m content to just sit back and analyse their appearance. Produced for Olympics and Paralympics, they’re designed by FutureBrand, using the pictograms designed in turn by SomeOne. There is a nice immediacy to them; even if you hadn’t already been inundated with London 2012 visual data, you’d be reminded of the stark silhouette-style works of Saul Bass or the Otl Aicher pictograms for the 1972 Munich Games.

Indeed, pictograms developed by SomeOne for the London 2012 version drew from the visual history of the Games but gave things a London twist by building them out of linear components reminiscent of the London Underground map. Produced in vibrant shades of red, purple, pink and blue, the visuals evoke energy, fun, and vigour, and evoke the spellbinding movement of the athletes depicted, along with the mesmerising metamorphosis of Thomas Heatherwick’s beautifully designed torch. Just the ticket indeed.

  • Medals

    David Watkin: Medals, London Olympics 2012

  • Tickets-1

    FutureBrand: Tickets, London Olympics 2012

  • Ticket-designs

    FutureBrand: Tickets, London Olympics 2012

The Typeface

It’s absolutely everywhere and in a whole variety of Games-contexts, and exploring its history makes for interesting reading. Basically, the Klute font, produced by Gareth Hague of Alias Type Foundry & Graphic Design Agency in 1997, was used as the inspiration for the Olympics 2012 logo, designed by Wolff Olins. Klute features thick, bold, angular forms, as though assembled of shard-like components. The Wolff Olins logo (more of which anon in this series) is built of similar shard-like elements which build the word “2012”, and are produced in lively palettes of turquoise-green, magenta, red and blue. Hague in turn then had to produce a font which would fit with this logo, and the result was Headline 2012, derived from the Klute font but filtered through the Wolff Olins logo to arrive at a narrower, more jagged result.

The Palette

More generalised, but no less prominent, is the issue of the colour. Who arrived at the decision to paint the town pink? It’s absolutely everywhere, and will possibly become so synonymous with the 2012 Games that “Sporting Triumph” may live on in the pink shades of paint sample books, nestled incongruously between “Strawberry Magnolia” or “Tulip Sunrise”. Apparently inspired by “the worlds of media, communication, and fashion”, though it is interesting to note that the use of pink, orange, blue and green steers clear of specific nationalist or political associations and, in that sense, is perhaps more universal or all-embracing.

The pink has been criticised in some graphics arenas, as primary colours are regarded as more fashionable, but then again, speak to any Londoner who hasn’t at least noticed the pink and try to maintain that this was a poor design move. Hey, it’s gotten us talking, anyway!

  • Klute-1

    Alias: Klute typeface

  • Olympic-typeface-2

    Alias: Headline 2012 typeface

Portrait13

Posted by Catherine Gaffney

Catherine joined us as an editorial intern after studying at Trinity College Dublin and Central Saint Martins. She wrote for the site between June and August 2012.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. Main1_10.13.57

    Kit Russell’s Flatland poster isn’t just any old poster, oh no – it’s a poster that can be turned into a sphere. Or a sphere that can be turned into a poster. Recent illustration graduate Kit has also created a poster that morphs into a square, and the pair are an imaginative interaction with Edwin A. Abbott’s 1884 novel Flatland. Subtitled A Romance of Many Dimensions and written under the pseudonym “A Square”, Abbott’s tale is a social satire commenting on the hierarchy of Victorian society. The narrator – a square – lives in a two-dimensional world where he is visited by a sphere and convinced of the existence of another world, a three-dimensional world. Sadly, no-one else in Flatland will believe Spaceland exists and Square is ignobly dunked in the slammer. Lewis Carroll meets M.C. Escher and the Mr Men, if you will.

  2. Feixen-list

    It’s been almost two years since we officially checked in with Swiss poster maestro Felix Pfäffli – although of course we’ve been keeping an eye on a few of his side projects and collaborations with his brother Mathis. As ever he’s kept up with the challenging task of delivering poster after glorious poster for Südpol’s cultural events (every one’s a bloody winner) but he’s also branched out into educational activities in LA and started to experiment with moving type. His recent work for Wired shows his usual bold, graphic language translated into flowing organic forms, maintaining that trademark Feixen feel but through a dynamic moving medium.

  3. Main3

    An old soul such as myself appreciates when modern-day designers and illustrators go out of their way to make something look like it fell out of a cardboard box that hasn’t been opened since 1972. When I first came across SEEN I was convinced it was a whole group of people, but it turns out it’s just one really talented guy called Rob Carmichael. He alone is responsible for creating some of the best album artwork around at the moment.

  4. List

    I have heard it said that the New York graphic design scene is more splintered and less cohesive than its London counterpart, but the Image of The Studio initiative we covered last year was a fascinating way of bringing together more than 75 NYC studios to compare and contrast the way they each work. It also became a great resource to discover designers we didn’t know that much about, and with each studio commissioned to create something original that reflected their philosophy and aesthetic, it provided a great way into the New York scene.

  5. List

    German design studio Hort prides itself on being an “unconventional working environment” and a “place where work and play can be said in the same sentence.” In this video by Analog Mensch Digital, Hort’s much-loved creator Eike Konig talks about their work and ethos whilst rolling paint and printing a poster. The camera wanders about the studio past leaning bikes and big white desks, scrolling up bookcases and dwelling on the Anthony Burrill posters gracing the walls. Eike is always worth listening to, whether he’s musing on the differences between international and German clients, traditional and digital work and the morals of design. He says: “Visual language is a strong language. We have responsibility in the use of this power.”

  6. List

    It seems that Jacob Klein and Nathan Cowen are incapable of turning out a dud project. From their humble beginnings as a meticulously curated stream of stunning imagery to their present guise as multi-faceted design and art direction agency, the Haw-Lin boys just keep on coming up with the goods. This might not seem surprising to devotees of their original Haw-Lin blog, but it’s surprising how often arbiters of style lack substance. Not so for these boys; their fanatical eye for detail goes beyond simple aesthetic curation, extending into a portfolio of capsule collections for fashion brands, editorial shoots for the most erudite magazines and immaculate lookbooks that manage to add depth and pace to publications that can often be painfully bland.

  7. List

    I always think that creating the identity for a design conference is one of the most thankless commissions around – all those attendees ready, willing and able to offer informed and immediate feedback. So when we see it done well it only seems to right to give credit where it’s due, and Build did a fine job for this year’s TypeCon gathering.

  8. List_copy

    In the introduction to his exceptional new Erik Spiekermann monograph, Johannes Erler sums up “Spiekermann in two sentences” by way of this quotation: “I’m totally chaotic. I’m so untogether, my left leg doesn’t even know what my right leg is doing. I need order. I need systems. I don’t really do anything without a design grid.”

  9. List_2

    Their website is a combination of fluorescent colours, textures, media and effects so hectic that you can’t help but surrender yourself to it, but it’d be foolish to assume The Royal Studio’s design work is as chaotic as it appears. Behind the madness is a method which elevates their vibrant, contemporary design beyond the realms of trendy and into something actually very interesting, whether it’s an Honest Manifesto which claims that “everyone loves titles and captions” but they “don’t give a fuck about content” (repeated to fill) or a very well-executed poster advertising the studio’s 15-day tour around cities including Zagreb, Ljubljana, Dijon and Porto. The fact remains that Portugal-based Royal Studio are taking conventional graphic design and turning it on its head to see what happens, and we’re really enjoying admiring the results.

  10. List

    Of all the design disciplines, typography is almost certainly the least sexy. But Dan Rhatigan is one of the people who is able to talk about type in an engaging, and very human way. Earlier this year the Monotype type director worked with Grey London on Ryman Eco, described as “the world’s most beautiful sustainable font,” as it uses 33% less ink than the likes of Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia and Verdana.

  11. Tumblr_n4iq1a8swj1qdf776o1_1280

    Anyone you know a downright sourpuss? Treat ‘em to a link to work by Hungarian designer Anna Kövecses. Here at It’s Nice That we give high praise to work that is candy-coloured and cute – as long as it never falls under the tasselled umbrella of “twee.” Anna’s work is a perfect example of that as beneath the childish exterior lies a wealth of design knowledge and style.

  12. List

    In the year-and-a-half since we first featured Belgian designer Vincent Vrints on the site his fortunes have risen with the quality of his work. We were always enamoured with his canny ability to create aesthetically astounding imagery and merge it with equally appealing layouts, but he’s refined his process and embraced some new digital techniques resulting in a portfolio that floats between the retro and the ultra futuristic.

  13. Main8

    Google Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums and almost every book cover design that appears either depicts someone hitchhiking or it has the aesthetic of a grotty travel diary of someone who’s been “finding themselves” along a motorway for a month or two too long. Kerouac’s novels don’t even need covers, right? They’re stand-alone pieces of literary genius. Big applause is needed then for Copenhagen designer Torsten Lindsø Andersen who has taken the rulebook of second-rate Kerouac book design and thrown it out the train window on to the track where it belongs. These ambient, sterile designs he’s proposed for the author’s back catalogue are the perfect fit to the words within: weird, unpredictable, drunk and unique.