Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv’s striped logo for the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum takes the form of an “abstract flame”
The mark brings together the colours of the Olympic rings, the stripes of the American flag, and the building’s diamond-shaped scaly skin.
- Jenny Brewer
- 19 May 2020
Although the Summer Olympics has been postponed, the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum is set to open in the autumn of 2020, at the foot of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs. Itself inspired by the “energy and grace of Olympians in competition,” early photographs of the spectacular building by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro show an assemblage of diagonal blocks with softened, curved edges, wrapped in a scaly skin. This pattern of diamond shapes is where graphic design firm Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv found the form for its logo, a diamond on its side, made from five stripes – taken from the stripes of the American flag – in the five Olympic colours.
The effect of the tilted diamond is to show the stripes soaring upwards, a go-faster stripe of sorts, imbuing the logo with its own sense of motion and speed. However, the design firm sees yet another Olympic symbol hidden in this form, describing the logo as suggesting “an abstract flame”.
“While alluding to these familiar elements, the design is a completely original image, giving this major new institution its own independent identity,” the studio continues. The word mark underneath uses simple, black type, to balance out the “dynamic, colourful” symbol, and is stacked “to give equal weight to each important element of the name”.
Partner and principal designer on the project Sagi Haviv explains that the logo’s globally iconic visual references were both a source of pressure and motivation: “For us, the challenge was also the most exciting aspect: To draw inspiration from the most recognisable and ubiquitous icons in the world – the Olympic rings and the American flag,” he explains in a statement on the museum’s website. “The strategy was that it should be something new and innovative that can stand on its own. Find something that gives homage but is still ownable and can be trademarked on its own. That’s the magic, if you can find that balance between an inspiration and yet still have independence.”
GalleryChermayeff & Geismar & Haviv: visual references for US Olympic and Paralympic Museum identity
“We usually say a logo doesn’t need to say very much — the less it says, the better,” Haviv continues. “But in this specific case, the logo is unusual in that it does have very clear references to familiar iconography. We were able to strike that balance. It’s a mark that reminds you of all kinds of things but has its own distinct character, look, feel, shape, personality and above all, it is dynamic.”
Chris Liedel, CEO of the museum, says in a statement that the logo “represents a blend of old and new. The Museum merges the tradition of the Olympic and Paralympic Games with modern state-of-the-art technology to tell the history of the movements and Team USA athletes in a compelling way and this logo is reflective of that balance.” Incredibly, the skin of the building is composed of 10,000 individual diamond-shaped panels with no two shapes identical, designed to soften the otherwise geometric architecture with a more organic cladding.
Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv is known for having created some of the most instantly recognisable identities in American culture, including the NBC peacock, the PBS faces and the red Mobil O. In 2017, Standards Manual published a monograph of the studio’s work in the same month Ivan Chermayeff passed away aged 85.