The new Olympic identity is the first of its kind since the games began in 1896
A balance of “tradition and modernity”, the Olympic brand refresh aims to bring the games into the future, allowing its visual branding to exist on various online medium and channels.
- Olivia Hingley
- 28 September 2022
The Olympics is perhaps one of the best known events over the globe. Occurring every four years and spanning nations and numerous sporting disciplines, the games has long been seen as one of the few unifying global moments. Doing a design refresh, therefore, is certainly a tricky task. While it’s important to keep it new and relevant, it’s also imperative to keep it recognisable to what people know. Canadian creative agency Hulse & Durrell has partnered with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to produce three custom-made typefaces, a series of graphic devices and illustrations, and encompassing guidelines on usage. The refresh therefore takes direct influence from the games' rich legacy and heritage.
The first of its kind since the games began in 1896, head of brand management at the International Olympic Committee May Guerraoui explains that the project arose after recognising how the games had shifted in recent years. “The project began with a realisation that, as an organisation, we have evolved in the last 10 years: the ways in which we engage with people has increased, especially digitally,” she details. "We were evermore aware of the need to be consistent for a greater impact across all touch points.” As a result, the visual system's need to be applicable and easily transferred to various online mediums and channels was a primary consideration.
In terms of inspiration, as May explains, the organisation luckily has a vast amount of material that informed their approach, “and the team conducted a vast research into the Olympic archives to guide and inspire their work”. Furthermore, the Olympic rings is one of the world’s most widely recognised symbols, and May tells us that “nine out of 10 people correctly identify the symbol when shown it”. And so, in the extended colour palette of the visual system, the colours at the heart of the Olympics – red, white, blue, green, black and yellow – are reimagined. New shades and colours of the three medals were added to suit the variance of digital interfaces. “The whole process was underpinned by a need to balance tradition and modernity,” May summarises.
The rest of the dynamic visual system is equally layered and considered. An array of commissioned illustrations from three international artists – Julien Hébert, Abbey Lossing and Karan Sing – feature geometric digital pieces as well as charming hand-drawn ones. There also features three new typefaces for varied uses – Olympic Headline, Olympic Sans and Olympic Serif – plus a brand new logo system “to enable elegant arrangements of the Olympic logo across all platforms and provide essential flexibility”, a press release details. Additionally, there are a whole host of graphic elements that express the Olympic brand through colour and geometry. “These patterns were inspired by the design of the field of play – courts, jumps, fields, tracks and lanes – lines that guide and transform the lives of athletes around the globe,” the press release continues.
May details how the creation of the new elements – specifically the illustrations and custom typefaces – really “enriched” the brand, while also returning it to its long-lasting roots. “Art and creativity have always been at the heart of the Olympics. From 1912 to 1948, art competitions were held alongside sport – with Olympic medals awarded to architects, poets and artists,” she concludes. “Working with an international team of designers and illustrators for these new elements helped put creativity back at the heart of the Olympic brand and movement.”
Hulse & Durrell x International Olympic Committee: Olympic Agora Banners in Tokyo. Photography by Naoya Suzuki. (Copyright © Hulse & Durrell x International Olympic Committee, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.