News / Graphic Design

Tokyo 2020 reveals Olympic pictograms inspired by 1964 Games

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Masaaki Hiromura: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games pictograms

The official pictograms for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been unveiled, designed by Masaaki Hiromura. The style of the pictograms was inspired by the icons debuted at the Olympics Games Tokyo 1964 – the first year that pictograms were ever used during the international sporting competition and the first Games to be held in Asia.

“Japanese designers, predecessors, pioneering designers, created this great legacy [at the Tokyo 1964 games],” designer Masaaki Hiromura told Reuters. “Having that as our starting point, we wanted a more modern design, incorporating athletes’ dynamism and trying to express their muscle movements, yet keeping it simple.”

The project took almost two years to complete and features 50 icons covering 33 different sports. Five new sports will feature in next summer’s games, including baseball and softball, karate, skateboarding, surfing and speed climbing, with the intention of inspiring a younger audience to get excited about the competition.

The original 1964 pictogram system was developed by a team of designers led by Katsumi Masaru, and inspired by Austrian graphic designers Otto Neurath and Gerd Arntz. It featured just 20 pictograms, and was largely focused around a combination of perfect circles and straight lines that were “simple and beautiful, and understandable by anyone”. Many greats have gone on to design pictograms for the games, including Lance Wyman for the 1968 Mexico Olympics and Otl Aicher in 1972.

The pictograms will be used on signage around the Games, as well as on tickets, merchandise, print campaigns and guidebooks.