Behind the International Paralympic Committee’s first proper visual identity, by North

The studio takes us through the redrawn logo, new typeface and bank of pattern designs, created to convey the “bold, dynamic and positive” qualities of the sports themselves.

11 February 2020


With Tokyo 2020 fast approaching, and anticipated to be the biggest year in Paralympics history with five billion expected viewers, the organisation behind the games decided it was probably time for a graphic identity that really unified its visual output. London-based design studio North, known for its work with institutions such as Tate and Barbican, and brands like Co-op, has worked with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to create a graphic system based on its renowned symbol, that conveys the spirit of the games while also functioning for all its less media-facing facets.

“This is a big, technical, international organisational body, but it's organising some of the most significant, exciting and affecting sports in the world,” explains Josef Clinch, graphic designer at North. “It was important for us to try to support both sides of their personality.” Overall, the visual identity is imbued with the same qualities of the sports themselves, he says: “bold, dynamic and positive”.

First off, the symbol by Scholz & Friends – three crescents in red, blue and green – which has been in use since 2006, has been redrawn to “reinforce the implied dynamism of the original construction” and resolve practical reproduction issues, such as the production of 3D signage, and clarity at small scales. It has also been brightened in colour to align more closely with the Olympic rings.


North: International Paralympic Committee visual identity

Using the symbol as a basis, North has created a system of pattern designs derived from its geometry and colour palette. This was to solve an issue with photography not always being appropriate for its visual output – as North puts it, “nobody wants to be on the front cover of the Anti Doping Guidelines”.

“It’s important for us to create an identity that works for the audience, but it’s equally important that it works for those that will be using it,” Clinch explains. “The IPC produces a lot of technical documents for the sports it looks after. We wanted to find a visual shorthand that could quickly and economically communicate the speed and positivity of the rest of the identity within the relative constraints of these materials. The patterns themselves come from an extension of the geometry used for the new symbol construction.

“From a layout point of view, the logo itself is made up of three colours, which inevitably looks best on a white background,” he continues. “That’s great, but we felt it important to give the option of areas of colour. The patterns help to create areas of colour that still feel connected to the symbol.”

Meanwhile, the typeface – aptly named New Hero – shakes up the tone of voice used for the games, making it bolder and more confident, motivational and energetic, Clinch says, as well as better in tune with contemporary sports brands and events. It also complements the symbol, he continues, “in that it shares some key features: a foundation in geometry, but not without losing any movement”.

North’s identity is being applied to everything from athlete handbooks to the IPC’s video channels, and will be rolled out over the next year. By way of guidance, the studio has also provided the IPC with illustrations of how its new bank of assets can be used in an expressive and coherent way. “The broader international perception (and audience) of the wider Paralympic movement has evolved massively over the last few years,” he concludes, “so anything that we can visually do to keep moving forwards is worth doing.”

GalleryNorth: International Paralympic Committee visual identity

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North: International Paralympic Committee visual identity

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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