Tokyo 2020 unveils first ever animated pictograms used in Olympics’ history

The 73 kinetic icons designed by Masaaki Hiromura and animated by Kota Iguchi each show their sport in motion, representing 22 Paralympic sports and 33 Olympic sports.

26 February 2020

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee of the Paralympic and Olympic Games has unveiled the first animated pictograms to be used in the history of the event. The expansive bank of 73 pictograms created by Japanese designer Masaaki Hiromura have been animated by Japanese motion designer Kota Iguchi to show each sport in full action mode, appearing from a white background as fragments, showing a small sequence of that sport in motion, freezing for a moment, then disappearing back to a blank frame.

It’s another first for the Japanese city’s Olympic heritage, as static pictograms were first introduced at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games. Paralympic Games pictograms first appeared at the Barcelona 1992 Summer Games.

There are 23 pictograms representing 22 Paralympic sports and 50 representing 33 Olympic sports, each designed to “subtly communicate the characteristics and athleticism of each sport, as well as artistically highlight the dynamism of the athletes,” say the organisers in a statement. Some of the highlights of the animations are explored more closely in a short film released by the committee, such as the bow being drawn by an archery competitor, a ball being slam dunked by a basketball player, or a standing split being performed by a gymnast. Each is created with the simplest graphic components, limbs and circular heads for the most part signifying athletes, along with the equipment of their sport, with added flourishes like the swoosh of a ball bringing energy to the short sequence. These can “recreate the three-dimensional movement of athletes in two dimensions,” say the organisers, “and are able to express more dynamic movements such as twists.”

Iguchi says it took more than a year for his team to create the animated pictograms (the static ones were released in March 2019) “The new kinetic sport pictograms will broaden the appeal of each sport by means of their beautiful and more easily conveyed expressions,” he explains in a statement. “I hope that they will brighten up each of the events and, while a creation of the Tokyo 2020 Games, I hope they will be passed on to future games as a legacy for the future, as well as inspiring video designers in other countries.”

Pictograms were initially brought in to visually communicate with an increasingly international group of athletes and spectators, and animating them is aiming to continue this mission in a digital sphere, as Tokyo 2020 is intending to be the “most innovative Games ever”. The kinetic pictograms will be used at competition venues, and during the broadcast of events, as well as on the Tokyo 2020 website, social media channels and digital signage.

GalleryMasaaki Hiromura and Kota Iguchi: Olympic and Paralympic kinetic pictograms

GalleryTokyo 2020


Masaaki Hiromura: Olympic pictograms


Masaaki Hiromura: Paralympic pictograms


Masaaki Hiromura: Olympic basketball pictogram


Masaaki Hiromura: Olympic athletics kinetic pictogram breakdown

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Masaaki Hiromura: Paralympic pictograms

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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