The logos for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were recently revealed, and so far, they have been the target of many critics. Something expected for an identity so simple - and yet so deconstructive.
Above are the official emblems of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games at Tokyo, released at the end of July of this year. In order to better understand the factors that led to these graphic representations, I couldn't help but want to find out everything I could in terms of the reasoning behind them.
According to the Olympic Committee, the first symbol illustrates the letter "T" - in this case "TOKYO, TOMORROW AND TEAM". The Paralympic symbol illustrates the universal sign of "=" - meaning equality. The circle - present in both emblems - represents a more inclusive world. (Source: Official Website Tokyo 2020)
The color black – the combination of all colors – represents human diversity. And the red, the power of every beating heart. (Let's not forget it also represents the sun within the Japanese flag.)
THE ESSENCE OF IT ALL
“When the world comes together for Tokyo 2020, we will experience the joy of uniting us as one team. By accepting everyone in the world as equals, we will learn the full meaning of coming together as one. The Tokyo 2020 emblems were created to symbolize the power of this unit.” (Source: Official Website Tokyo 2020)
The brand identity and the logo itself were created by designer Kenjiro Sano, who's work was chosen among 104 other competitors. He is well known for his prowess in various creative fields and has won numerous awards on an international scale.
Despite not liking the color scheme, I must confess that I find quite interesting the fact of seeing something that differs so greatly from past games, and that genuinely reflects Japanese culture and art.
After watching the explanatory video, I fear that the logos are something more along the lines of abstract art and less of a brand that actually communicates something specific.
In terms of typography, it certainly seems a bit more occidental than Asian (some even refer to it as a reformed version of Clarendon). The straight serif disappoints those who expected the classic combination of geometric symbols and sans serif fonts, something perhaps done intentionally with the purpose of conferring more detail to the whole minimalist set.
But most likely, it is possible that the intention was to provide a nostalgic evolution from the Tokyo 1964 logo, designed by Yasaku Kamemura (notice the yellow). After all, the Japanese are nothing if not devoted to their traditions.
But the biggest problem - and asset- from this identity lies in its simplicity, and the fact that it generates different interpretations, in a world as connected s this one.
The act of representing diversity through universal geometric symbols is not an easy one - even more so when the task entails presenting them in a new and innovative way. Now imagine what is must be like to design a logo as global as the Olympic games. Challenging, huh?
It's no surprise when the world accuses a brand of copying something previously seen somewhere. And with Tokyo 2020 it was no different.
According to sources, Belgian courts will issue a lawsuit against the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Designer Olivier Debie claims that the Olympic logo is a copy of one of his designs, specifically the Théatre de Liège, launched in 2013.
I personally don't pay much attention to rumors on plagiarism. For me, good ideas may arise in different places, making it common for things to look similar, especially in a technology-driven era. I do, however, consider that this particular case is beyond common sense. Both designs are extremely similar in proportion, balance, number of elements, form, typeface, and in... well, almost everything. I probably would have felt - and done- the same thing Olivier Debie has done.
The Committee insists that it thoroughly researched all trademarks on an international level before announcing the winning artwork. Mr. Sano claims he had never seen the other design. Could that be true? In any case, I honestly doubt Mr. Debie will win - although he does have a point.
We still need to wait five years until the games, and many interactions and deconstructions will still be made with this identity. Perhaps it will improve with pictograms and be slightly altered with some dynamic graphic arrangements, making it a bit more commercial, without losing its Japanese delicacy.
As they say: "2020 is right around the corner." Let's wait and see.
Follow Giovanna Lettieri at EsttudioG