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Tokyo 2020: When the abstract world meets the games

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.

Olympic Games Tokyo

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.) 


“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.

Kenjiro Sano 


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. 

Olympic logos

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.

 Tokyo 1964 2020

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. 

 Tokyo and Theatre de Liege

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

How the Rio 2016 Olympic logo was created (Video)


How does one come up with a logo for the world's most popular and important sporting event? How does one sum up centuries of tradition vs. a nation's culture in one symbol? Well, here's how.

Tátil Design de Ideias, Brazilian agency behind the 2016 Rio Olympics logo, has released a behind-the-scenes look into the process of concept and design that went into its creation.

I was still living in Madrid back in 2009, when both cities (alongside Chicago and Tokyo) bid for the 2016 games. Rio's proposal stemmed from its desire to participate in this global occassion with a unique rhythm. They leveraged on Brazil's vivacity, passion and contagious energy, traits so particular to them. The logo mirrors the brazilian warmth and pride and a blending of diversities and races in one symbolic gesture - a hug.  

With the London games behind us, I am counting the days 'till Rio... 





Favorite players in the 2012 London Olympics


A week after the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, it's hard not to miss what was two weeks of great sportsmanship and brand coverage. For you see, I'm a sucker when it comes to this. There's a part of me that simply loves the celebration of man's achievements, while honoring a tradition that has been part of us over centuries. With London serving as a terrific host, brands pulled up their sleeves and made the best from an opportunity that arises once every four years. It was time to amp up the volume and turn up the heat. Especially when it came to new marketing platforms such as social media. (Read our post "Which brand gets the gold in the 2012 Olympic Games" for more.) 

So after all was said and done, here are my favorite brand performances all throughout the games. From ambush marketing, to traditional TV commercials, to brilliant copyrighting, these were the players who grabbed the gold:


Visa has been a worldwide sponsor of the games since 1986, and made a great effort in reinforcing the concept of "Go",  engrained in its positioning statement a few years back. "When we come together, to cheer as one, well... we know what happens." The ads' general tone, color and Morgan Freeman's unmistakable voice make the series unforgettable. 



Who can leave out this phenomemon? Nike has always leveraged in the force behind the man, the strength and will to move foward towards greatness. What better way of commemorating the event by celebrating everyday heroes?


Hands down to my favorite campaign in this year's Olympics, by far. The emotional, tear-driven stories behind the athletes are only enriched by a fascinating insight on which the ads were cemented upon: mothers. (Honestly, you'll need a box of Kleenex for this, I mean it.) Indeed, who would have thought you could connect a laundry detergent and a dish soap brand to man's most celebrated sporting event? 

Besides these two vids, the brand also released a series dedicated to different athletes from all over the world in different sports - swimming, gymnastics, volleyball - the list goes on. It's a brilliant tribute not only to the Olympic stars, but also to the women who got them to where they are now.

Here are a few of them, but make sure to check out the complete "Raising an Olympian" series:



One of the most noted (and controversial) brands during the Olympics was none other than Beats, by Dr. Dre. The personalized headphones were strategically handed out to athletes, who in no time wore them everywhere. This technique, called "ambush marketing" is illustrated by Tom Fishburne in his cartoon called "The Power of Ambush Marketing."  Unfortunately, according to Pocket-Link, participants were banned from wearing them and were only allowed to sport headphones from Panasonic, official sponsor of the games. Who cares? The attention and buzz around the brand played out beautifully.


Google's daily doodles honoring the games were a daily dose of remarkable. They ranged from tributes to athletes, to sports competitions - from simple illustrations to interactive games. With a total of 17, here are my top 4 favorites, two of which were interactive and hits in computers screens all over the world.

Interactive: Click here to play

Interactive: Click here to play

Honestly, four years seem far too long for another Olympics, but hey, what can I do? Maybe I can pick up a sport in time for Rio. Archery, perhaps?