Ignoring the problems of hosting the Olympics, which are serious and many (and as a Vancouverite I’m speaking from experience), let’s just compare the graphic design from two different Canadian Olympics. It’s safe to say the Montreal Olympic graphics were uniformly brilliant. It’s considered bad form to criticize the Vancouver 2010 graphics because of the tragic death of the head designer at a young age, but this is not a 2010 Olympics-boosting blog. Pax to all those people who like the Vancouver 2010 Olympics graphic identity—and the corresponding new 2010-related City of Vancouver signage—but to me they all look very strongly like the unfortunate love-child of feminine hygiene packaging and corporate clip art designed by committee. Messy, busy, commercial. They look like bad Illustrator photo-traced layers because that’s effectively what they are. Vancouver: how many more design failures will you tolerate? Of course, a city that will build a main library that looks exactly like the gladiatorial coliseum in Rome in the colour of dried blood (and I can hardly believe I’m writing that sentence: a library in the form of a blood-sport arena!) is capable of large-scale mistakes. See a longer post on the beautiful Montreal Olympics graphics on this blog, and more Vancouver 2010 Olympics graphics on the Canadian Design Resource. For the politically-incorrect 2010 Olympic logo debacle, see this CBC story. [Update Feb 13: Douglas Coupland had this to say in conversation with the New York Times:
NYT: I see there is controversy over the design of the official Olympics logo, which is based on the Inuit stone marker known as an Inukshuk.
DC: Inuit culture is north of here, in the Canadian Arctic, and it has nothing to do with the lives of anyone in British Columbia. If you want to use the First Nations motifs for your logography, use the ones that are actually from here. A lot of people are kind of cheesed off.
I voted against these Olympic games in the city plebiscite back in 2002. Now that they are nearly here I am extremely annoyed by their crippling social and financial costs, their corporate profiteering and their draconian trouncing of free speech. However if they’d had a beautiful design presence in the City, I could have put politics aside and at least given them credit for that. Instead, Vancouver has been handed what it perhaps deserves, weak design that wouldn’t even make the qualifying round for a design Olympics, if there were such a thing.
Feminine hygiene packaging. That’s what this is. Both the busy design above and the dreadful Welcome to Vancouver signs below. Weak by any standard.
To see Olympic design actually done well, see Munich and Mexico City. If you want good Olympic design, look only between 1968 and 1976 in cities starting with M. Also, Denver was in the running for the 1976 Olympics and had quite a nice campaign going, designed by eminent designer Massimo Vignelli (think old NYC subway guide).