As summer kicks off in earnest, sports fans once again mourn the end of another eventful football season, but fear not, we have the Olympics and Euro 2016 to look forward to. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for sport. Put me in front of someone chasing, kicking or batting a ball, or trying to go faster, higher or further than their opponents and I’m probably in. Especially if there’s a pint involved!
It’s not always the action I’m keeping an eye on though. As a designer, I’m always looking at the bigger picture; the design of the kit, the event branding, the on-court design elements. I once bought a Russian rugby top, while great at many things, the Russians aren’t renowned for their rugby prowess, but I’ve yet to find a better rugby logo.
Ask most designers what their favourite Olympic logo is and you’ll get a varied response. Most tend to champion Tokyo’s simplicity, Mexico’s repetitive lines that work across everything bringing a sense of fun and, in stark contrast, Munich’s beautiful use of space, limited colour palettes and crafted minimalism. But ask designers, or anyone else for that matter, to give their favourite Euros logo and they might be hard pushed to name the host nation, never mind recall an excellent logo.
There have been lots of average Olympic logos, so I don’t want to suggest that they have found the winning formula. Similarly, I don’t want to slate a load of logos because there are plenty of places you can go to do that. Instead I want to identify what might improve them. I’ll admit the rest of this article could well sound like a rant similar to that of a disgruntled football fan calling Robbie Savage on BBC Five Live. (What was Wenger doing bringing Walcott on so late?) But it doesn’t stop them and it won’t stop me. So here I go, here I go, here I go…
A lot of the Euro’s logos show generic shapes, almost always include footballs and don’t say much else. It’s all just a bit predictable and lazy. There is real heart in football, but I think it might be found in the stands more than it is on the pitch or in the governing bodies – UEFA, FIFA and their likes. That real sense of heart that die-hard supporters have for the game just isn’t being captured in this iteration of the Euro’s identity. Why?
You can blame the brief and death by committee, but if you look at the Olympic logos that have been done well, they have a simple, singular thought that gives them a memorable look and feel that transcends the entire event.
Take London’s 2012 logo for example, I don’t think this was as bad as it was initially made out to be. Even if you take away the undoubted success of Team GB, I look back at it as a successful identity. What it did was fly in the face of the convention of Olympic logos.
Ive Nwokorie, now CEO at Wolff Olins, said that they always expected mixed reviews and that people, “tend to point out the rules we’ve broken, and in that sense they tend to be correct. ‘It’s too dissonant…’. Absolutely, the dissonance was intentional. ‘It doesn’t reflect any of London’s famous landmarks.’ Absolutely, the world knows about those, we don’t need to tell them. ‘It’s too urban, it’s too young.’ Absolutely.…the reviews shine quite an acute light on exactly the points we were trying to make.”
While in Creative Review editor Patrick Burgoyne perhaps more pithily said: “(the logo) almost wilfully disregards the accepted way of these things: no overt geographical reference to the home city, no ‘welcoming, joyful’ attitude, no rounded, friendly organic shapes.” I don’t think that anyone can fault the reasoning or how brave it was, it’s just the actual execution and style that jarred, which was definitely the intention.
Back to the beautiful game …To get a brief to create an identity that welcomes the world (or the rest of Europe in this case) to your country, is an incredible opportunity. One that lets you showcase an entire country and tell stories about what makes it special.
As this is the last Euros to be held by a single nation (a new format where the tournament will span 13 countries will replace it), France hasn't done a bad job. It draws connections between art and sport. Paris has the Louvre, the Mona Lisa and the country is known for a number of famous artists. France is similarly known for a host of other things, but what would exploring those territories tell us that we don’t already know? What if they’d taken the counter cultural approach of Wolff Olins?
If I got the brief for the next Euros I’d be asking: ‘How do you brand a football competition that spans 13 different countries?’ Personally I'd look at what unites them. As the countries in question are still up for debate, I'd hazard that passion would be one route to have a look at.
I’d want to show passion for football as it exists with the loyal supporters who fill stadiums week in, week out and follow their clubs wherever they play. We need to counter the negativity that’s gone on with FIFA recently and resist a route that illustrates passion through generic, corporate lenses to please ‘the powers that be’. Instead show the sort of passion that's gritty and real; that excites people across the world every weekend, the sort that makes boys dream of future glory and grown men cry. Excite people in the same way some of the world’s best players can do. Why can't great design work hand-in-hand to bring all of that to life?
All I want to see is the beautiful game have an identity that portrays it as such.
Written by: Trevor Thompson, Designer