Last year a furore erupted over the logo design for the Tokyo 2020 games, which was eventually withdrawn over claims that it had been plagiarised. I retain a sneaking suspicion that it was withdrawn not because it infringed the copyright of an obscure Belgian theatre company, but because it was really, really awful. I wrote a longish, ranty blog post about exactly why so in July last year.
Certainly the glare of public opinion was not kind, but the London 2012 logo received similar levels of stick, and they stuck that one out. Given the loss of face involved – a huge deal in Japan – the decision to yank it must have been agonising.
Since that debacle, the organising committee held an open public competition to design a new pair of logos for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Anyone resident in Japan could enter, and nearly 15,000 people did. The four finalists, all currently anonymous, are below.
The reaction from Japan’s design community to the finalist designs has been spectacularly sniffy and condescending:
“Public submission seems more fair than a designer or agency picked by an elite, but the overall result will probably lack quality,” said Benjamin Thomas of Tokyo-based Bento Graphics, who said the logos on the shortlist fail to “immediately visually explain their concept”.
Another Tokyo-based designer, Ian Lynam of Ian Lynam Design, said the logos were “unprofessional in terms of structure, form and execution” and were more akin to “cartoons or caricatures”.
Designer Keiko Hirano said: “We must not fail to recognise that once again, the renewed competition will not be a reflection of the consensus of the Japanese people.”
Art director and the chairman of Japan Graphic Designers Association, Katsumi Asaba, told Sports Hochi said he preferred Sano’s effort as the new contenders were of a “really low level of design”.
This, of course, came hot on the heels of another, even bigger design row over the main Olympic stadium involving the late architect Zaha Hadid. After that, the organising committee made it very clear that they expected ‘Japanese-ness’ to be a big part of any design elements that were facing the public.
So here they are. What do you think? Personally I think that one is a lot stronger than the others. There’s a poll at the bottom. Choose one and let me know. Add a comment, why dontcha? And you can stick your oar in directly to the organisers here.
UPDATE: April 25th – the results are in: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/25/national/checkered-pattern-chosen-as-official-logo-for-2020-tokyo-olympic-games/
A. Harmonized chequered emblem
Chequered patterns have been popular in many countries around the world throughout history. In Japan, the chequered pattern became formally known as “ichimatsu moyo” in the Edo period (1603-1867), and this chequered design in the traditional Japanese colour of indigo blue expresses a refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan.
Composed of three varieties of rectangular shapes, the design represents different countries, cultures and ways of thinking. It incorporates the message of “unity in diversity”. It also expresses that the Olympic and Paralympic Games seek to promote diversity as a platform to connect the world.
B. Connecting Circle, Expanding Harmony
“This design expresses the connection between the dynamism of the athletes and the joy of the spectators, and the expansion of peace and harmony throughout the world.
It seeks to encompass mental and physical strength, dynamic movement and speed, and the euphoric emotions that the world derives from outstanding athletic performances.
The design also expresses the respect and warm hospitality that will be accorded to visitors from around the world to the Tokyo 2020 Games.”
C. Surpassing One’s Personal Best
“These emblems were inspired by the traditional Wind God and the Thunder God, and seek to convey dynamic movement at the instant an athlete breaks the tape on the finish line. They also represent athletes as they endeavour to attain and surpass their personal best.
The Wind God and the Thunder God have been much loved by the people of Japan for centuries. (e.g. the famous painting by the early 17th century Japanese artist Tawaraya Sotatsu, and the statues of these Gods at the Kaminari-mon Gate in Tokyo’s Asakusa district)
In the original depiction, the taiko drums held by the Thunder God are represented by fireworks, while the Wind Cloth held by the Wind God is replaced by the portrayal of a rainbow to symbolise the concepts of peace, diversity and harmony.
The emblems also express the athletes’ continued contribution to peace through their mental and physical tenacity, and a connection to the future.”
D. Flowering of Emotions
“The morning glory flower as it faces up towards the heavens to greet the new morning, expresses the faces of athletes striving to attain a personal best and the bright faces of people as they applaud the athletes. The upward-looking morning glory also represents the climax of this range of emotions.
The seed of the morning glory sprouts, the vine grows, and the flower opens,—the process of the flower growing and eventually returning to seed conveys the sense of expectation for the Games and succession to the next generation.
This flower was particularly popular during Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867), and remains a firm favourite (e.g. as subject for “Ukiyoe” prints.)
It signifies a heightened sense of anticipation towards the 2020 Games and the warm welcome that visitors from around the world will receive.”
Quotes and pic via Inside The Games. Thanks.