The best (and worst) Olympic logos in history

43 logos. Just 3 get the glory. Who’s on your podium?

Logo gallery by Jon Collette. Pinch to zoom if you’re on mobile.

The Olympics are wonderful. Elite athletes from around the world compete for big fame and a small fortune, and those of us watching at home get to wonder how exactly these people are the same species as us.

Here at Ivor Andrew, Olympic logo talk has consumed our Slack channel for the past week. So we took the debate to Medium, and our design nerds came up with the best and worst Olympic logos in history. After you see their lists, stick around for a Q&A moderated by yours truly. And be sure to tell us how wrong we are in the comments!

The best Olympic logos in history are…

Jon Collette, designer

Gold: Tokyo, 1964
Silver:
Mexico City, 1968
Bronze:
Munich, 1972

Keith Booton, president

Gold: Mexico City, 1968
Silver:
Beijing, 2008
Bronze:
Sochi, 2014

Alex Laniosz, designer

Gold: London, 2012
Silver:
Tokyo, 1964
Bronze:
Munich, 1972

Alex Donnelly, video editor

Gold: Tokyo, 1964
Silver:
Melbourne, 1956
Bronze:
Montreal, 1976

Stuart Hotwagner, videographer

Gold: Mexico City, 1968
Silver:
Salt Lake City, 2002
Bronze:
Nagano, 1998

Doug Carter, creative director

Gold: Montreal, 1976

Minimalist and brilliant — like one of my favorite logos in team sports history (Montreal Expos, who also played at Olympic Stadium). The 5 Olympic rings combine with the center running track, an Olympic podium and an M for Montreal. Bonus points for the esoteric maple leaf in the collective of the logo.

Silver: Innsbruck, 1964

Typical beautiful Swiss design — clean, elegant and simple using the coat of arms from the city of Innsbruck. Everything should be designed by the Swiss. Yeah, take that Germans. This logo is so good, 1976 simply repeated it rather than coming up with something new.

Bronze: Mexico City, 1968

I love the typography created here, designed to mimic Mexican historic art and the lanes of a running track and swimming pool. It’s just beautiful and stylish, and one of the best incorporations of the 5 olympic rings into the actual logo. Peace and love, amigo.

The worst Olympic logos in history are…

Jon Collette, designer

Gold: Barcelona, 1996
Silver:
Lillehammer, 1994
Bronze:
PyeongChang, 2018

Keith Booton, president

Gold: London, 2012
Silver:
PyeongChang, 2018
Bronze:
Munich, 1972

Alex Laniosz, designer

Gold: Barcelona, 1992
Silver:
Nagano, 1998
Bronze:
Rio, 2016

Alex Donnelly, video editor

Gold: Barcelona, 1992
Silver:
London, 2012
Bronze:
Rio, 2016

Stuart Hotwagner, videographer

Gold: PyeongChang, 2018
Silver:
London, 2012
Bronze:
Helsinki, 1952

Doug Carter, creative director

Gold: London, 2012

The firm that designed this logo got paid handsomely to develop the brand for the 2012 Summer Games, and created this mess of lines and “prescribed anarchy.” Their entire explanation of this brand is ludicrous and gives all designers a bad name. They need to be punched in their collective anarchist larynxes.

Silver: Rome, 1960

WTF is even going on in this logo? Never mind, I don’t want to know. Bonus points for Roman numerals, though. It’s the only thing keeping them from a gold medal.

Bronze: Bavaria, 1936

Sweet mother. Apparently clip art was invented in 1936, because it was used to create this logo. This is what we like to call, “phoning it in.”

The Olympic logo Q&A

The 1950s through the 1970s is the clear Olympus of Olympic logo design, while just about everything from the 90s and beyond was downvoted into oblivion. Why is that?

Alex L: Computers. In the 50s and 60s, graphic design was done exclusively by masters. Computers made design accessible, which is an amazing thing, but it’s not always a good thing.

Doug: I initially thought design in the 40s and 50s was just plain better, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot. It’s like music. Today, because of all the tools that are available, anyone can be a musician or a designer. That means you have a lot of watered down stuff. There are still masters of music and design, but you have to work a lot harder to find them.

The politicized management of the Olympics these days doesn’t help, either. People who don’t know a great logo from a bad one have all the power.

Alex, you did not have London in your top three. Then you read Doug’s rant about it and promptly gave it your gold medal. First, LOL. Second, WTF happened?

Alex L: Everyone immediately bashed it, but you can’t deny that the logo stands out. I think designers should always try to create something different and unexpected. When I saw London’s logo, it was such an outlier than I had to read into it. I wanted to know how they ended up there.

Luke: I agree. London’s logo feels rebellious. Look at the gallery of logos up there. Where’s the first place your eye goes? London. It saw the direction other logos had gone since Barcelona, and it gave that direction the finger.

Doug: It’s true that it’s noticeable, but I don’t think it’s rebellious. That logo didn’t really do anything for anybody. You can’t take a blah logo and call it anarchy. It doesn’t work that way. What irked me the most was the arrogance the creative team had when justifying it. It was just design masturbation. It’s the kind of stuff where you wonder, “How the hell do they sell this to people?”

Keith, Munich’s logo got some love from the team, but you gave it a bronze in your “Worst” category. What’s the deal with Munich?

Keith: On some level, the Munich logo reminds me of those damn 3D magic eye puzzles from the 90s (Look! A sailboat!) or, worse yet, a Rorschach test (Why is Munich’s logo a picture of my dad yelling at me?). Either way, I’ve spent way too much time staring at it and am now more convinced than ever that I need additional therapy.

Alex L: I like Munich. It looks like a Hitchcock poster.

Jon: I love the Munich logo. It’s oscillating, and you can’t look at it without seeing movement.

Hey, Donnelly. Melbourne, 1956. Why did you give that thing a silver?

Alex D: It’s a hipster piece of crap. That’s why I liked it.

Alex L: He likes it because it looks the most like the Starbucks logo.

Everyone: lol

Stu, you were the only person with two post-90s logos on your “Best” podium. What do you see in Salt Lake City and Nagano?

Stu: I liked Nagano?

Luke: Yes.

Stu: Did I really? Can I switch it to Montreal? I like that one more now that I know it’s a maple leaf.

Jon: omg. I’m not updating the rankings again.

Are there any logos you wanted to put on either podium?

Luke: I’d like to echo Doug’s love for Innsbruck, 1964 and give a shoutout to Los Angeles, 1932. I love the use of the shield and the Latin Olympic motto, which means “Faster, Higher, Stronger” and sounds like a Daft Punk song.

Doug: I tried to find a spot for Calgary, 1988 and Lake Placid, 1932 in my “Best” category. Calgary, sure, the snowflake and maple leaf is trite and cliché, but I still love it. The typography is what held it back. As for Lake Placid, what’s better than a ski jumper leaping across the country? Beautiful type, too.

My dishonorable mention goes to everything from the past 30 years. Almost all of it falls back on stylized humanoid swooshes and swishes to create a gumball-colored 1987 Benetton clothing ad. Thanks, but seriously, no. Find a new direction.

Jon: Rome, 1960 was great. It was my #4.

Alex L: I liked Sarajevo, 1984 a lot. Good color, and it has a hidden medal in there.

Overall best logo

Gold: Mexico City, 1968
Silver:
Tokyo, 1964
Bronze:
Montreal, 1976

Overall worst logo

Gold: London, 2012
Silver:
Barcelona, 1992
Bronze:
PyeongChang, 2018

Most divisive logo

Gold: London, 2012
Silver:
Munich, 1972
Bronze:
Rome, 1960


Thanks for reading! Please recommend and share this story if you enjoyed it, and don’t forget to tell us what your podiums look like.

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