Op Art Bike
Lance Wyman’s design system for the 1968 Mexico Olympics me voló la cabeza the first time I saw it. Hell, it still blows my mind.
Strong geometry, bold colors, crazy lines. Even if you don’t know the history, it looks really frickin’ cool.
Wyman’s bio does not exaggerate: “His graphic design for the 1968 Mexico Olympics identity is widely celebrated as a pinnacle of environmental and branding design.” Along with a team including signage expert Peter Murdoch, architect Eduardo Terrazas, publication designer Beatrice Trueblood, sculptor Mathias Goeritz and president of the organizing committee Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Wyman combined elements of Native Mexican folk art and 1960s Op art.
We did very little research prior to going to Mexico, so the first week was spent in the Museum of Anthropology researching indigenous folk art and ancient imagery, in Mexican markets understanding their local design, and in the street taking photos of the work of local sign painters. As we proceeded, we had the opportunity to work with Huichol artists, brought in from the state of Jalisco, and learn from their unique sense of color. In one case, we made plywood square tablets (emulating traditional nierika), silkscreened the ’68 logo on them, and then gave them to the Huichol artists. The artists covered these templates with wax, into which they pushed strands of colored wool, creating beautiful color illustrations of birds and other traditional imagery. We used these tablets as an aid in developing our color programing. We also referenced ancient Aztec carvings, which have a really beautiful graphic quality. I was amazed by the visual power, wit, and humor in the design I found in early Mexican cultures. It influenced my Olympic work, my Mexico City Metro work, and most of everything I’ve done since. Their examples of vibrating color, the prevalent Op art of that period, and the bold expressive geometry found in many of the early Mexican cultures all contributed to the look of the overall design program.
How cool is that? Wyman and co. got to work with Huichol artists as the identity developed!
No Time like the Present
While BT Livermore and I considered this direction for our recent collaborative poster, Bicyclette. Though we took a different route, I wasn’t ready to pull away.
The icons were perfect in their simplicity. The color variations were playful and exciting. I had been thinking about bikes and design. As my appreciation grew, Wyman’s legacy had become a daily eyefly.
Every time I hear The Black Angels or Alabama Shakes, the Mexico 68 logo pops up in my mind.
On each ride, bike signage litters the city and I am reminded of the 1968 Olympics icons.
I even found this thumbnail from more than a year ago flipping through a sketchbook.
The time was right to extrapolate on Wyman’s design.
The most difficult part was picking the right color combination, but you probably already knew it was going to be black, (off)white and red. I asked Seizure Palace to print it because I knew they’d be able to line up the registration better than me (they’re the best screen printers; I’m a novice). And now it’s ready to hang on your wall.
Emmet Byrne’s article and interview with Lance Wyman for Walker Art Center
Watch & Listen:
Insights 2014 Design Lecture Series: Lance Wyman on 1968 Mexico Olympics, Washington DC Metro, FIFA World Cup, the Minnesota Zoo and more.
Get your very own Op Art Bike art print here.
18" x 24"
LIMITED EDITION OF 68
Printed on 100-lb. Cougar Natural Cover