The Colours of LA '84
The logo of the Games of the XXIII Olympiad
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The are many aspects of the LA ’84 design policy that fascinates, however, I would like to use this newsletter to focus on one aspect–common to many Olympic visual programmes–and that is the transition from logo to design policy.
In some instances, a flavour of what is to come can be understood in the logo, which typically proceeds design policy, and can become part of an early cycle of criticism without context.
This format, of logo first, far from intentionally courting controversy, is a function of the Games selection process, and goes back to bid stages where developing a full design policy would be unsuitable. A controversial logo, of course, does have the upside of generating interest and involvement, far ahead of the Games itself, but it would be unreasonable to think that this should be the principle driving force of its design. There is much to be said of the intersection of social media, Olympic logo announcements and an increasing interest in (or exploitation of) design by the mass-media, however, I will leave this for another time.
Much time passes between announcement and event. The initial shock of something quite different–we often lack the mental schema for assessing what might be considered original–softens as aspects of the design policy emerges, and the excitement grows as the Games comes closer. The logo begins to feel somewhat fitting. As a British designer, I acutely experienced this with regards to the 2012 Olympic logo, embarrassing myself with a quote in the Daily Mail deriding it.
To return to LA ’84, what it beautifully illustrates, and way I’m drawn to it, is the power of colour to completely subvert and/or further form. To change the conversation. What was eventually seen as too nationalistic became a “federal festivity”, put simply, national pride became an international invitation.
Prior to Deborah Sussman's involvement, the design of the 1984 Olympics consisted of a red, white and blue "stars in motion" symbol, designed by Robert Miles Runyan and approved in 1980, four years ahead of the Games.
The triple star that form the “Stars in Motion” symbol sought to convey the spirit of the competition; a universal motif of the highest aspirations of mankind. These stars represented first, second and third place while the 13 horizontal lines, based on the Star-Spangled Banner, conveying speed and action. The red, white and blue, another gesture of "three", positioned the symbol within the proud culture of the United States of America. However, when it came to developing a unifying design policy for the Games, the symbol's combination of Stars and Stripes in conjunction with colour, was considered inappropriate, with a nationalistic rather than inclusive sentiment.
John Follis Associates was the first to suggest the throwing out of the traditional red white and blue and using pastel colours drawn from the Olympic Rings. It was, however, Sussman/Prejza that drove the design policy into the carnival of colour that it became, introducing, quite unique to Games at that point, a palette of eleven-colour. The team reworked the pastel colours of John Follis Associates favouring more vivd tones as a reflection of a Californian spirit, drawing on aspects of the New Wave, Latin-America and the Mediterranean environment of the original Greek Games.
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