The Colours of LA '84
Deborah Sussman's design policy for the Games of the XXIII Olympiad
The Games of the XXIII Olympiad, also known as Los Angeles 1984 or just LA ‘84, took place between July 28 to August 12. This was the second time the Games had been held in the city. Just as the emblem of Los Angeles 1932 reflected its time in its illustrative and rather busy combination of motifs, so did LA 84. However, it wasn’t the emblem that leant the Games its distinct character, but a new wave energy and festivity of bright neon colour introduced by designer Deborah Sussman, Sussman/Prejza.
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Prior to Deborah Sussman's involvement, the design of the 1984 Olympics consisted of a red, white and blue "stars in motion" emblem, designed by Robert Miles Runyan and approved in 1980, four years ahead of the Games. This was designed to be used as a promotional emblem ahead of the Games and function as an independent asset.
The triple star emblem sought to convey the spirit of the competition, employing 13 horizontal lines to evoke the Star-Spangled Banner, speed and action. The red, white and blue, another gesture of "three", positioned the emblem within the proud culture of the United States of America.
However, when it came to developing a unifying design policy for the Games, the emblem’s combination of stars, stripes, red, white and blue was considered somewhat ‘inappropriate’ with a ‘nationalistic’ rather than inclusive sentiment.
John Follis Associates was the first to suggest throwing out the traditional red white and blue in favour of using pastel versions of the colours in 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-colours. The team reworked the pastel colours of John Follis Associates, and introduced additional vivid colours as a reflection of a Californian spirit. This also draw on aspects of the New Wave, Latin-America and the Mediterranean environment of the original Greek Games.
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The emblem designed by Robert Miles Runyan was introduced into the design system. But, rather than employ the original three colour version and transfer the nationalistic sentiment, it was used as a solid colour and both as a bold graphic element with contrasting colours to add motion or as a small independent element.
This is one part of a two part story. Click here to read more about the ideas, context and considerations that led to the design of the LA ‘84 emblem created by Robert Miles Runyan.
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