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Britain's Olympics Logo Stinks--And It Paid Way Too Much.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 7, 2007

For the equivalent of $800,000 Britain has bought itself the worst kind of logo—one that stirs up horrible images of the past rather than wonderful images of the future. 2007-06-04T155611Z_01_NOOTR_RTRIDSP_2_OUKTP-UK-BRITAIN-OLYMPICS.jpe

It’s edgy, all right but in a weird, Nazi swastika kind of way. Sorry, but the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is right when he says the logo makers, Wolff Olins, branding agency, didn’t do a “health check” before rolling it out. It didn’t check to see how it played in public.

New logos need to be empty vessels that represent nothing but an idea, an opportunity for a product/service experience that consumers learn to love. I’m drinking from a Starbucks coffee cup with a mermaid on it. Mermaids have nothing to do with coffee but we’ve come to associate it with a great experience. It now is a meaningful logo.

The Olympic torch is the only image we have from one Olmpic to another that touches us and reminds us of what the contests are supposed to be about—community, what binds us together around the world. Beyond that, each national logo every four years, is essentially meaningless. At best, it can be filled up by great athletic events, images, experiences and memories (or bad ones—we’ve had some awful Olympics).

As for me, I’m basically a NoLogoMan. I especially hate them on clothes. The Plains Indians are now shifting their tradition of beading moccasins to beading on Converse sneakers. Each pair is a work of art. That has meaning to me.

Reader Comments


June 7, 2007 4:25 PM

As I read your article, I saw the logo and immediately thought it was a play on a Nazi swastika and that you were kidding. Then I read on and you thought the same way. Horrible! Disgrace!


June 7, 2007 4:36 PM


I agree that the logo is very weird but how many times you guys will refer the swastika to Nazis

Nazis stole it from hindu culture and it is such a religious and auspicious symbol for us.

What will you do when some one refer as to cross symbol in negative way.

The fact that you guys are ignorant or do it purposefully is still schoking int his modern era when countries like India and China are on risehold

Hopefully this will give people a better insight


Bruce Nussbaum

June 7, 2007 5:43 PM

It is one of history's abominations that the Nazi's took this symbol as their own and insulted the cultures where it plays a prominent role. You find it not only in hindu culture but American Indian culture as well.
All I can say to you is that time may mellow its meaning for millions of people whose families suffered under this banner but not yet.
Just as you ask for understanding for the swastika's role in your culture, you have to understand its meaning today in other cultures. There is no "right" or "wrong" here.


June 7, 2007 6:34 PM

The logo is horrible, but I don't get the swastika feel to it. I think you only associate with that if you were raised in that time period. The Olympics look to the future, and that is what the audience will do when it sees this horrible logo too. Most won't think about swastika's unless others begin to raise that concern. So you are just as much at fault for stating that parallel as the logo makers were when they designed it.

Jake Dembeck

June 7, 2007 7:45 PM

The swastika was not taken from Hindu culture, Nazis stole it from the vikings. That was who Germany was aspiring to be like.


Peter Plum

June 7, 2007 8:32 PM

Has it occured to you that many us also read Seth Godin's blog? Perhaps it's a coincidence, but much the themes in this post are quite similar to posts he made several days ago.

Bruce Nussbaum

June 7, 2007 8:38 PM

Yikes! I've been away in Portland and didn't catch up to Seth's. Of course I realize that lots of folks reading my blog read Seth's (heck lots more people read Seth's blog than mine). And I link to Seth quite often.
Parallel thinking. Sorry.


June 8, 2007 3:06 AM

Uh, there are a LOT more negative connotations with this logo than broken swastikas, like why London wants to be associated with New York's subway graffiti, or unprintable acts involving Lisa Simpson.

The designers should be humiliated for foisting this on the public. Meanwhile the public is turning out some good alternatives. See the BBC website for their alternative logo contest - there are some great ones that feature an uplifting symbol, the rings and London 2012 -- just like an Olympic logo should.


June 8, 2007 9:07 PM

Your article is incorrect, the Olympics didn't pay £400,000 for a logo. That was the fee to Wolff Olins for a year long consultancy.

One of the outputs of this consultancy was the logo. A respected magazine such as your should really check your facts!

Mark Watson

June 9, 2007 11:26 AM

I hate the logo as well, and I'm British, but likening it to a (pink) swastika strikes me as deliberately inflammatory, and, well, just plain wrong.

It also looks like western Europe (with London correctly placed and France spitefully shrunken down, to reflect a millenium of animosity). I suspect that's actually what it's meant to be, although the designers obviously haven't thought about American prioritisation of political correctness over awareness of geography.

And it also looks kind of like a tangram version of a lion, which has been used in past logos (e.g. England hosting the World Cup in 1966, do a Google image search on World Cup Willy, the mascot), although the lion is usually used to represent England, not the UK.

But it does look dated, silly and awful. As anyone who ever saw the millenium dome could tell you, London's design establishment, once it gets hold of public funding, has a habit of drawing a project further and further away from the human beings who are being asked to fund it, and into the realms of abstract self-indulgence, isolated from its original cultural context.

(and surely, as well as the torch, there are the five rings, and the medal system, etc, so there's plenty to play with)

d. Loft

September 26, 2007 3:16 PM

Ok. The logo is pretty bad, and it has obviously been misinterpreted to the point where the designers should be ashamed for not field testing it before it was launched. I mean do you know how many people probably had to have seen this and approved it before it was released? More than a few people dropped the ball on this one I'd say.

As for the whole swastika thing, the logo is (again) obviously "2012" in hand made type - I think it looks like 2012 made out of torn paper... And if you looked at the rest of the identity graphics it kind of makes sense.

I think that if the olympics is stuck with this graphic identity that the public should get over the "ugly" logo and focus on what the event is supposed to be about.



November 30, 2007 8:29 PM

"I’m basically a NoLogoMan. I especially hate them on clothes.
The Plains Indians are now shifting their tradition of beading moccasins to beading on Converse sneakers.
Each pair is a work of art. That has meaning to me."

Hmm...Indian beading on trendy sneakers. Sounds like more cultural appropriation to me.
(First the Swastika was stolen by the Nazis, now Plains Indians bead work.)

The Plains Indians continue to suffer cultural genocide just like the millions killed by the Nazis.

Apart from that comment, the logo is just ugly and looks like it is the album cover art for a fictional lost new wave record....


July 7, 2008 5:50 PM

The Logo is just absolutely rubbish.Can it be changed now or will it be our final logo?The alternative logos all were a 1000 times better than this one.If you agree with me then send an e mail saying I AGREE JANU Or I DONT AGREE JANU.


March 29, 2009 5:16 PM

the logo is pretty weird, and sadly to say terrible it just looks like jagged misforfed shapes but i do love london so its ok. but it has no swatstika effect on me. though it does look like western europe like mark watson said. oh well. the olympics are probably gonna be great who cares? :)

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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