Brand Design and the Olympics

The Olympic Games are heavily rooted in symbolism and iconography, from the flame to the five ringed identity. A key aspect of the Olympics or Paralympics is the branding behind it, and every four years the task of creating a new logo is handed to a new city. Not only does this logo need to appeal to a worldwide audience, but it also needs to be future-proofed. Each host city is faced with the challenge of designing a logo that builds on what has come before and retaining a sense of familiarity, whilst ensuring they aren’t repeating previous designs.


Olympic Rings


The simple yet striking five ringed design has stood the test of time, with the five rings representing the five continents of the world unified by Olympism. The timelessness of this design can be linked to the powerful symbol of the circle, which reflects both inclusivity and universality.

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Logos

First revealed in 2013, the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics logo has a very minimalistic design. Created by Korean Designer Ha Jong-joo, the logo takes inspiration from the Korean alphabet, Hangeul. It is made up of 2 emblems, one is shaped like a star and the other is shaped like a pillar; each representing different character in the alphabet. The Pillar represents ‘harmony’ between ‘heaven, earth and man’, whilst the star represents athletes, ice and snow. The colour choices with this logo are a simple and obvious choice, the 5 colours associated with the Olympics festivities: blue, yellow, green, red and black.

The Paralympics logo drops the pillar and instead features 2 star shaped emblems that are ‘holding hands’. This represents the unity between athletes.

The pictograms to represent each sport also take inspiration from the Korean alphabet with the use of dots and lines. Each pictogram features an abstract, white human figure against a blue background.

Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Logos

The Rio De Janeiro 2016 Olympics logo was designed to represent the country; their culture, flair for colour and togetherness, whilst also representing the Olympic Games. This logo was created by Rio-based design company ‘Tatil’ and was revealed on New Year’s Eve 2010.

The logo resembles three figures joined at the hands and feet, however what don’t realise at first look is that it also maps the shape of Rio’s Landmark, Sugarloaf Mountain. This fluid and colourful logo was the first Olympic branding to be 3D modelled.

The aim of this logo was to express unity and inspire achievement and optimism and through the use of colour they are able to convey everything they aimed to. The use of yellow represents the sun and Brazilians warm, vivacious and happy nature. The blue represents the fluidity of water that surrounds us, an easy-going way of life, trust and strength. The green represents forests, hope and a positive vision that inspires people.

London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Logos

The London 2012 Olympics logo was revealed in 2007 and the response it received was mostly negative. Designed by Wolff Olin, the logo aimed to attract the attention of a young audience and enthuse them about the games.

Whilst most logos reflect the games, the time period and the host country’s cultures and values, the London 2012 Olympic logo did almost none of these things. The maligned logo didn’t use any stereotypical British references or reflect any of London’s famous landmarks. As well as this, many people complained that it looked like something from the 80’sor 90’s.

London 2012 marked the first time ever that the Paralympics and the Olympics shared the same brand, using variants of a single logo. This was to reflect the equal importance of the 2 events, rather than the Paralympics falling somewhat into the shadow of the Olympics.

 Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympics Logos

The design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was revealed in 2016. After an accusation that the original logo was based on the Théâtre de Liège in Belgium, it was scrapped and replaced with a new design by Asao Tokolo, a Tokyo-based artist.

This emblem features a chequerboard design, which is formally known as “ichimatsu moyo” in Japan. This chequered design in the traditional indigo blue represents a refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan.

The chequerboard design consists of three varieties of rectangular shapes, which is intended to reflect different countries, cultures and ways of thinking. It also incorporates the message “unity in diversity” and seeks to promote diversity as a platform to connect the world. To create a distinction between the Olympics and Paralympics there are two variations of the globe shaped designs.

What’s your favourite Olympic logo?

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