In last weeks post we defended the Olympic pictograms raising the importance of context in judging them a success. Today though we look at Wenlock and Mandeville, our charmingly named London 2012 Mascots for whom the same defence cannot be made. I would have thought that the strength of any mascot is to bring character, personality and ownership to a brand. They create an extra opportunity for recognition and empathy. We should judge our Olympic mascots then on their lovability, personality and character especially as they are additional to a comprehensive brand outline including logo and custom typeface. It should be said that Wenlock and Mandeville do not offend me, unfortunately I feel this is part of the problem with their design. The coldness and inhumanity present in their creepy Cyclopean ways and metallic form is at stark contrast with their charming, eccentric British names. They give off the impression they feel as much as we do for them: nothing. Laying them open for no-holds-barred ridicule. Pentagram’s Angus Hyland cuts straight to the point: “Unlike the best anthropomorphic mascots, they appear thoroughly dehumanised. Which is a shame considering the Olympics is supposed to represent the best in human endeavour and character.” Somehow the most important thing about the olympics was forgotten here – the triumph of humanity.
Olympic tickets on the other hand are something a shame too. Fluffing up the strength of the dynamic lines in the pictograms with over-the-top jazzy gradients which look to me a cry for look at me, when they are clearly quite messy. Designed by Futurebrand, their strength is certainly in their information graphics aspect which communicates well with the dropping of the official typeface. In this respect the London 2012 branding is strongest. When the much hated Headline 2012 typeface gives way in the name of legibility, we find ourselves with signage system to be proud of. Making the most of the existing identity while holding to the modern principles of way finding clarity, the pictograms can finally show off their flexibility in this great signage by Futurebrand.
The phrase ‘brand police’ is being bandied around in the media like it’s been used for centuries, but this sort of identity reinforcement is something relatively new. It’s the underground signage for me that really shows the importance of how the structure of visual elements is crucial to quality. I think what we’re seeing is the emergence of a new type of design grid which is established collaboratively across agencies and society. Everyone is involved, whether they know it or not.