One thing the Olympics do without fail is give us a structured, consistent cultural barometer. Every four years, since 1896, the Games broadcast an orchestrated vision of the state of the world, and by extension, the state of design. A great example of this? The pictograms that represent each event (swimming, tennis, cycling, etc.), which are redesigned for every Olympics by a native artist or designer. Otl Aicher’s classic icons for the 1972 Munich Olympics are still revered amongst graphic designers, for example, while other cities like Beijing and Athens have chosen icons that reflected local flavor.
Another way young designers contribute to the Games is through the "victory ceremony" design, which refers to the podia, costumes, makeup, and flowers that accompany the handing out of medals. Since millions of spectators end up watching many of the 4,400 ceremonies, they’re fairly important to the overall identity of the Games.
Though usually a celebrity designer is chosen to reimagine the spectacle, this year London’s Organizing Committee invited students at the Royal College of Art to rethink the ceremony. The Committee unveiled the winning proposals last week.
Let’s start with the podiums, designed by Gaetano Ling; Hong-Yeul Eom; Luc Fusaro; Heegun Koo; and Yan Lu. The team extrapolated the lines of the London 2012 logo to create the platforms. Significantly, the platforms aren’t the traditional stepped variety. Rather, they ramp up slowly, making it possible to use the podiums both for the Olympics and the Paralympics for the first time ever.
The ceremonial costumes were created by Thomas Crisp and Trine Hav Christensen, who say they were inspired by Greek mythology and London architecture. The garments have a vaguely deconstructed quality to them, with pleating details at the joints that, again, echo the Olympic logo (and sort of look like something out of The Hunger Games). A retro-futuristic "fascinator" hat finishes off the look, referencing both a 1940s primness and a Jetsons-esque futurism. The official bouquet is made up of herbs (mint, rosemary, English lavender and wheat), a departure from the conventional floral bouquet of yore.
All in all, it’s a restrained look (especially when you hear that the designers were considering an all-white color scheme), one that London obviously hopes will reinforce its image as a "traditional, yet global" city.