Dalton Maag, the font foundry of Swiss typographer Bruno Maag, has unveiled the official 2016 Rio Games typeface.

The office keeps a studio in Porto Alegre, where a team of designers developed the typeface over eight months.

Maag’s 5,448 character brush script is organic where London’s was jagged, joyful where London’s was dissonant, and expressive where London’s was tightly wound.

The typeface references both Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture and Rio’s famous Carnival at once.

The kerning is tight--intended to save on paper, according to Maag’s thinking on sustainability--and as a whole, the script is unpretentious and sweet.

Overall, the brush script is a nice, organic complement to the Rio '16 logo, designed by Tatíl Design.

Yet to be unveiled are the '16 Games pictograms, which are generally the most discussed element of Olympic graphic design.

“Each letter expresses a characteristic of the Rio 2016 Games, its people, and the city,” says the committee.

Co.Design

Rio 2016's Olympic Typeface Is Drawn From The City's Famous Icons

Dalton Maag’s bubbly brush script for Rio invokes Brasilia and Carnival in one fell swoop.

In the annals of Olympic typography and logo design, there are the crowd favorites: Tokyo ‘64. Mexico ‘68. Munich ‘72. Then there are the anti-heroes, those designs that people seemingly love to hate: the London ‘12 logo, which Alice Rawsthorn scathingly compared to "dad dancing" in the New York Times; and the London ‘12 typeface, which Simon Garfield called "surely the worst new public typeface of the last 100 years" on this website.

The dust has only just settled on London, but the Rio ‘16 committee has already finalized the typography of the next summer games. Designed by Dalton Maag, the office of venerable Swiss typographer Bruno Maag, the font represents an about-face for Olympic type design. Maag’s 5,448 character brush script is organic where London’s was jagged, joyful where London’s was "dissonant," and expressive where London’s was tightly wound.

Maag has always been a proponent of typefaces with big personalities (one journalist calls him the "Angry Man of Type"). He’s a noted hater of Helvetica, which he calls "vanilla ice cream," and often rails against contemporary designers for failing to take risks. "A lot of graphic designers are really scared of the organic shape," he told The Creative Review back in 2010, "the thing they can’t control—just let it go."

Maag’s Porto Alegre office seems to have taken his advice to heart. In a series of YouTube videos, they introduce the typeface as a flowing, brush-and-ink script that drips and bleeds across the page. The looping curves are completely appropriate for Brazil, referencing both Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture and Rio’s famous Carnival at once. The kerning is tight—intended to save on paper, according to Maag’s thinking on sustainability. As a whole, the script is an unpretentious and sweet complement to Tatíl’s swooping Rio '16 logo design.

The only obvious weak point in the design is the way it’s presented on the Rio 2016 website, which places each character against a photo of Brazil or Olympic athletes. "Each letter expresses a characteristic of the Rio 2016 Games, its people, and the city," explains the committee. For example, a lowercase "r" was supposedly inspired by the Pedra da Gávea, the iconic rocky outcropping that towers over Rio; while "T" mimics the famed Christ the Redeemer Statue. It’s an unnecessary post-rationalization device. This is a small qualm, but it illustrates how our desire to over-explain design choices can muddle the beauty of a simple, strong piece of work.

I’ll stop yammering and let the commenters step in. What do you guys think?

[H/t It’s Nice That]

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9 Comments

  • Raphael Abreu

    They should have left the script only for the logotype, not created a font to be used in less important applications. It banalizes the logo.

  • Bruce

    I believe that sometimes it is the designer that feels obligated to give a long inspirational speech to perhaps rationalize their invoice or to give value to the design
     

  • jacob_Somers

    When people have the chance to ask designers and artists questions, one question that's always asked is about where the inspiration comes from. And every time the answer is invariably akin to how inspiration is everywhere. Do I believe each and every individual character is based on something? No, that's over unlikely. But can I believe that a couple unique characters, like the lower case M, R, and T, are based on things throughout Rio, why not? 

  • MateusPx

    I think this Rio 2016's Olympic Typeface
    very similar to the Unilever's logotype. It´s not that original.
     

  • Ollie

    As a true lover of everything Brazilian (including the city of Rio de Janeiro) I do think that the city's vibrancy, character and charm are reflected nicely through the new font. 

    I agree with your concluding statement, however, as I see an increasing "desire to over-explain design choices" in the design lifestyle age we live in.

  • carrierod

    Great typeface, it gives an appropriate sense of the games and people of Brazil. Just stop with the comparison of the T and Christ the redeemer.  Ugh!

  • Andy Fuller

    I don't see any relation to the scripted 'T' and the statue shape? You could have placed any uppercase T over this famous icon and said this!
    But - I agree with the Copacabana walkway curves - they do follow this typeface - and it is a beautiful typeface that I'm sure will work well with all the designs.

  • Thati Mokgoro

    I agree. The post-rationalization was an overkill – takes away from the strength of the  design.