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Behind The Minimal Look Of The 2014 Olympics Logo

The Sochi Olympics Logo was originally much more ornate. Then the spec changed.

[Images via The New Yorker]

Although the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics logo hasn't garnered the same sort of criticism as the 2012 London Olympic Logo, it is an odd design in the grand spectrum of previous Olympics. Featuring futuristic lettering with letters and numbers that partially mirror each other, it is the first to bundle a web address right in the logo, as well as the first to entirely eschew hand-drawn elements. In a word, it's gone flat. But why?

Over at the New Yorker, an interesting article details the design process for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Logo. While the logo ended up being flat and somewhat futuristic—the kind of font you might see on the side of a spaceship in Tarkovsky's Solaris—the original proposal was actually much more traditional and ornate.

The winning design for the Sochi Olympics logo came from a design team at the Interbrand Agency, and was originally intended to channel much more of Russia's cultural and artistic challenges, a la the winning logo of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. As such, the team imagined the lettering of the Sochi logo to either incorporate a floral design inspired by Russian Khokhloma art, or a logo which incorporated Sochi's local resort culture through pictures of things like animals, sailing, and beaches.

Neither design was what the Olympics Organizing Committee wanted though. They favored a more modern, futuristic design, and thus began what appears to have been a frustrating period of compromise with the various layers of the Olympic bureaucracy, including the local Russian government, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Organizing Committee, marketing specialists, famous athletes, and more. With so many people flashing thumbs up or thumbs down on a design, it often becomes impossible to trace the rationale for a finished logo.

With a coherent design rationale quite possibly imposed post-facto, it's likely we'll never know the decision process that garnered a type design where "Sochi" and "2014" seemingly mirror one another. It could be meant to reflect Sochi's status as a Black Sea resort town, or Russia as a country of contrasts, both geographically and culturally. Certainly, the official press release that accompanied the logo's unveiling in December 2009 wasn't particularly illuminating, claiming that the logo "illustrates the connection between the past and the future, traditions and innovations" and forms "a holistic representation of Russia."

Perhaps the most practical reason behind Sochi's minimalist, non-traditional design is simply that it's the first Olympic logo made with digital in mind. When it was first unveiled, the IOC called the logo the "first digital brand in the history of the Olympic movement." The reason the Sochi 2014 Olympics Logo is so non-traditional, then, might very well be the same reason that companies like Visa and Apple are going flat: simpler design bridge multiple mediums like digital and print better.

Read The New Yorker's entire piece here.