Between the lazy use of Microsoft Word fonts, the botched numbers, and the "is it or isn’t it Lisa Simpson?" debate, the Olympics have been caught up in some strange branding efforts.
All of this makes the newly renovated look of the Olympic Museum, in Lausanne, Switzerland, something of a palate cleanser. The work of Base Design, which beat out other design firms in a competition to handle the branding, the museum’s logo and signage, is a clean nod to the one Olympics design element that's stayed the same all these years: “We had to acknowledge the fact that we were dealing with one of the most powerful brands in the world: the five Olympic rings,” says Thierry Brunfaut, the partner at Base Design who led the project. “This symbol is so strong, you have no other option than to let it live in the mind of the audience. The second step was to understand that the museum was not about sports! It’s a museum about the Olympic idea, the culture and the wonderful stories.”
For the custom-built typeface, Base adopted the flat, rounded graphics as well as the colors of the original Olympic rings. The result is a spare sans serif font with a singular playful detail: Each letter or number is half gray, half color. Where the two halves connect, there’s a darkened dot of overlapping hues to symbolize a relay.
This was the team’s conceptual touchstone throughout the project: the Olympics are, in many ways, one big relay. There are literal relay races, of course, but there are symbolic relays (such as the passing of the Olympic torch between generations) and geographic relays (the rotation between host cities), and philosophical relays: “It was obvious our project couldn’t have any historical connotation, clear graphical influence, or political affect,” Brunfaut tells Co.Design. “It had to be neutral yet strong.”