100 Years Of Olympic Logos: A Depressing History Of Design Crimes

There’s some beautiful graphic design on exhibit in these 45 Olympic Games logos, but most of them make you go WTF.

If you’re not a fan of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games’ minimalist logo, hey, it could have been worse. Much worse.


For proof, consider this slide show of all of the Olympic Games logos between 1924 and 2020. There have been some beautifully designed logos throughout the Olympic Games’ rich history, but sadly, that seems to be very much the exception, not the rule. Traveling back in time on this Olympic carousel, it’s interesting to spot design trends, and even more interesting to spot the design crimes.

Starting in the summer of 1984, for example, a typographical mad man appears to have seized control of the International Olympics Committee, and in his subsequent 14-year reign of terror, lop the heads off any designer who suggested a typeface that did not come pre-installed with Microsoft Word. Okay, I kid, but bookmarked between what appears to be Sarajevo ’84s tasteful Paralucent and Nagano ’98s Amira font, the typefaces of this era are dreadful. Like, seriously, what is this, Barcelona?

Revisiting almost a century of Olympic logos, what stands out is how muddled, confused, and almost simperingly non-threatening the last 30 years of Olympic design has actually been. In the ’60s and ’70s, Olympic logo design was actually good. Consider the 1960 Winter Olympics in California’s beautiful, tri-colored emblem, the gorgeous typography of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico logo, or even the austere, almost Gropian spiral of Munich’s 1972 Summer Olympics logo. It’s enough to make you weep over what has been lost.

I’m personally of the opinion that the 2014 Sochi logo is one of the best Olympics logos in a while, but as we’ve written about before, there’s no denying that the modern political reality of the Olympics means design by committee, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Games’ official logos.

Let’s just hope over the next century’s worth of sportsmanship, that committee’s taste gets a tad more sophisticated, and fast. I’m not sure the 2018 Winter Olympics can survive its own logo, are you?

(All logos were originally collated by and are reprinted here by permission.)

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