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Here’s How Terrified Everyone Is Of Design Plagiarism Now

The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee skirts further controversy with the safest new logo imaginable.

Here’s How Terrified Everyone Is Of Design Plagiarism Now

Following a plagiarism controversy, the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee has selected a new logo from nearly 15,000 entries for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games. And it couldn’t be a safer, more conventional choice.

The previous logo, the winner of an international competition, was a stark, geometric design with an almost ’80s feel. Created by Japanese designer Kenjiro Sano, the logo was scrapped after Belgian designer Olivier Debie accused Sano of plagiarizing his work for the Théâtre de Liège. Indeed, with the exception of color choice and spacing, the two logos are eerily similar, with identical geometric elements. Sano, however, denied that he had copied Debie’s design.

The new emblem, designed by Tokyo-based artist and architct Asao Tokolo, is much more complicated than Sano’s design. A checkerboard wreath in indigo-blue, the design is a deliberate nod to a traditional 18th-century pattern called “ichimatsu moyo,” which the organizers say is meant to express the “refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan,” as well as the diversity of the Olympic games, through the interplay of different rectangular shapes.

To chose the new logo, the 21-member selection committee sorted through a whopping 14,599 different submissions, reports The Wall Street Journal. The committee also received and took into account more than 100,000 comments from the public. Each design was supposedly vetted for the possibility of design plagiarism, with all submissions checked against domestic and international trademark registries. “In order to choose an emblem we could show to the world, we based our application and selection process on participation and transparency,” said selection committee head Ryohei Miyata.

Of course, in the Internet age, skirting controversy is easier than said than done. Even when the bugbear of plagiarism fails to raise its stinky head, new logo designs are scrutinized, second-guessed, parodied, and even trolled to an extent that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. Consequently, today’s designers–and their clients–need to be more sure of themselves than ever before.

There’s nothing about this new logo that’s sure about itself. In fact, it seems gunshy, and a little discordant, like it would be more at home on the side of a Grand Prix race car than as the prevailing symbol of an Olympic Games. Due to its relative complexity and the fact that it is based on a 300-year-old textile pattern, though, the ichimatsu moyo logo should, at least, be immune to accusations of design plagiarism.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at john.brownlee+fastco@gmail.com.



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