In 1968, graphic designer Lance Wyman designed the iconic Mexico Olympics identity, hailed today as arguably the strongest branding of any Olympic Games. The success of the identity–which Wyman and his team deployed on a massive scale around Mexico City–led the then 29-year-old designer to a high-profile career designing signage and identities for everyone from the Mexico City Metro to the cities of Washington, D.C.; Albuquerque; and Calgary.
From 1973 to 1982, Wyman meticulously documented his creative process in notebooks where he drafted his ideas. The London-based design book publishers Unit Editions are now raising funds on Kickstarter to collect Wyman’s original logbooks in a single volume.
Unit Editions founders Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy discovered Wyman’s visual notebooks while doing research for their 2015 book Lance Wyman: The Monograph, which chronicled Wyman’s career and legacy as the leader in the field of environmental graphics. Though the pair photographed some of his notebook spreads for the monograph, they recently decided that the notebooks warranted their own glossy tome. For Lance Wyman: The Visual Diaries 1973—1982, they photographed every page in Wyman’s “designlogs,” which he kept daily for nine years.
“The reason I started [the notebooks] is because I wanted to keep some kind of a record of what I was doing as far as keeping in touch with the complexity of the design I was getting into,” Wyman says in the Kickstarter video. “I had just gotten back from Mexico and that was a complicated bunch of work, but it was also directing the Olympics, the Metro, and the World Cup. We had a lot of diverse projects, and it was all in one spot, in one group, and I think the logs really helped me keep my part in all that.”
Twelve summer Olympics later, Wyman’s Mexico ’68 is still admired as an inspired visual identity for the Olympic Games. Working with a brief that required incorporating the Olympic rings as well as Mexico’s heritage, Wyman and his team created a graphic identity in a modernist, geometric style that was also inspired by iconography of ancient Mexico and the yarn art of the indigenous Huichol people. Applied to various Olympic arenas, signage, stamps, apparel, and more, it became a pinnacle of branding and wayfinding–while at the same time signaling to the world that Mexico was a modern country.
Much like in Rio right now, the ’68 Mexico Olympics were rife with social and political turmoil, though the government and Olympic Committee managed to sweep that under the rug. After a political protest in Mexico City ended in the killing of dozens–or perhaps hundreds–of people, student protesters subverted Wyman’s identity to use as revolutionary art against the government.
Lance Wyman: The Visual Diaries collects the many disparate parts of that identity, as well as others of Wyman’s famous designs. Through sketches, notes, color swatches, detailed specifications for signage, and other forms of printed ephemera, Wyman’s notebooks give viewers a look inside the process of a legendary designer.
Find the book on Kickstarter here. Early-bird backers can get the book for $67, or around $80 otherwise.
[All Photos: courtesy Unit Editions]