The Art of the Olympic Poster
As we wrap up the Olympic season, lets take a look back at this year’s posters and graphics and how the designs have changed over the years. But first some art history, so that we have some idea about what the hell where talking about
The first modern Games were held in Athens ( how dramatic ) in 1896. At the time no official poster was ever created. It wasn’t until 1912 the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden that an official poster was planned for and executed. The Games organizers did not have much in the way of communication. Radio advertising was not used until the 1928 Games in Amsterdam and television not before the 1936 Games in Berlin, Germany. This meant that the promotion of the Games was entirely dependent on print. The poster was the only method of announcing the Games.
The vary first few Olympic posters are strong in the concept of the coming together of nations. Each one at has an element of togetherness, people standing united the use of flags it’s basically designed to show camaraderie “Yes we are competing against one and other, but we are still brothers.” The use of the archetypal Greek inspired Glorious Man that embodies strength, perseverance, and pride the classical depiction of the Olympics.
In the mid nineteen hundreds the posters start shying away from the unity message and start on more of a “Are Country is the Best” slant. The Glorious man is still there but now he is standing apart from every one, and belongs to no one but the host city.
Starting in the 60′s the poster design moves to more of a logo depiction, completely devoid of the strength, perseverance, and pride that has for so long been the classical depiction of the Games. It’s said that the loss of the Glorious Man and the depiction of his Glorious Ass Kicking of Glory makes the more modern Olympic posters a failure.
I have to disagree some what. Let me first say that I absolutely loved the Olympics. It was fantastic having people from all over the world descending upon my city. And winning Gold in hockey in Canada, in Vancouver, in GM place, oh WOW. But I don’t think it’s great because there is some idealized iconic man that is displaying his dominance. And I don’t think it’s great because Canada won the most Gold medals. I think the Olympics is about finesse and subtlety these days instead of brute strength. It’s more about the stories than about the overall medal count.
And that is a whole lot harder to portray effectively as a poster or an iconic design. The Games are meant to be branded as a point in time where athletes competed at the top of their sport and perfection. So the posters and imagery should reflect that.
I do think that the more recent campaigns have been less successful. Most are simple imagery has been mashed into an generic, politically correct sprites or cartoons that just have no meaning.
This year, The Olympic poster is quite nice but once again it’s just so generic, all it says about the games is “We have wildlife, some trees, and water.” But Vancouver has added a little bit of character and life back into the individual sport posters, And could have easily been incorporated into the main poster to create something beautiful.