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Logo finalists for Tokyo 2020

Let me start by saying I love Tokyo. It's a vibrant and eclectic city that I've enjoyed living in, or near, to for close to twenty years. That's one of the reasons I'm really disappointed with the shortlist for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics logo.

Here are the four shortlisted entries:





I'm not here to make cheap jokes or to criticize for the sake of criticizing, so let's stick to why I feel that only one of them would work and why I'm disappointed on the whole.

First of all, it was a competition, open to anybody regardless of qualifications or experience. In how many other industries do such things exist? Could you imagine asking a few lawyers to work for you for free and you'll choose the best one, with the winner getting a 'like' on Facebook? Or getting some builders to build a few houses and you'll choose which one you want, with the winner getting invited over for dinner when you move in?

In professional terms, this is the equivalent. The winner will receive "an official invitation to attend the opening ceremonies of both the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games." That's it. If you think that's good, or that winning will lead to more work, consider if you'd be willing to work for free to attend an event or on the off chance it'll lead to something else.

The other problem with these competitions is that they rarely, if ever, lead to an effective design. There are a few reasons for this, including:

- The designer is unable to work closely with the client
- Neither party is able to effectively communicate ideas and suggestions
- The full concept or image can't truly be grasped

This means that the designer is basically working half-blind, as they've no idea whether or not the concept they're working on fits.

The original announcement for the competition stated that the "Games emblems should seek to symbolise the fact that the 2020 Games are being held in Tokyo and Japan, and elicit empathy with people across the world. The designs should endeavour to have widespread appeal before, during and long after the 2020 Games are over. "

That's pretty vague, although it could easily be cleared up with consultation between the designer and client(s). In competitions, that's not possible, so that's basically all you've got to work with.

They added:

"Tokyo 2020 would like all applicants to give full rein to their imagination and creativity, and incorporate one or more of the following key concepts into their design of new Games emblems: "The power of sport", "Typifying Tokyo and/or Japan", "World peace", "Exerting the utmost efforts and striving to achieve a personal best,", "Inclusivity", "Innovation and Futuristic", "Regeneration (ability to recover from the 2011 disaster)."

Again, this is too flexible and vague to really mean anything. It's kind of like asking for a tattoo that makes you look brave, innovative, passionate, peaceful and intelligent. Any, and all, of those concepts could be interpreted differently by different people.

Make it "Japanese"

Take the concept of "typifying Tokyo and/or Japan", for example. Should it be an easily-identifiable image, or something with a deeper cultural meaning? How do you communicate it so that the meaning isn't lost or too obscure? This is something a professional designer has to do with everything they design.

Now, back to the designs. The only one that looks even vaguely representative of Japan is D. The morning glory is often used is Japanese design, particularly to denote summer, which is fitting. One could also argue that these flowers also symbolize regeneration. Other connections are a little tenuous, as the official rationale shows:

"The morning glory flower as it faces up towards the heavens to greet the new morning, expresses the faces of athletes striving to attain a personal best and the bright faces of people as they applaud the athletes. The upward-looking morning glory also represents the climax of this range of emotions."

Design C supposedly symbolizes the "Wind God and the Thunder God, and seek[s] to convey dynamic movement at the instant an athlete breaks the tape on the finish line", although they're not well-known outside Japan and I think you have to be really looking for them.

In terms of execution, they're all pretty well put together. I'm not sure about the scalability of all of them, but they certainly look professional. A doesn't really say anything to me, and the explanation offered on the doesn't really help. I think it's the weakest of the four.

B and C veer a bit too much into standard "make it look a bit Olympic-y" for my liking. They could be used for pretty much any destination and be justified by some marketing speak.

In conclusion, I'm disappointed by the process and the results. If any of these designs has to be used, I'd like it to be D because it's the nicest and most applicable.

How about you?


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