Sunday, April 24, 2005

Eye of the Beholder

The Vancouver Olympic Committee has revealed their new logo for the 2010 Winter Games. It's a heavily-stylized inukshuk, a traditional signpost used by the Inuit.

Initial feedback on the logo hasn't been overwhelmingly supportive. Canadian news agencies have already been running stories on the negative reaction. A poll run by a Vancouver radio station is currently showing 83% of respondents saying they don't like it and don't think they'll grow to like it. On a forum set up to discuss Olympic matters, including logo designs, many posters feel that the logo does not represent the city or the country in the ways that it should.

A bunch of people have asked me what I think of it. I have sort of mixed feelings about it. First, I guess it's important to say again that I'm still really glad I entered. I can't say that I didn't try or that my designs would have blown this one out of the water. Second, it's also important to realize that art, especially commercial art, will always be subjective. No matter how good the designs are, choosing one is all about who's in the room and how well they can argue their point of view.

So, the good: it's simple, it's iconic, it stands out at a distance. It has a really nice meaning behind it, even if that meaning isn't immediately apparent (check out the website link for more details). It's colourful and it uses a lesser-known Canadian symbol that won't reinforce existing Canadian stereotypes like a Mountie or a beaver would. Reading some of the feedback (and this comes as no surprise, believe me), VANOC received a lot of designs that were similar, and I can't say that my designs were particularly groundbreaking or involved thinking outside of the box on a fundamental level. Maple leafs, snowflakes, and even orcas were likely to have been a familiar theme. They went a different way and set their design apart.

The bad: a lot of feedback is focusing on how childish the image is. I have to admit that was my initial reaction, too. The primary colours and comical grin remind me of something that was designed using poster paints or lego blocks. It's derivative of other Olympic logos and it has very little to say about Vancouver, the Province of BC, or Canada as a whole. Using a lesser known Canadian symbol probably made their design unique, but I have to wonder how people in other countries, who wouldn't immediately recognize it as an inukshuk, will interpret it. One of my American friends described it as a "stick-figure" and another called it a "stay-puft marshmellow man." It should speak for itself and be instantly recognizable.

But of more concern to some, and something that I was always wary of with my Haida design, is that it takes a Native symbol and strips it of its cultural meaning, and worse, turns it into a cartoon character. Inukshuks are supposed to be signposts, showing people their way home. The designers turned it into a spread-eagled, grinning, tubby little man.

Do I think my logos were better? Well, I wouldn't have submitted them if I wasn't proud of them, I'm a little close to the issue. Do I think the one they picked should have won? Absolutely, because it did win, and I have to give the designers credit for choosing something that stands out and is unmistakably a creative idea (I don't know how many inukshuks they received, but I know it had never occurred to me at any of my design stages). For good or bad, this symbol will be everywhere we look sooner than we think, on everything from T-shirts, to billboards, to coke cans, to Olympic medals. Time will tell whether it will go down in history as a benchmark in creative international design or an eyesore.

So congratulations to the winners! There'll still be plenty more competitions ahead for me, and if I learn and grow as a designer as much as I did with this one, all the better.


At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Native Gumbi, interesting concept. not a fan

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Not An Artist said...

The first thing I thought when I saw it was how awful it was to appropriate an important cultural icon for what is, basically, a commercial.

Love ya, totally going to call you now that the work / health situation has subsided to a dull roar.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Sara said...

It doesn't grab me, to be honest. The bit that really bothers me is the mouth - which is ironic, since the designer says that was the last minute addition that really defines the symbol. I think it's a bit cheesy and unneccessary.

I can see your comparisions to the past designs - but the other three designs you highlight are all very dynamic, there is movement in them which relates back to Olympic spirit. While this is a very traditional Inukshuk, I could see that a stylized one with movement could work much more effectively.

As to the designers comments on the meanings of the colours (water, air, etc) - what bollocks! Other than the dark blue colour, the others are the exact same colours as the Olympic rings. Which is good, I mean - I like that they used the Olympic colours, but don't pander it by applying meaning that isn't there.

Anyways, on a more positive note - Andrew, good on you for trying. I think you should be pleased with your designs, and I expect to see more in the future!

At 12:50 PM, Blogger E. said...

Native Gumbi. Oy.. I must remember that one.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger Mike said...

As I've mentioned, I really preferred your designs. I think your Haida one would have been perfect with a little work, and even as-is, was far more expressive of Canada, the west coast, and our native heritage.

Also, it's interesting to note that the homonoid-inukshuk might not even be an Innuit thing at all.

At 12:01 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

Great comments, guys. I expect "gumbi" will be right up there with "stick man" in the minds of our international friends. I also head "Michelin Man" today. Sara - couldn't agree more....movement's missing, big-time, he looks like he's just been mowed over by a steamroller. And the colors, keen eye. They are absolutely the olympic ring colours, same pantone shade too (I did the same for my leaf design, but the rings themselves were really important to the design in that case). But I guess they thought black wasn't happy enough, so they substituted navy blue. Weak. Mike - thanks for the props, I liked your post on the matter. I do admit I rushed it a bit at the end, due to changing gears at the last minute with the concept....there are a few details I would have loved to have had time to iron out. I knew all along I'd be competing with professional design shops like the winner's, with ample time, money, and resources to devote to something like this. Me, I had my lunch hours and evenings. In hindsight though, I suspect that the orca never really had much of a chance. I insisted from the beginning I wouldn't do something that looked like a child drew it, but it looks like that's exactly what this panel was looking for.


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