Five best Olympic designs

Inspired by the posters of graphic designer Alan Clarke, who we interviewed earlier this month, we took at look at Olympic designs past. Our creative director and editor picked their five favorites.

Munich 1972

What the International Olympic Committee said:

It represents a crown of rays of light, a design symbolizing the spirit of the Munich Games — light, freshness, generosity, expressed by the design “Radiant Munich”. It was created by Otl Aicher, the designer and director of the visual conception commission. His project was chosen in spite of a competition whose 2,332 entries were unsatisfactory.

What we say:

The Munich design was supposed to represent radiance, harmony and the Olympic spirit. Instead, its stark, engineered lines remind us of the tense, fitful spiral that overtook the Munich games, culminating in the murder of 11 Israeli atheletes and coaches and one West German police officer at the hands of the Black September terrorists.

Tokyo 1964


It is composed of the Olympic rings superimposed on the emblem of the Japanese national flag, representing the rising sun. Having examined a large number of proposals, the Games Organising Committee chose the design submitted by Yusaku Kamekura which was subsequently accepted as the official emblem of the Games.


The logo of the Tokyo games exemplifies Japanese simplicity and ‘60s modernism far too well to be left off the list. Powerful and staid, the Japanese symbol provides a much greater wallop than most modern logotype abtractions.

Rome 1960


This was the result of a competition in which some 212 artists participated. It is made up of a Roman she-wolf, from which Remus and Romulus, founders of the city of Rome, are suckling, on top of a column. On this, there is a victorious athlete being crowned in accordance with Roman custom; around him, people dressed in togas cheering him. Some 290,000 copies in 11 languages were produced.


It’s not just the homage to classic Roman art and architecture that makes the logo of the 1960 games so striking today, but also the brand’s eminently ‘60s character that makes it a veritable design time capsule. We’re fairly sure Salvatore Romano was behind this one.

Mexico City 1968


It is a combination of the five Olympic rings and the year. The design came from the collaboration of three artists: Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, architect and President of the Organising Committee for the Games, Eduardo Terrazas (MEX) and Lance Wyman (USA). It recalls the patterns of the Huichole Indians.


The summer games of 1968 are perhaps better know for Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ iconic Black Power salute on the podium, but we’re quite fond of the psychedelic, mesmerizing rings of the Mexico City logo and its nod to Mexico’s indigenous culture while reflecting the design sensibilities of the time.

Los Angeles 1932


It is composed of the American flag presented in the form of arms, accompanied, in the foreground, by the Olympic rings, the Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (faster, higher, stronger) and a laurel branch, symbol of victory.


The (first) Los Angeles games poster is the embodiment of Olympic design — or rather, of good Olympic design. The visuals include every effective Olympic allusion while documenting the evolution into mid-century design. Classic Americana plus clean lines and negative space create a look that’s both timely and timeless.

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