• Gabriella Garcia

Visual Language Week 1: Study of MEXICO '68 Olympics logo design

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

Placeholder! In-depth thoughts to be written later, but here is my slide presentation in the mean time. It took longer than expected to put together because I fell into a research hole! Update: still unfinished thoughts below


The Mexico '68 Olympics design has preoccupied my mind since I dove into a book about it at the Biblioteca Vasconcelos (a design feat that is inspiring in its own right) in Mexico City this past August. I chose it as my inspiration for a collaborative ICM assignment earlier this semester, so I suppose it was on the tip of my tongue when this presentation was assigned. The most appealing part of this work is that it marks cataclysmic changes in multiple branches of design (graphic, urban, landscape, typographical), while also marking cataclysmic global events, all while speaking about the history of a nation, and even its history before statehood. But let's start with its aesthetics.

Design elements, story

This is logo for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico was collaboratively designed by designers Lance Wyman (US, graphic), Peter Murdoch (UK, industrial), Eduardo Terrazas (Mexico, architecture), Pedro Ramirez Vázquez (Mexico, director), and Beatrice Trueblood (UK, publications), along with a number of other designers who worked on special projects. Looking at the design objectively, we can start with composition, color and hierarchy:

Digging into design systems, this fits more into the dilatational layout system, with elements radiating out from a central point (some design resources refer to it with descriptors like "pebble dropped in water" or "iris around pupil of the eye"). It's used to reinforce a central focal point, which is as clear as it gets in this example. Nothing in the design exists without the logo, which sits at the very center. On the surface level, it pays homage to the five-ring brand of the olympics, but the lower-level narrative says "There's nothing more important than the Olympics, and Mexico is the center of the world as host of this event." The only colors used are that of the Olympics rings, further reinforcing that point. There are even arrows, created by the repetitious pattern radiating from the X, literally pointing to that point.

Credit is still disputed about the original design that inspired the logo. Both Lance Wyman and Pedro Ramirez Vasquez claim to have sketched the idea of incorporating the rings within the '68, which I think speaks volumes about the importance of this work in design & geo-political history. Ingredients of the final design concept include radial Aztec calendar stones, traditional Huichol art, and the Op-Art movement fronted by Bridget Riley that was contemporary to Lance Wyman's NYC art scene in the 1960s.

Typography, principles

Typography is not an element of this design, it is the design. Wyman designs the font (manufactured by Photoscript Ltd. ) basing it off of the geometric serendipity of the rings with the negative space of '68, and leaves it open to radical interpretation as a logo.