Tell us about the early design brief
LOCOG set an open brief to design the Olympic and Paralympic mascots. Over a thousand original tenders were submitted at the first stage and the brief stated that the organising committee wanted to engage young people in sport and create a legacy.
What inspired your design concept?
We asked ourselves “why have one mascot when you could have hundreds of thousands?” Customisation lies at the heart of our idea. Wenlock and Mandeville are formed from two drops of highly reflective British Steel. Their highly polished steel skins reflect the personalities and appearance of the people they meet. We wanted to represent Britain’s diversity, so we played with the idea of a melting pot in a UK steelworks. The mascots started life as two metal drops which escaped as the steel was poured for the last girder of the 2012 stadium. From our original story, Michael Morpurgo (writer of War Horse and former Children’s Laureate) brought the characters to life further by adding the grandfather who created them and a rainbow.
The mascots were inspired by the rich diversity of the UK – just look at the London skyline where old stands next to new. Their forms may be described as futuristic, but their names acknowledge the rich heritage of the UK. Wenlock was named after Much Wenlock, where the Wenlock Olympian Games began in 1850, while Mandeville was named after Stoke Mandeville, where the Stoke Mandeville Games began in 1948 for soldiers in World War II with spinal cord injuries. This was the first Paralympic Games.
Wenlock’s head is shaped like an Olympic podium, representing the three medals won in each Olympic event, and wears the five Olympic Rings as friendship wristbands in the five Olympic colours. Mandeville’s head is shaped like a helmet; it’s aerodynamic and features the three Paralympic colours. Both mascots have a single eye, which is a camera lens. The camera lets them capture the stories of the people they befriend, the places they go and the sports they try on their journey to 2012. They both have headlights based on those from London taxis, too.
Did you know…
- In the original proposal, Wenlock and Mandeville’s eyes were video camera lenses and their tails were USB connectors to enable kids to capture their own experience of the Games.
- The original melting pot story and the idea of using a reflective surface was written by Grant (creative director for Asia at iris Worldwide) on a train from London to Edinburgh.
How did it feel to be involved in such an important British project?
As a company, iris Worldwide was founded in London so we’re delighted that we could play our part in the 2012 Games. If you look at British websites such as the BBC’s CBBC you’ll see the overwhelming positive feedback that Wenlock and Mandeville have received. When you have eight-year-olds saying how cool the mascots look and how they wish they’d visit their school, you know you’ve done your job.
What challenges did you face along the way?
Our original name for the mascot was Mylo (My London Olympics) but due to copyright issues it was impossible to use that name across the extensive territories and sectors that LOCOG required. We also wanted to do justice to the inspirational athletes that compete in the Paralympics. At previous Games it could be argued that the Paralympic mascot has been viewed as a poorer second cousin so we were keen to create two mascots of equal stature.
What about specific design challenges?
The design feature of the one eye was a hot topic from the day Oskah (senior creative at iris Worldwide) proposed it. We felt it was iconic and made the mascots unique. Kids seemed to love it, whereas adults were less sure. Of course those in the blogosphere were quick to make the obvious phallic gags, but we’ve always said that the mascots reflect who you are!