Beyond 2012 - an integrated Design Story

Sports pictograms
A graphic design story

“The Olympic pictograms are a graphic designer’s dream.”

Simon Manchipp,

Tell us about the early design brief

The brief called for 57 unique logos to identify the different Olympic & Paralympic sports. We wanted to do things differently, so instead of one set of symbols that are static, we created two sets of iconography, one for large scale decorative application and one for small size information-led functional use. We used the angular shards that were used to construct the 2012 typeface to help determine the character shapes, and also took inspiration from an iconic London graphic, the London Underground map, to enable each symbol to connect with each other and echo the inclusive strategy of the Games to get people to ‘join in’.

Back to the drawing board…

  • We went through hundreds of options when designing the 57 icons to ensure the final work was of the highest level. One of the options we investigated was to keep everything very angular and speedy looking – the wheels on the original icons for the cycling-based sports, for example, were all very sharp and angular, which made the cyclists look really futuristic and striking. We loved them, but once they were given an audience by the management team someone said they thought the cyclists ‘looked like something out of the Flintstones’. With that one comment, this design detail was killed off rapidly!

What challenges did you face along the way?

Expressing each sport with clarity through non-written communication was a challenge. The 57 sports each had their own set of approval systems and we tackled extensive and exhaustive guidelines. In the end we created an adaptive design system that enabled a collaborative design process, encouraging each of the sports to get involved in choosing the final character outline.

How did it feel to be involved in such an important British project?

London 2012 was unlike any other project we have ever worked on – epic in its scale, audience and challenge, and probably more rewarding.

What would you highlight as the lasting benefits of your work?

Seeing the application of our design so well implemented by the huge number of agencies, groups and designers involved in London 2012 was a big highlight for us and it was great to be part of such a successful project.

What are you most proud of regarding your design work for London 2012?

Creating an original solution for a classic design problem. The Olympic pictograms are a graphic designer’s dream, and work from Munich or Mexico is often held up as some of the design industry’s most revered, loved and respected work. We are very proud of our contribution to the long line of designers who have helped to keep the Olympic Games as exciting to look at visually as they are to watch and compete in.


Company name

Sports pictograms


Project team

Simon Manchipp
Creative Director

Gary Holt
Creative Director

Lee Davies

Karl Randall

Stephanie Tyler
Project Manager

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