Beyond 2012 - an integrated Design Story

Wayfinding and signage design
A graphic design story

“Pink rapidly became the overriding colour for London 2012, which shows how well it worked – look for pink, find a sign.”

Chris Girling,
Head of Wayfinding at CCD

Tell us about the early design brief

The brief was to develop a comprehensive set of wayfinding and signage guidelines that detailed every aspect of the design and products required for London 2012. The sign family would clearly embody the London 2012 brand identity, with a particular emphasis on practicality, best practice and accessibility.

What inspired your design concept?

The London 2012 identity was my main source of inspiration and I was further inspired by the Olympic ideal, with the opportunity to inspire athletes and visitors at this iconic event. The shape and angles for each sign panel were created from the burst of energy, which stems from the 2012 logo to create the flexible grid. This became the core foundation for the sign family design and the overall brand identity.

Lost in Translation

  • A high proportion of the London 2012 signage scheme was duel language (English and French). I’d recommend not using Google Translate as your official translator – the results were mixed and in some cases quite amusing. Luckily I only made this mistake on the prototypes!

What challenges did you face along the way?

Time, budget, sustainability constraints, external stakeholders and very specific functional area requirements were the main challenges on the project. Due to limited time and a very tight schedule I had to work quickly and think beyond the graphic design, towards the end product and its ultimate purpose. Early engagement with key functional areas and external suppliers allowed me to develop a design that met the needs of the end user and conformed to our tight budget and strict sustainability requirements – there was to be zero landfill.

What about specific design challenges?

Perhaps the largest challenge from a wayfinding perspective was the ‘look’ of the Games. As with previous Games, the look often takes precedence, dressing a venue brings it to life and gives a sense of occasion. Because of this the wayfinding typically gets overlooked so has to compete for space and importance.

The wayfinding and look department had a good relationship, so solutions were found and compromises made. The first challenge was cutting through the look to make the signage clearly visible and most importantly, legible. With such a strong brand identity doing this wasn’t easy. Using pink as our core colour and keeping the design clean and simple achieved this. Pink rapidly became the overriding colour for London 2012, which shows how well it worked – look for pink, find a sign.

The second challenge was the wayfinding and look overlap. Slapping a pink sign on top of look was unacceptable and impractical. This was avoided by wayfinding and look integration – a first for any Games as far as I am aware. We achieved this by outlining certain key areas, for example tent headers, entrances and vomitories (grandstand entrances). Doing this created a seamless synergy between look and wayfinding, which ultimately aided navigation and enhanced the overall look and feel of the venue. The look studio can be credited for pulling this aspect of the project together.

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

Working on a global sporting event hosted by your home country gave me an unexpected drive and determination I’ve never felt before. It was clear everyone was pushing beyond his or her personal best to achieve the incredible result seen by the nation in the summer of 2012. Quite simply the London 2012 Games will be the best project I’m ever likely to work on. I felt a huge sense of achievement and honour to be involved in such an amazing event.

If you’re a designer and you fancy a challenge unlike any other, I’d suggest jumping on a plane and giving Rio a whirl!


Company name

Wayfinding and signage design

Project team

Chris Girling
Head of Wayfinding at CCD, former Principal Wayfinding Designer at LOCOG

Collaboration teams:

Geoff Holliday

John Alderson
Design Consultant

Merson Signs
Product design/manufacture

Surface Architects
Large structure design

Large structure engineering

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