Like most of our plans for this 2020, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have also been postponed. This is the first time the Olympic Games have been postponed for something other than war.
So in order to keep the Olympics spirit, I decided to do a series of posts in which I’ll be talking about the different design elements of Tokyo 2020. Starting with the big drama of the logo design.
The Plagiarism Controversy
Back on July 24th, 2015, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee unveiled to the world the logos for the Olympic and Paralympic Games designed by Kenjiro Sano.
The emblem was designed around the concept of unity and the abstraction of the letter “T”. While the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic emblem is inspired by = the universal sign of equality.
According to the press release, the black color, which is the combination of all colors, represents diversity. The shape of the circle represents an inclusive world. And the red circle represents the power of every beating heart and the Japanese flag.
The application of the logo looked promising. However, everything went down a week after when Belgian designer Olivier Debie sent a letter to the Japanese organizers claiming that the logo was a copy of his design for the Theatre de Liege, designed in 2013.
Kenjiro Sano of course denied the allegations, and even the Tokyo 2020 Marketing Director said they conducted thorough checks of trademarks before revealing the logo, and that the Theatre de Liege logo wasn’t registered.
When the original logo came out I really liked it, it was very different from the past Olympics logos and felt elevated, not like the typical friendly commercial design that we are used too. But after the controversy, I changed my mind.
A case of plagiarism is always hard to prove, but if your design can easily be mistaken with another brand there’s something that can be legally done, and in this case, I feel there were a lot of similarities.
In the end, although the committee tried to defend the design, they concluded that the logo’s reputation was too affected to be used and opted to remove it; and the blooming logo used for the “Candidate City” phase was reinstated.
The New Logo: A Fair Contest
After all the controversy, the committee decided to hold the first-ever open design competition to find the new logo, which saw nearly 15,000 submissions.
Four finalists were unveiled in April 2016 (after an international trademark verification of course), and the public was invited to share their opinions. The finalists were:
A – Surpassing One’s Personal Best: Inspired by the traditional Wind God and the Thunder God
B – Flowering of Emotions: Represents the morning glory flower facing up towards the heavens to greet the new morning.
C – Connecting Circle, Expanding Harmony: Expresses the connection between the dynamism of the athletes and the joy of the spectators.
D – Harmonized checkered emblem: It references ichimatsu moyo, a famous Japanese checkered pattern in the traditional Japanese color of indigo blue.
The Winning Logo: A Japanese Tradition
On April 25th, the Tokyo 2020 Emblems Selection Committee unveiled the winning design: Harmonized checkered emblem.
The new logo was designed by Asao Tokolo, a 46-year-old artist who is known for his intricate, mathematical motifs. The design, in traditional Japanese indigo blue, was inspired by the checkered pattern known as “ichimatsu moyo” and popular for its use in kimonos in the Edo period (1603-1867).
Composed of three varieties of rectangular shapes that represent different nationalities, cultures, and ways of thinking, the logo incorporates the message of “Unity in Diversity”. Plus, both emblems are made of the same number of shapes to remind us that all people are equal.
To be honest, I wasn’t excited about this new design; I didn’t understand it and thought it was very complex. However, after seeing the contrast between the traditional kimono patterns and the modernity of the Olympics merchandise, I started to see how thus design represents Tokyo and can make Japanese people proud. Just look at that plate! It looks like it should be at a museum!
What I like about the current and official emblem is that it has a sense of tradition and elegance, but taken to the present. Plus, it is a logo that can easily be adapted to create a whole design system.
I’m not sure how the Japanese people feel, but if a pattern from Mexico (let’s say an Otomi pattern) was reinterpreted in this way and used as the face of the country in an international event, I would be proud.
But well… That’s my F opinion