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Evolution of Olympic Pictograms-1964 to 2012

Thu, Jan 14, 2010

Home, Inspiration


A pictogram is basically an image that represents an object due to its resemblance. It doesn’t depend on a specific idiom, because it’s a visual language, recognizable by anyone. It’s commonly used nowadays in signs, instructions, or statistics. Also, the Chinese language is based on pictograms. To many spectators, pictograms are a familiar form of Olympic imagery. First introduced at the 1948 Games in London, they became an integral facet of Olympic Games design at the Tokyo Games of 1964, serving an invaluable function as elegant and simple way-finding devices. Below are the pictograms for the Olympic games for 1964-2012.

Tokyo 1964

The first systematically designed set of pictograms for both sports and services was created for the Games in Tokyo in 1964 by Masasa Katzumie as artistic director and Yoshiro Yamashita as graphic designer.

1964 Tokyo Pictograms


The Tokyo project included the design of 20 pictograms for the different sports and a further 39 general information pictograms.

Tokyo pictograms

Mexico City 1968

Artistic directors: Manuel Villazon,   Mathias Goerlitz
Graphic designers: Lance Wyman,   Eduardo Terrazas

1968 Mexico Pictograms

Munich 1972 & Montreal 1976

The pictograms used in Munich, created by the Director of the Higher Institute of Graphic Arts in Ulm, Otl Aicher.

1972 Munich Pictograms

Moscow 1980

On the OCOG-80`s request, graduates from several art colleges took up the design of the pictographs of the insignia as the theme of their dissertations. With the help of the resachr institute of industrial aesthetics, the Organizing Committee chose the work submitted by Nikolai Belkow, Mukhina Art School graduate from Leningrad.

1980 Moscow

The State Committee for Inventions and Discoveries under the USSR Council of Ministers recognised the new design as a production pattern.
Though highly stylised, the new signs are easily comprehensible. They are smoother in outline because they are constructed at an angle of 30 `- 60 `(previously the angle was  45` – 90`).

Mosccow pictogram

Los Angeles 1984

Designers: Keith Bright and Associates.

Six criteria were isolated as essential to a successful pictogram:

  • Clear communication; pictograms, by themselves, should be recognizable by people of other nations.
  • Consistency; the pictograms should be identifiable as a set, through uniform treatment of scale, style and subject.
  • Legibility and practicality; they should be highly visible, easy to reproduce in any scale and in positive or negative form.
  • Flexibility; the pictograms should not be dependent upon a border and should work equally well in a positive or negative form.
  • Design distinction; the pictograms should avoid stylistic fads or a commercial appearance and should imply to a worldwide audience that Los Angeles has a sophisticated, creative culture.
  • Compatibility; they should be attractive when used with their Los Angeles Olympic design elements and typestyles.

1984 Los Angeles Pictograms

Seoul 1988

The sports pictograms used for 1988 Seoul Olympics were distinguishable from the past Games by the division of the composition into trunk, arms, legs and head. The connecting parts for arms and legs were treated in a simple and clear fashion but resembling as close to the composition of human frame as possible. Sports pictograms were also utilized as elements of expression in various public relations and printed materials, including decoration, admission tickets for each sport and posters.

1988 Seoul Pictograms

Barcelona 1992

The person in overall charge of the visual style of those Games was the great designer Otl Aicher, under whose direction a series of sports and services pictograms were created from a basic geometric formula. In Barcelona, though the Munich shapes were still used as a starting point, the break in style was more audacious, as the geometric formula was abandoned in favour of the characteristic line of the emblem created by Josep. M. Trias and its representational simplification of the human body in three parts (head, arms and legs) was also adopted.

1992 Barcelona Pictograms

Atlanta 1996

For the Atlanta Games, 84 pictograms were used—31 sports and 53 service pictograms—as well as 7 zone code and 5 transportation code symbols.

1996 Atlanta Pictograms

Sydney 2000

The pictograms specially designed for the Sydney Olympic Games were used as a directional aid to spectators, athletes and officials during the days of competition in 2000.

2000 Sydney Pictograms

Here is an interesting case study “Look and image” on The branding of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Athens 2004

The ATHENS 2004 Sport pictograms were inspired by three elements of ancient Greek civilization. The simplicity of the human form is inspired by the Cycladic figurines. The Artistic expression of the Pictogram derives from the black-figure vases, where solid black shapes represent the human body and a single line defines the detailing of the form.

2004 Athens Pictograms

Beijing 2008

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the creative team designed simple but aesthetic patterns, based on Jingwen, the script found on 2,000-year-old bronze carvings to represent 35 different Olympic sports and 20 Paralympic sports displayed in “pictograms”. Here is a fantastic interview with Min Wang, design director for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

2008 Beijing Pictograms

Inscriptions and Pictograms

London 2012

Designed by Someone, the London Olympic Pictograms will be used on merchandise, way-finding signs, tickets, and other official print material for the 2012 games. Someone has provide two versions, a simple black and white and a more colorful option inspired by the London Underground map.

2012 london pictograms

2012 london b&w

pictograms london

P.S.: Olympic pictograms are copyrights of the respective Olympic Organizing Committees.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 49 posts on Creative Repository.

Abdus Salam is a freelance Graphic, Logo & Web designer, currently graduating in Telecom Engineering. He is passionate about every kind of creative stuff. You can follow him on Twitter or find him on Facebook.

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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Tim Tracy Says:

    I appreciate the information. This will be very helpful for anybody needing advice on pressure washers.

  2. martingale collar Says:

    These icons brilliant reflect the culture of each country. Talented designers, very nice.
    Thanks for the post, it was interesting to see to the variation of the level of graphics over the years. Good job!

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  4. AB Says:

    I like sydney

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  6. kilim Says:

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