Saturday, January 4, 2014

Visualizing The Winter Olympics - Designing The 2014 Sochi Brand

Source: idsgn
The Olympics is a quadrennial media and marketing bonanza. It is also an educational goldmine, with countless opportunities for classroom explorations of culture, sport, geography, history, and especially design.

The branding of the 2014 Sochi Olympics has taken the typical TV blitz to new, technological heights. While the Winter Games cannot compete with its flashier Summer cousin, the creative minds behind Russia's visual presence have devised some elegant interactives to engage viewers around the world.

So far, coverage of February's event has centered on misfortunes like the horrific terrorist bombings and the ill-fated torch relay. More attention, though, should be paid to the crisp designs of Sochi's graphic themes.

The 2013 logo underwent numerous changes and focus tests before settling on a revolutionarily modern template. The designers eschewed the traditional notion of an actual emblem or icon and instead opted for a web banner that could be deployed across an array of digital platforms and posters. In fact, the graphic scheme with the ".ru" extension is itself an advertisement for the online site. The idsgn blog nicely highlights the forward-thinking approach of this insignia.

It remains to be seen where Sochi will rank among the best and worst logo designs in Olympic history. The 2014 crest does not renounce visual flourish entirely. Indeed, the maya blue hue and the clever mirroring of the date beneath the city, as though reflected in ice or a glacial pool, echo a gelid coolness befitting a crafty contemporary Games.

The process for deciding on Sochi's mascots was equally as populist. An at-large contest solicited blueprints and votes, and the eventual winners were at once safe and singular. The principle figures for the Games uncontroversially feature a polar bear, a bunny rabbit, and a snowboarding leopard. The intriguing characters, however, are the two extraterrestrials of perpetual warmth and winter that represent the companion Paralympics.

Source: Sochi 2014
The official Sochi site presents a terrific interactive visualization about the mascots that explores their genesis and their historical relevance. The personae themselves may not be particularly innovative, especially when compared to the perfectly pitched First Nations animals from Vancouver 2010. They doubtlessly win, however, when pitted against the laughable mascots from Atlanta 1996 and London 2012.

The final design hallmark of any Games is the signature medal that a champion earns. The best and worst medal designs in Olympic history feature many iconic hits and misses. This year's Sochi ornament ranks among the finest. The imaginative cutout of etched "glass," with peak-a-boo windows of ice patterns, and the jagged interest of the implied mountain peaks all make these medals surprising and enchanting rarities of Olympic excellence. Any athlete would be proud to stand on the podium wearing one of these dignified and peerless badges.
For other avenues to follow the Olympic action, the Sochi site offers an interactive app for most smartphones. It also includes a regularly updated media gallery, with videos and photographs to chronicle the spectacles.

By the way, for a fascinating gallery of historic Olympic posters and designs, we recommend perusing this fine Associated Press collection that shows the evolution of advertising and marketing.

For other ideas and tools about teaching with the Olympics, check out:


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