The Munich Olympic games in 1972 will always be remembered for the shocking events that took place on September 5th when eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were took hostage by paramilitaries from the Black September terrorist group and later died during an attempted ambush to free them. Events like these are always bound to live long in the memory but another abiding facet of the games is its identity which, along with Bauhaus’ work between the two great wars, was a high watermark of German – and even European – design. The branding each of the Olympic Games is a weighty enough subject in itself and, whilst the World Cup catches the hearts and minds of the world in away that the Olympics doesn’t, the commission for the Olympics is always going to be the pinnacle for any agency lucky enough to win one. The winning agency is not only tasked with delivering a workable logo and visual style for a global sporting event but also representing the personality and aspirations of a nation, and usually its capital, at a specific point in time. Major sporting events like the Olympics and World Cups are often also sold, primarily to the people who pay the taxes that foot the bill for these events, on their regenerative potential but in the case of the Munich Games they were also required to reinforce the image of Germany as a vibrant economic power, and one free of the poisonous ideology which marred their previous games, Berlin 1936.
The choice of lead designer for the Games wasn’t a difficult choice, in Otl Aicher West Germany had one of the most prominent graphic designers of the 20th Century. Aicher was not only a founder of the Ulm School of Design and the designer of the Lufthansa Airlines brand but also the man responsible for advancing the use of ‘Pictograms’ like his famous Male and Female toilet signs and his work designing for Munich Airport, as an added feather in his cap he was also persecuted under the Nazis having been arrested in 1937 for refusing to join the Hitler Youth. With credentials like this it came as absolutely no surprise that Aicher was the man Munich turned to in order to brand the games and he didn’t disappoint in bringing his distinctive style to the games whilst managing to capture the mood of a resurgent post war Germany now happy to lead, impress and embrace the world rather than invade it.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the Munich Olympics is its logo and, when you think about it, that’s exactly how it should be. To call the logo timeless would be an understatement, it not only combines the fractal, trippy psychedelic style prevalent at the time but also calls in heritage from the modernism, futurism and vorticism, not to forget the aforementioned Bauhaus. Whilst it remained very German in character, the logo – taking in these dynamic artistic styles from all around Europe – also had an overtly internationalist feel. Maybe I’m applying a little too much retrospective portent to it here but I’ve also always felt that the logo hinted at the turbulent state of flux that West Germany was in at the time. The Berlin Wall was just under ten years old when the identity was produced and, the hostage crisis aside, there was also the small matters of the countercultural revolution and the Baader Meinhoff Group bearing heavily on the West German psyche.
Given the weight already attached to the games the psychology of the font choice was doubly important. The font chosen for the games was Univers, a neo-grotesque sans-serif typeface closely related to the wildly more popular Helvetica font, created by the Swiss typographer Adrian Frutiger. It was this Swissness that made the choice a significant one, the work from the Swiss design movement that Univers was part of virtually oozes modern optimism and, perhaps most importantly, neutrality. Univers is also incredibly readable and versatile in its application and has seemingly found its home in general usage on mass transit systems, appearing not only on the signage of Paris’ famously stylish Metro but also the Montreal’s Metro and San Francisco’s B.A.R.T. Maybe it’s the old romantic in me liking it as I do but it also appears, in its Bold Condensed incarnation, on the City of Westminster street signage where I spent a very significant part of my life both living and working.
Pictograms & Mascot
Perhaps the most characteristically Aicher thing that Otl Aicher brought to his identity for Munich 1972 were his pictograms. Pictograms were first used in the 1936 Berlin Olympics to help internationalise the experience of attending and simplify signage and they had become standard after the Tokyo 1964 Games, it was therefore of added importance that the 1972 pictograms were especially well designed and they were. But Aicher didn’t stop at perfect pictograms, he also created Waldi who was the first – and many people still think the best – Olympic mascot. Waldi was a simplified version of a long haired Dachshund, a very German breed of dog and one entirely less threatening than the Doberman Pinscher, for instance. Waldi’s colouring was perhaps the only overtly political statement of the whole identity and even this was done in a thoroughly charming way. Waldi was coloured in international blue in head and tale but in the middle he was coloured according to the Olympic flag but with black and red – the colours of the Nazi Party – removed.
Something that wasn’t within Aicher’s control but still played a massive part in the overall visual impact of the games was the Olympistadion which, with its bulging, asymmetrical, organic stained glass latticework and half submerged construction, took the futurism of the Munich Games to spectacular heights. I first encountered the stadium as an impromptu spectator at a Bayern Munich match in the mid-90s and was bowled over with it then. It still looked fresh then, twenty years after construction, and I spent most of the (admittedly dull) match with my neck craned upwards trying to work out what twisted and brilliant mind had originally imagined this, not to mention why this wasn’t adopted as the way forward for other stadia around the world. The Olympiastadion remained in use up until the 2006 World Cup in the now reunified Germany and remains an influential, if not often replicated, design. The new Olympiastadion, now less romantically called the Allianz Arena is probably its closest stylistic descendant.
Probably the best way to sign off from this post is to just leave you with some examples of the identity in application. There are many, many more examples to buy or just browse here but be sure to have a long leisurely click through some of these fantastic pieces which don’t just take in the Games themselves but also the timetables, attendant cultural festivals and some surprisingly un-kitsch merchandise.
Images courtesy of, and with thanks to, www.1972municholympics.co.uk where you can buy some of this lovely stuff
Regular followers on Totaal on Twitter will have a pretty good idea of the trouble I’ve had trying to find suitable premises over the last few months. I’ve struggled for some time to find the right sort of place, I didn’t have a massive list of conditions but the few I had were that the new offices:
- Had to not be in Leeds – Not that I dislike the place of course, I’ve just spent seven years doing that commute and felt it was time for a change
- It had to be old – I’m a sucker for character in a building
- It had to be quiet, a good place for concentration, co-working and meetings
- It had to have parking, I’ve done my time on Public Transport so don’t eco-judge me
- And it had to be cheap, I’ve done the flash office thing to death
I had originally set my sights on Bradford as it’s closer and jam packed with beautiful old buildings that, whilst in various states of decay, fit my aesthetic sensibilities. Strangely though, Bradford didn’t really present a massive amount of options and what there was was reeeeeeeeally expensive. We are talking Leeds expensive here. As I said, I love a bit of character but not that much.
Anyway, to cut a potentially very long blog post short, I found a place just up the road from me in Baildon which ticked all the boxes. It’s two floors up in an old mill building packed with character and quirk, it overlooks the whole of Leeds and Bradford, is on the edge of Ilkley Moor and even – in what can only be considered a spectacular bit of quirk action – has it’s own duck pond!
Anyway, those of you who know me know that I’m a fan of a warm welcome so please do feel free to drop by for a cuppa and a natter. Be sure to bring some bread for the ducks too.
The details are:
Totaal Social Media Ltd
46 Baildon Mills
01274 TBC (still faffing about with providers right now)
07540 305 556
Back in March I wrote a short blog post about the direction I was looking to take Totaal in as a company. In it I spoke about crowd-sourcing an ethical policy and the concept I called “tithing” where I give 10% of my time, roughly equating to half a day a week, to doing things for free with people who needed help but couldn’t afford to pay.
Since that post things have moved on considerably and I felt I’d revisit the concept and update regular readers on the progress of what I then thought would be a nice little initiative but has since turned into a slightly bigger one.
The first thing to mention is that off of the back of this post I began to run the Bradford Social Media Surgeries which have been a really interesting side project. We’ve done two so far, in July and September, and I have been lucky enough to meet some really interesting people along the way. Also, thank you to all of the people who gave their free time to come along and act as ‘surgeons’ on the day, not to mention those that were good enough to give me lots of good, not to mention free, PR for the event. Social media Surgeries are aimed specifically at Third Sector companies (Those in the Voluntary, Community, Charity and Social Enterprise sectors) and that in itself brings its own set of challenges. For instance, how do you help a women’s refuge enter into a conversation with potential service users when their whole business revolves around confidentiality? It’s certainly not a challenge you face every day in the more straightforward corporate world.
Probably the biggest project I’ve been involved with, both in terms of scale and time, has been Fire Walk With Me, a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the original – and still only – airing of Twin Peaks. Although largely inspired by the work of David Lynch the event, which took place on the 18th of September, became more of a Warholian affair, bursting at the seems with interesting films, people in costumes, live music performances. In short, it was a rather beautiful night and well worth investing some time in. It was all to raise funds for Temple Works in Leeds which is a lovely listed former mill building which is modelled on the Temple of Horus at Edfu in Egypt and has morphed, via a short period of virtual dereliction, into an arts venue like no other.
Long time no blog. Sorry about that but I’m sure you’ll manage. I’ve recently been doing a hell of a lot of production stuff for clients which has taken up a gigantic amount of time, on top of that I’ve been doing some very exciting work around education. More on those soon. Much, much more as it happens.
Anyway, in the absence of having anything substantial to post I just wanted to draw your attention to a rather beautiful documentary. I’ve been, in retrospect perhaps a little ineloquently, excitedly babbling about The Semantic Web for what seems like an absolute age. Having had my head stuck in computers and the internet for most of my life, I find it absolutely thrilling that we finally seem to be getting to the point where using one is an intuitive experience. It’s not there yet, not quite, but we are getting there. When we do you will find computers, not to mention all other items of digital media kit, being used in a far more creative way by a far greater swathe of the world then they already are. So it’s pretty exciting, enjoy.
A story about the Semantic Web
I’m not quite sure how I’d get on skating nowadays, it’s been the best part of 15 years since I’ve actually been on a one but I know one thing, no self-respecting man in his thirties should be seen riding a skateboard. Unless of course that man is Tony Hawk, then it’s OK. There’s still something I find hugely entertaining about skate videos and I found a little cluster of bookmarks the other day that I found gave me a little refresh and allowed me to return to what I was doing before in a great frame of mind.
Adam Kimmel presents: Claremont
Claremont is the brainchild of Adam Kimmel, New York Suit Designer (and fashion label), who decided that there was no better way to publicise his new line of suits than to embark on a 60mph downhill skate. No? Me neither. Anyway, it hots up about two minutes in.
Tony Hawk, the 900
This video is pretty self explanatory. It is one of the most inspiring moments that I have ever witnessed in sport, watching live as he completed a trick he had been attempting for a decade. In case you were wondering, the 900 is a vert ramp trick involving two-and-a-half revolutions in the air. Tony completed it at the 1999 x games after 12 attempts.
Mouse, a film by Girl skateboards
This is a seminal film by Girl skateboards directed by now famous, but in 1996 very much less so, director Spike Jonze. It was as influential as it was referential, see how many other films you can pick off in the clips below. Also, if you are a fan of any of the Tony Hawk skateboarding games then you may recognise some of the settings.
As if Volleyball wasnt enough, the good people at this week’s Cliffhanger festival have produced this fantastic viral. Cliffhnager is one of the UK’s largest outdoor outdoor-pursuits festivals, based in one of Sheffield’s biggest green spaces. Anyway, enough of me prattling on about how blinding it is, it takes place this Saturday and Sunday. Visit the site for more info.
Some news reached me today that I am very, very happy about.
Yorkshire Events, the guys I am currently working with, won their bid for the 2010 UCI Mountainbiking XC World Cup. I’m absolutely made up that we won it as I was desperate for it to get the recognition it deserves. The real kicker is that, particularly with bid stuff, nobody wants to know if you didnt win the event. This wouldve meant something I was very proud of would be the proverbial ginger stepchild.
Understanably the World Cup bid has been a bit of a long shadow on the horizon for me for a while. It’s been hovering over me like the sword of Damocles, having submitted the bid in late April and it’s actually one of the things that I am most proud of in my career, certainly the item of print I’m most proud of. To say it was just print though would be doing it a bit of a disservice, it was a very complex project made up of two bid books, a part CGI part live action DVD and a gorgeous presentation box. I had the pleasure of working with a slew of very good people who all pulled together in the right direction to pull it off.
I’ll post some of the beautiful stills as well as the excellent bid DVD in the next week or so.
There are very few people who, in my mind, are undiscovered geniuses but this guy has to be pretty close. Swede Mason seems to have the unerring ability to take the seemingly mundane aspects of the rockpools of pop culture and turn them into the funniest, most original little videos there is. Here’s a link to Swede Mason’s Youtube channel, show him some love.
Here he is turning Ex-Stone Bill Wyman’s love of metal detectors into some form of pseudo-kraftwerk goodness:
Here he is twisting some of the most touching scenes Neighbours ever managed into a weird, warped and lovely scratchfest:
Lastly, here Swede takes an already pretty perfect film and makes it funnier, well roughly a second and a half of it:
Welcome to totaal, we aren’t web designers (though we certainly do websites), we aren’t marketing consultants (though we do that too) and we arent designers (though we do have the odd dabble).
Totaal is just that, a holistic look at your presence – both online and off. Businesses nowadays need to be web-facing and totaal helps you do that. We work with all sorts of companies from every sector and of every size to give them that elusive web presence which helps them better connect with their audiences, clients and customers.
Feel free to have a poke around the site but however big we get or busy we are we are always available to take a call or an email to help you determine your social future.