With the 2018 Winter Olympics just around the corner (February 9 is rolling up quickly...), we thought it was the perfect opportunity to take a look at how the snowy, chilly version of the ultimate sporting event has been branded throughout the years. As is the case with any large sporting event, a huge amount of time and effort goes into creating a brand identity that represents much more than just a collection of sports.
For the host city and country, having the Olympics in your nation is a massive honor -- plus, it's a great opportunity to showcase everything that your neck of the woods has to offer tourists and potential residents alike. What’s more, the economic and societal benefits that a Winter Olympics could potentially bring to a city are well-known.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising to see such variety in the host city logo designs, particularly in the broad styles of typography, color and shapes. But after much research, we narrowed down the long list of Winter Olympics logo designs to a David Letterman-style "Top 10" list.
The 10 Best Winter Olympic Games Logos
1. The Best Retro Logo: Lake Placid, New York, United States -- 1932
First up on the list is an oldie from the Lake Placid games in 1932. What stands out about this logo is simply that, despite dating back to 1932, this design seems to be leagues ahead of other logos from that time period. Hats off to the team (or person) behind this!
It’s quite obvious from the graphic alone that the logo represents winter sports. Meanwhile, the slightly whimsical yet bold, black font style ensures that the text is easily readable.
2. The Best Crest Logo: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy -- 1956
Hopping forward a few years to 1956, you’ll find a rather striking logo which consists of three key elements.
Firstly, the stylized snowflake which surrounds the logo adds a rather wintery feel to the design. Secondly, the Olympic rings sit prominently at the top of the mountain range, symbolizing their importance. Lastly, the golden star which is nestled just above the Olympic rings is actually the emblem of the Italian National Olympic Committee, reinforcing the location of the games.
All three come together in a nice blend of meaningful design and colorful layout. The only aspect that could potentially be improved would be the faded, capitalized typography encased within the snowflake ring, which is quite difficult to read.
3. The Best Abstract Logo: Squaw Valley, California -- 1960
Most people associate the state of California with sunshine, so the idea of hosting a Winter Olympics there likely caught droves of people off-guard. However, the logo for the 1960 games at Squaw Valley will most certainly catch your attention. The beautifully constructed tri-color emblem combines two elements -- one, the Olympic rings in the center, and two, the modern, colorful take on a snowflake comprised of red, yellow and muted teal. These design choices surely brought a touch of that quintessential Cali warmth into the wintry event.
4. The Best One-Color Logo: Sarajevo, Bosnia -- 1984
Taking a 24-year leap to 1984, we find ourselves gazing at a rather minimalistic take on a design from the Sarajevo games. The unlikely one-color design -- a bright orange -- might look cheap to some, but it’s actually an interesting take (and one that would fit right into modern day design) on what had historically been a multi-color design.
The emblem symbolizes the classic, stylized snowflake in the style of embroidery that you’d typically find produced in the Sarajevo region. The Olympic rings are positioned aptly at the top of the logo, crowning the snowflake.
5. The Best National Pride Logo: Albertville, France -- 1992
Albertville went heavy on the national pride in their 1992 design. The emblem consists of the flag of Savoy, a region in France, in the shape of the Olympic flame, which makes for quite a compelling effect. It dances above stripes which represent the French flag (red, white and blue).
6. The Best Seasonal Logo: Lillehammer, Norway -- 1994
The Norwegian city of Lillehammer hosted the games in 1994 and opted for a suitable representative emblem. The northern-most city to ever host the games introduced a stylized version of the aurora borealis (northern lights), as well as snow crystals to symbolize the games and the snowy region.
Aside from the graphic design, the black outline adds a well-timed piece of structure to the emblem. Meanwhile, the typography, while not the most glamorous, stands out with strength.
7. The Best Symbolic Logo: Nagano, Japan -- 1998
The games moved to Japan in 1998 and the city of Nagano took a different stance on their emblem than had ever been seen before. The emblem depicted a flower rather than a snowflake -- which, as we now know, was a common choice -- and thus, it became known as the “snow flower.”
One fascinating element to the design is that each petal represented an athlete practicing a different winter sport. Each petal, or athletes', shadows can be seen in the background, which adds an additional layer to the design.
8. The Best Futuristic Logo: Torino, Italy -- 2006
In 2006 the games shifted back to Europe to the city of Turin in Italy. Their emblem showed a stylized profile of the Mole Antonelliana, a major landmark building in Turin, Italy, named after its architect, Alessandro Antonelli.
The building is drawn in the form of ice crystals, using white and blue. These hues signified the snow and the sky. Furthermore, the web effect at the top of the logo represents a shift towards the new technology surrounding the Olympic games and its subsequently larger viewing community.
9. The Best Colorblocked Logo: Vancouver, Canada -- 2010
The Vancouver games in 2010 opted for a stylized version of an inukshuk. These were the stone cairns built by the Inuit people living in the Canadian Arctic, and thus, the emblem aims to be directly representative of its people. Funnily enough, this little guy even has a name -- Ilanaaq (pronounced “el-la-nawk”), which means “friendship” in Inuktitut. Another perfectly placed symbol for the Olympic Games!
10. The Best Minimal Logo: PyeongChang, South Korea -- 2018
Last but not least, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the 2018 games logo. The main component of the design is a combination of the Korean characters which spell the 'P' sound (for Pyeong) and the 'ch' sound (of Chang). The design incorporates five traditional Korean colors: Red, yellow, green, blue and black.
The multicolored design has been described by the event organizers as the "global icon born from the spirit of Korea." You might see some similarities between it and the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games emblem, with the effective use of bold simplicity.
Each Olympic Games logo incorporates national pride with global friendship, producing bold designs that capture the spirit of the games and the trends of the time. Through their unique lenses across the world, they were all able to create bold logos that united the world.