Tokyo Olympics 2020Design and Sustainability

Written by:
Mike Westgate – Designer

With the Olympic games finally starting, it’s truly something to enjoy, a chance to unite nations and celebrate talented individuals and teams, especially given the year delay and the small matter of a global pandemic, that you might have heard of. Although the games will be largely held behind closed doors, it’s a positive step towards normality and something we can all appreciate.

From a design perspective (surprising I know, this is a design blog after all), this year’s Olympic games has a huge focus on sustainability and technology. The athletes will sleep on recycled cardboard bed frames, and polythene mattresses which can be recycled an unlimited number of times.

The podiums they will celebrate on are 3D printed, and made from donated plastic waste, and the medals they will hold are made using old electronic devices, such as smart phones. Many of the uniforms are also made from a high performing polyester, constructed of recycled plastics, nylon, rubber, and yarn waste. A lot of these also have amazing designs done with artist and brand collaborations, but more on that later.

The checkerboard pattern seen in the podium, reflects the theme of the Tokyo 2020 logo, called the ‘Harmonised chequered emblem’, designed by Tokyo based artist Asao Tokolo, and is a very deliberate and functional mark that works to create a unique overall brand for the Tokyo Olympics, that can be used in all areas of printed and digital media. It is described by the Olympic board as:

In Japan, the chequered pattern was known as “ichimatsu moyo” in the Edo period (1603-1867), and this chequered design in the traditional Japanese colour of indigo blue expresses a refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan.

Composed of three varieties of rectangular shapes, the design represents different countries, cultures and ways of thinking. It incorporates the message of “Unity in Diversity.” It also expresses the fact that the Olympic and Paralympic Games seek to promote diversity as a platform to connect the world.

This is a unique logo mark with roots embedded in Japanese culture, that has been brought into a modern setting in an eloquent way, pairing with red geometric shapes, and gold hero text, this creates a versatile brand that has clear Japanese influence. The three rectangular shapes that compose the chequered emblem are also used to create icons and various other graphic devices, that help unify the branding even further.

The design of the pictograms being used at this year’s summer games have undergone a transformation as well, they have been influenced by the original 1964 pictograms, and use the Tokyo Indigo blue with white to create contrast that is easy to understand.

These are especially important, as they exist in a multi-lingual setting, and must be clear and easy to understand by all, and with the vast array of new sports that have been introduced to the Olympics since its’ inception, it’s great to see how this style of pictogram has been translated across new disciplines, notably the inclusion of skateboarding this year, for the first time ever; and with representation for the UK from Sky Brown, the youngest athlete to represent Great Britain ever, at thirteen years old, it will definitely be one to watch.

On the subject of Olympic skateboarding, and design, of course, Nike has teamed up with Dutch artist Piet Parra to make some of most artistic, and design heavy uniforms ever. With sustainable, 100 percent recycled polyester jerseys, that use complimentary geometric design, that feature landmarks from each of the countries they represent. Since it is difficult to define what skateboard attire looks like exactly, each countries jersey has been influenced by a sport within the country. The shape of the US Jersey has influences from basketball, and the Brazilians are cut like football tops.

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