The brief was simple for Lance Wyman – the creator of the Mexican Summer Olympics logo: “Create an image showing that the games are in Mexico that isn’t an image of a Mexican wearing a sombrero sleeping under a cactus” words directly from Pedro Ramírez Vázquez the Chairman of the Mexican Olympic Committee. It was the first time an Olympics had been held in Latin America so was therefore a unique opportunity for Mexico City to showcase itself to the world, a vibrant, modern city with sport being the sideshow.
Working with a team that consisted of signage expert Peter Murdoch, architect Eduardo Terrazas, publication designer Beatrice Trueblood, sculptor Mathias Goeritz and the aforementioned chairman, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. With a one-way ticket down to Mexico and two weeks to come up with something, it was a frantic task that lead to 12 hour work days and all night discussions. There was much to be achieved and less than two years to the start of the games, the relief of coming up with the solution 2 days before their deadline was palpable.
The final result was so simple in execution, it relied solely on geometry. Using the rings of the Olympic logo to create the tri-lined, circular “68” which then formed the basis for the typography in the word Mexico. It’s worth noting that using the rings asset to form part of host city’s logo had never been done before, let alone become one of the main aspects of the final logo. Yet the team quite rightly had hit the nail on the head for the brief, it shows the city, the year and the event. Boom.
Whilst the final logo design is evocative to 1960’s Op art, there is a wink and a nudge to Mexican folk art and Mayan patterns. Even the exhibition stand towers took inspiration from Toltec warrior statues. Using a geometrical approach, everything was able to evolve rather fluidly. This geometric pattern was applied to posters, stamps, publications, signage and symbol suites. A full alphabet was developed and used to name the different stadiums and was featured as text on various publications for the event.
One of the most interesting aspects of the branding was the way the team approached wayfinding and signage. The team solely used pictographs, examples of which can be seen on the tower totems. These totems were colourful, vibrant and spoke a universal language to all visitors. As Wyman put it, “A person who doesn’t speak the local language is just as illiterate in a strange country as someone who can’t read at all. We’re all illiterate if we don’t understand how information is presented.” Because all text had to be translated into Spanish, French and English, the icons helped minimize the amount of text involved and was easily accessed by all. In addition to the non-verbal icon system, the team favoured a straightforward colour coding approach. This was used effectively for the ticket design where each day was colour-coded and they used easy to navigate cues by showing visitors the stadium name, the icon of the sport they are going to watch and a set of icons depicting which stairs to use, gate to go through and then the row and seat. Even the time printed on the ticket was a graphical clock rather than printed time.
Whilst looking quintessentially 60’s, the Mexico 68 Olympic brand has withstood the test of time and is often regarded as one of the most successful in Olympic history. This could certainly be put down to the modern, straightforward approach to wayfinding. Where many thousands of foreign visitors could easily navigate their way around the stadiums using just visual cues rather than digging out the Spanish phrasebook. The logo itself is so wonderfully simple, the geometric circles radiate movement and when used to form the basis for patterns and a secondary language, proves itself to be highly adaptable. All in all, it wins my first place in Olympic logos.