When Good Intentions Lead To Bad Design

Look, I’ll cop to it right off the top: I think the International Olympic Committee is comprised of spoiled, pretentious ne’er-do-wells and hypocrites who posture about global harmony as they puts cities around the world through all sorts of demanding, self-indulgent histrionics as each vies to win the ‘honor’ of hosting an event that will inevitably bankrupt their civic coffers.  But hey, that’s just me…

The Olympic Spirit itself, as first outlined by that French dreamer Pierre de Coubertin, actually is a wonderful celebration of shared humanity and cooperative goodwill.  And it is that notion of ‘shared humanity’ that inevitably does find it’s way into the games, despite the hyper-commercialization and the partisan judging.

Starting with the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, Olympic host cities introduced mascots–critters emblematic of each locale with a hopefully global appeal.  To encourage universality, they are never human since we would inevitably assign them a race, and thus compromise their universality.  So we’ve met jaguars and dachsunds, beavers and bears, eagles and tigers.  All was fine, until the Atlanta Summer Games of 1996 introduced us to “Izzy”–an amorphous, computer generated…thing.  And we’ve been on a slippery downhill slope ever since.

Chicago Advertising Element 79 Dennis RyanWhich leads to these two unfortunates; the London 2012 Summer Game Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville.  Despite their slapdash hideousness, a team of well-intentioned designers slaved over their creation, as witnessed by this post which explains the meaning behind their various design details (ex: they each have one eye, not to reference some homicidal, Cyclopean giant released from the pit of Tartarus, but rather to exemplify ‘focus.’  Seriously.).  It’s hard to imagine something could supplant the recent Tropicana misfire as so readily emblematic of god-awful design, but these truly do.  The creative team’s conscientious desire not to offend has led to these mystifying, unapproachable playthings that are inherently offensive; looking at them, you can’t help but feel there must be something you don’t get, some meaning behind their aggressive oddity.

Please.  Let’s give design back to the designers.  Let’s take off the committee handcuffs and look to be inspired.  Too many cooks ruin the soup.  And Wenlock.  And Mandeville.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


2 thoughts on “When Good Intentions Lead To Bad Design

  1. Spindle says:

    Um, no need for the © on those, fellas. No one’s going to try to steal them. And P.S., other people saw Monsters, Inc.

  2. Peggy Jones says:

    Hey Dennis,
    Nice post. My sister (who was living in Atlanta in ’96) emailed the following in reference to those gawdawful London creatures: “I defy anyone to continue bashing the 1996 Atlana Olympics mascot!” with a link to a yet another publishing excoriating the penises, oops, I mean, mascots.
    Take care!

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