As featured in the May 2012 issue of desktop, over the next few weeks, we will be revealing our top 10 Australian logos of all time. Read more about the feature here. All research and writing by Larissa Meikle and Estelle Pigot.
8th place: Sydney 2000 Olympic Games
The Sydney Olympics captured the world stage for two weeks in September 2000, but it held Melbourne design studio FHA Image Design captive for seven years. The work that went into developing the visual language for the Games was exhaustive and, with the hopes and aspirations of a whole nation invested in the project, it proved to be a challenge.
“Nothing could have possibly prepared me for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games brand identity project!” wrote Richard Henderson, former creative director and founding partner of FHA (now known as FutureBrand) in an article for the US’s Design Management Review. Managing the tremendous expectations of so many stakeholders, demanded that he move from Melbourne to Sydney for the project, along with key creative directors Ken Shadbolt and Trevor Flett, who flew in with a team of leading creatives.
In 1992, the organising committee invited several designers including Ken Cato, Ken Done and Michael Bryce to submit designs for the games logo. Bryce’s logo, which featured stylised Opera House sails, was declared the winner and used as the bid logo.
When those famous words were uttered in 1993 – “And the winner is… Sydney” – a second competition was held, and FHA cranked into overdrive to produce the full spectrum of design required for every aspect of the Games. They were also eager to see the spirit of the games reinvigorated after its brand image had suffered disappointing feedback after the previous games (Atlanta,1996), which were perceived as oversaturated by commercial sponsors.
Additionally, FHA was determined to “dispel tired and quaint clichés of Australia,” namely, Henderson says, koalas and kangaroos. “I wanted our design to engender pride in Australian creative quality and optimism for the new millennium that the Games would herald.”
It was a daunting challenge. “Initially, we were very intimidated by the scale of the brief,” Shadbolt recalls, but then the team “vowed to throw everything at this extraordinary opportunity.”
Applying the critique of SOCOG, the team sought simplicity and “endeavoured to design a mark that a child could draw in the sand.” The result won the judges’ approval and, in December 1995, on Shadbolt’s birthday, the agency received the call to say that the ‘Millennium Man’ design had been chosen. “It was one of those moments you never forget,” says Shadbolt.
The trademark depicts the image of a running athlete outlined in a hand-drawn style, again referencing the human aspect of what the Olympic Games stands for. He is cleverly configured out of three boomerangs, referencing, in a contemporary and imaginative way, motifs that the international community recognises as typically Australian. He holds an Olympic torch from which trails a line of smoke that draws the iconic white peaks of the Opera House. The flowing handwriting typeface for ‘Sydney 2000’ – called the ‘spirit script’ – was employed as a stand alone sub-logo. Shadbolt says that everyone on the creative team remembers it as a career highlight, and he for one wouldn’t change a thing. “I think we got it about right.”