013 Rationale behind my decision

In this segment I will discuss the logical basis that led to my decision making during the final judging phase in selecting the official emblem for the 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo.

There must be a basis to work on, when reviewing entries. In a design competition entries are judged not only for excellence in form and design, but other factors including analysis of purpose, understanding towards functionality, technological considerations all come into play. This is because works of design are not there to please the eye. They are forms that are created on the premise of functionality. It may be closer to the truth to say that designs are, in fact, “functional forms”. I have always felt there is a difficulty in judging designs because, yes, we must give weight to its goal of functionality, yet as long as we are talking about a formative design, ultimately it must pass the visual test—whether it is aesthetically pleasant or not. Now I will write down a list of perspectives that serve as the basic criteria in reviewing design entries. It should be noted that these are the same factors to be considered when developing a new design.

[Form and design]
[Design concept]
[Public nature]

Most importantly, based on the standpoint that design is inherently public, I think we must consider whether the design, as a public object will or will not adversely affect the aesthetics of its environment. Standing out should not be the primary objective of a design. It should blend in with the environment, without adversely affecting the aesthetics of the environment—yet serve its functional purpose. This is one of the ideals that I pursue in design.

Based on this set of criteria, for the judging process in selecting the emblems for Olympic and Paralympic Games, I had to make some additions

Additional perspectives:
[Relativity to the Olympic and Paralympic Games]
[From the technological viewpoint, does the design adapt to versatile media]
[Does the design adapt to resizing, scaling-up and scaling-down]
[Development power]

As for “development power”, this aspect was highlighted as a distinct policy by the organizing committee. Thus I felt it was an important aspect at the time of the judging. However, in regards to reviewing an Olympic logo, I feel it is not an essential criteria. I reviewed “development power” in the segment BLOG 003.

There were some documents related to the judging that were handed out on the day of the review. Included was a set of “IOC Rules for Design”. When I reread these rules, I remembered how I had felt, going over the document right before the judging was to begin. I was afraid I was unqualified, inadequate to be serving on the panel to choose an emblem for the Olympics. If you read the rules set forth as criteria in selecting the official logo, I am sure you would see that an incredibly high bar had been set for designing the emblem: It was a demanding task. I am sure you will see the many challenges faced by every entrant who took upon themselves to create and submit their work. As this is precious reference material that will be useful to all—especially those who are in the midst of creating designs for the Olympic Games right now, and in consideration of fairness, I am going to post the rules.

“IOC Rules for Design”
1. Make sure that the design is immediately recognizable as an emblem for the said Games (2020 Olympic Games Tokyo).
2. The design should reflect images associated with the Host City, Host Country, but for trademark registration purposes, should not incorporate designs that could be confusingly similar to “socially shared property (a symbol known by everyone, such as Mt. Fuji). (In accordance with IOC regulations)
3. The design should not incorporate original images that are recognized internationally (e.g. Do not include designs confusingly similar to national flags, symbols for international organizations, and such).
4. The design should not be confusingly similar to elements related to the Olympic Games such as the Olympic torch, Olympic medals, Olympic symbol etc. (In accordance with IOC regulations)
5. Refrain from creating a design that could be confused with other sports associations such as the JOC.
6. Refrain from including mascot character elements which will be similar to “Olympic Mascots”, to be created in the future.
7. As a requirement, the design must be easily viewed using all platforms; they should be replicable in full-color and black and white.
8. The design should be likable and understood throughout the world.
9. Logo designs for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games should be easily recognizable as belonging to the same family, yet not confusingly similar.
10. The design must not contain any component of the Olympic motto, Olympic flag, any other Olympic-related imagery (e.g. flame, torch, medal, etc.), slogan, designation or other indicia.
11. The design must be highly visible and recognizable in all platforms. Special consideration should be given to and serve special needs of the broadcasters.
(From documents distributed by the Organizing Committee to members of the panel of judges)

Taking such rules into consideration, we reviewed each entry, adding and subtracting points, creating a plus and minus vector respectively. I will now state the rationale for my decisions regarding the three winning designs from the final round of screening.

As for the design that came in third place, due to copyright concerns, I will not comment on its specific contents. But I will give a gist of the issue, limiting myself to what I am allowed to reveal. The number of development ideas were limited, only one or two were submitted, but the proposal itself was of good quality, favorable enough, indicating a straightforward image of development. So I gave extra marks.

As for the runner up design, the designer has made the decision to go public. Thus I perceive no conflict of copyright, and shall state my reasons for my review. First, as for form: a geometric circle and the color combination of red and white are apparently reminiscent of the image of the Japanese flag. I could see that it was not a direct quote, per se, but a metaphor—it was the image that was being inferred. I could see that, but I still felt the design was pulled forth by the image of the red and white flag, so I deducted points. Given the limited time allowed, the entrant had made a good effort on preparing development plans; for which I gave high marks. As for differentiating the designs between the two emblems for the Olympics and the Paralympics, I neither added nor deducted points. Considering development of the design through various media; I felt that reproducing such a design that uses gradation techniques was going to be difficult. So that qualified as a minus. That said, the designer may have been challenging himself to create a unique emblem fit for the grand occasion of the Olympic Games held in Tokyo, and was willing to overcome the difficulties posed by choosing a tricky technique. So it was a tough call. Considering the demands for various resizing, enlarging and down-scaling the design; I felt that the emblem for the Paralympics was going to run into problems when down-scaling it to the minimum size for badges and business cards. So I deducted points. By looking at the design and its style, I could actually guess, with much confidence, who the designer was. Looking at the proposed design, I could feel the spirit of the author, aiming for an ideal visual image for the Olympic Games hosted by Japan; it was a spirited experiment. But considering the “IOC Rules for Design” handed to me just before the judging, I felt the expression of this design (which placed second) was esoteric, difficult to digest. In the end, I decided when it came to versatility that captures a wide audience, this was not the winning design.

Now, my reasons for deciding on the winning design. In the end, I did cast my vote for the design that came in first place. My rationale was: looking back on and in comparison with other emblem images for Olympics hosted by other nations in the past, this work was composed of linear geometric designs. I felt its uniqueness in the composition and added points. As for color, I acknowledged the color scheme that linked gold and silver evoking the colors of the medals—recognizable Olympic symbols. Furthermore, in the past, there have been no emblems with a lot of black. So the monochrome expression based on black was unique: another plus element. Having heard speeches by the Organizing Committee, I sensed the emblem selection process was inclined towards marketing—giving it almost top priority. I felt that maybe the use of black, a strong yet somber color, may have some sublime effect in a paradoxical way, and serve as a kind of deterrent against blatant commercialism. So I gave high marks for the use of black. I have no idea why the original design for the Paralympics has not been made public. And as the original design has not been revealed, I am going to have some difficulty in describing it. In essence, of all the entries, the differentiation between emblems for the Olympic and Paralympic Games was most distinct for this entry. I gave extra points. As for versatility in resizing, I decided the design was adaptable and would respond well to resizing. I added points from the technological viewpoint. There was one development plan—which has not been made public— in which the black portion of the emblem design was turned into a screen. Images of the faces of medalists would be projected onto the screen. I thought the spatial use was creative and the direction was superb. It stood out among the other proposed examples for development, and I gave it extra high marks. Only a portion of the presentation boards were put on display at the official interview. Actually, compared to other entrants, the winner had submitted a huge number of presentation boards with development ideas. I remember volume-wise he had the most submissions. Again, that led to a favorable grading. I could not guess the name of the designer to the very end. So I never had the chance to consider the characteristics or the uniqueness of the designer. Now that I know his name, thinking back, I feel the work was quite different from the known characteristics of the designer—as far as I know. If I had been aware of the name of the author at the time of the judging, based on such elements as characteristics and uniqueness of style, I may have not given it my vote as the winning entry. In competitions, keeping the names of creators secret does not ensure a fair screening. Sometimes there are cases when it is better for the reviewers to be able to pinpoint the designers—that way the reviewers can give thought to the uniqueness and characteristics of style, which works out better in the end.

Let us remember that the scheme of things has a basis. Every decision has a rationale. The goal is to hold a fair and equitable competition that judges based on logical thinking; that uses the power of intelligence to control emotions and desires; that decides with a sharp sense of ethics—to send out beautiful designs that will truly function in our society. I believe that is one way that design can serve our society. It is something that I truly believe in.

Keiko Hirano

Keiko Hirano:
Designer/Visioner, Executive Director of Communication Design Laboratory
Hirano served on the panel that chose the official emblem for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which was ultimately withdrawn.