003 “Development” “Development Capabilities” “Development Power”

The initial meeting regarding my appointment as a judge on the selection panel took place on September 3, 2014. Two days prior to this meeting, an official from the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games had sent me an e-mail—a de facto invitation to a prospective panel member. I quote: “Please find attached a letter from Takuma Takasaki, executive creative director at Dentsu Inc. Tokyo who also serves as creative director for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.” In addition to the letter of invitation from Mr. Takasaki, I found a document titled “Guidelines regarding the selection of logo/emblem for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.” While perusing this document I came across the word “development capabilities” for the first time.

After the problem with the Olympic logo came to light, I was doing some information gathering when I learned that the words “development capabilities” and “development power” were in fact, widely used in the field of marketing. I spotted the words in advertising agencies’ reports posted on the internet. So, I understood these were marketing terms.

Actually, “development power” cropped up on numerous occasions during the Olympic logo selection process. It was there in the said guidelines; during the initial meeting, it was explained to me that “the perspective of development power is crucial in the Olympics logo selection process.” Applicants were asked to submit their entries on an individual basis. Considering the short duration of the contest, in reality, they were burdened with a massive task. I felt compelled to speak up: “Regarding the selection criteria, shouldn’t we give formative design of the emblem first priority? The aspect of specific development is purely secondary. I am sure once we have decided on the winning design a team can be formed to come up with development strategies.” I’m afraid my little speech fell flat.

The reason why I vividly remember this transaction is because the word “development capabilities” was cited as a significant element in the guideline documents when I read it through for the first time. The unfamiliar word gave me a sense of unease. Given the gravity of the mission we were tasked with, developing an emblem for the Olympic Games, the main objective should surely be to create a symbol of the highest integrity—an image that best represents our times. Yet the Organizing Committee was trying to focus on “development” which was an incidental aspect. I was feeling a hint of contrivance.

On the first morning of screening, we were given instructions as to the judging process. Mr. Takasaki, who also served as a panel member, asked us to “make sure to focus on development power when judging the entries.” The words “development,”  “development capabilities” and “development power” were used interchangeably, repeatedly, drummed into our ears, until the panel of judges shared a common awareness.

But let me raise a question here. Apparently the Organizing Committee was truly committed to the “development power”. Yet, according to the competition guidelines laid out in “2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo Logo/Emblem Contest Rules and Guidelines <General Category>” which I managed to lay my hands on after the problem with the emblem surfaced, there is no mention of “development power”. Entrants are asked to submit five items; of which, four items, including “Emblem Design” are clearly marked [required field]. However, as for “Ideas for deploying Olympic Logo” which represents the said “development” agenda, it is marked [optional] rather than [required].  Development was supposedly something that the Organizing Committee placed priority on; it was the benchmark in choosing the Olympic emblem; and served as the evaluation axis, the crux of the judgement process. Yet, according to the note it was merely [optional], something that could be submitted—or not. It was an open decision left to the discretion of the entrant. The vagueness of the wording strikes me as extremely unnatural. Entrants who read the contest rules and guidelines would not have felt that “development power” was a major issue. Unless the significance of “development power” was clearly explained in the rules and guidelines, the contestants would not have given much thought to developing “Ideas for deploying Olympic Logo”. Entrants were limited to established designers in Japan and abroad who had been recipients of two or more prizes in the past. All participants were talented, experienced designers who had cleared this requirement. If there was anything written about “development power” in the guidelines, they would certainly have picked up on the significance and responded accordingly.

In looking back on the screening process, I remember there was a huge discrepancy among the entries. There was a small cluster of submissions that showed promising “development,”  “development capabilities” and “development power”—while the majority of submissions lacked that angle. There is no denying that the fact weighed in heavily in the way the judges scored their points. Did all entrants receive equal information, both in quality and quantity? Was it a fair game? Was it a fair start? I am still struggling to shake off these feelings of mistrust.

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.