032 The underlying picture of one against three – “Plan A” versus “Plans BCD”

On April 8, 2016, a shortlist of four new logo designs for the Olympic and Paralympic Games was unveiled. As I watched the four logo candidates, A, B, C, D, revealed, lined up side by side, I could see the underlying picture of one against three emerge. Looking at the tell-tale characteristics of the designs it was clearly a “Plan A” against “Plans BCD” situation. Considering the methodology—in this case, selecting one winning design out of four—a presentation that ensures the first candidate at the top of the list should stand out so obviously was quite inappropriate. It seemed that the whole presentation was clearly planned with “Plan A” in mind.

The four logo designs can be separated into two groups, “Plan A” and “Plans BCD”. I will state my reasons and basis for coming to this conclusion.

(1) Color
“Plan A” is composed of the Olympic emblem and the “Tokyo 2020” logo type, expressed using a single color, Japan’s traditional indigo blue. The almost achromatic hues present a serene impression.
“Plans BCD” all employ red and gold as their main colors with splashes of additional chromatic colors such as green and blue. They incorporate the color scheme of the Olympic emblem thereby enhancing the image of festivities. 
Of all elements of design, color has a definitive role as a major component that gives impact to first impressions. In that sense, the impression of colors used in the designs labeled “Plan B”, “Plan C” and “Plan D” come off as pretty similar—which allows the design labeled “Plan A”, with its quiet single tone coloring, to stand out more clearly.

(2) Basic form
“Plan A” uses a precise circle. As for the Olympic emblem, though this is not symmetrical in form, it gives the impression of symmetry. As for the logo for the Paralympics, the design is a symmetrical formation. 
“Plans BCD” employ various forms and are organic in design and are non-symmetrical in form.
According to the former Olympic logo design competition, non-symmetrical designs were considered drawbacks as potential Paralympic logos.

(3) Design motif
“Plan A” is an abstract expression that draws on a traditional ichimatsu checkerboard pattern, creating a design with a serene impression.
Looking at the “Plans BCD”, “Plan B” employs human figures, “Plan C” a pair of Japanese deities, Fujin and Raijin, “Plan D” morning glories, as their figurative motifs respectively. The impressions are dynamic in nature.

(4) Concept
“Plan A” employs a traditional pattern that dates back to Japan’s Edo Period combined with Japanese traditional color, indigo. The concept is a full representation of things Japanese.
“Plans BCD” all use the expression “personal best” in their concept statements. The designs reflect the bounce and dynamism of sports and offer praise to the athletes. The concepts are straightforward, promoting the spirit of the Games that are rooted in sports.

“Plan A” firmly places Japanese traditional culture as its central theme. It promotes the traditional Japanese design format. In other words, “Plan A” does not include a single component of sports and is a pure expression of Japanese traditional design. On the other hand “Plans BCD” are designs that were developed around the theme of sports. Here we can see a sharp contrast between the two groups: stillness and motion.

In analyzing how people favor multiple design plans, serious studies in search of accurate results do not employ labels such as “A, B, C, D” or “1, 2, 3, 4” that symbolize order and priority. The labels will subliminally affect the psyche and end up affecting the study results. Therefore, normally it is considered more appropriate to appoint random labels such as “K, G, I, M” that do not give rise to any meaning to the relativity among the subjects. This method ensures a just and fair study, with accurate results. Considering the shortlist of four designs for the Olympic Games logos, and the way they were unveiled, even before looking into each design for their merits and demerits, I could clearly feel that certain conditions were already in place to favor “Plan A”. In other words the unveiling method was already compromised, giving a special cutting edge to “Plan A”.

Without going into any discussion as to whether “Plan A” is a design worthy of the Olympic Games, from a specialist’s standpoint I will say this: I think it is highly unlikely that a graphic design specialist on the Tokyo 2020 Emblem Selection Committee would push any of the “Plans BCD”. Therefore, it is my assumption that at least among the graphic design specialists on the emblem selection committee, the results are already in. “Plan A” has already been given the nod.

I know that people are already voicing their preferences and choices regarding the logo designs on the internet and elsewhere. But we must not forget that the competition’s outcome is not to be decided by public voting. The bottom line is, it is up to the Tokyo 2020 Emblem Selection Committee to choose the winning design. We must not fail to recognize that once again, the renewed competition will not be a reflection of the consensus of the Japanese people.

Therefore, based on such observations, I will not take part in any discussion in choosing one design out of the proposed four.

Keiko Hirano

[A note on revising my post]
When I posted chapter 032 on April 9 (Saturday), a designer whom I was not acquainted with kindly pointed out my lack of knowledge regarding what construes “symmetry”. I then found a few comments on the internet, also pointing out my misunderstanding. I took note and rewrote my statement. I reposted the revised chapter on April 12. I would like to thank those who took the time to point out my mistake. Thank you for your help.

Keiko Hirano
April 16, 2016

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.