INTRODUCTION
 
Nations, much like corporations and organizations, rely on branding to project a particular image of themselves to others. The design of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games Emblem serves as a case study of the visual branding design process. How a nation sees itself may be completely different from the image it projects internationally. How can one logo capture an entire nation? This unit looks at the development of the logo for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and it includes an activity about branding design at a more local level.

 

DESIGN

Design Discipline: Graphic design

 
Design Defined

Design:

When used as a verb, design means thinking about, conceiving and executing an idea. It is a creative, problem-solving process. When used as a noun, design refers to the result or product of such cognitive proces Read More

INTRODUCTION
 
Nations, much like corporations and organizations, rely on branding to project a particular image of themselves to others. The design of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games Emblem serves as a case study of the visual branding design process. How a nation sees itself may be completely different from the image it projects internationally. How can one logo capture an entire nation? This unit looks at the development of the logo for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and it includes an activity about branding design at a more local level.

 

DESIGN

Design Discipline: Graphic design

 
Design Defined

Design:

When used as a verb, design means thinking about, conceiving and executing an idea. It is a creative, problem-solving process. When used as a noun, design refers to the result or product of such cognitive processes.

 
Graphic Design:

Graphic design is the work or profession of creating printed or electronic forms of visual information to convey messages and concepts. Posters, advertisements in magazines and web sites are all examples of graphic design.

Logo:

Logos are a type of formal name or identifying mark. The success of a logo depends on its ability to communicate in memorable ways the thing for which it stands. A logo operates as a representation or a symbol (whether as a word or a motif) of something else.


Branding:

Branding is used to establish an identity for a particular type of product or service through the creation of images. Coca Cola, for instance, uses distinct graphics and specific themes in order to reinforce the meaning and value of the company.

 
National identity:

National identity is the way that a country both thinks about itself and the ways that it is regarded by others. National identity is usually the sum of historical memory, geographic conditions, social and cultural practices and temperament. It might best be described as the shared character of a country.

 

DESIGNER

Elena Rivera MacGregor, Principal and Creative Director, Rivera Design Group (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Elena Rivera MacGregor obtained an honours diploma in fine arts majoring in graphic design from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver. In 1991, she founded the Rivera Design Group (RDG). The firm is made up of four designers, who have won several awards for their graphic design work. Their clients include corporations, government, retail and specialty firms. They offer the following services: graphic design, web design, consulting, writing, editing for projects such as corporate identity programs, capabilities brochures, annual reports, catalogues, newsletters, websites, posters, specialty promotions, and displays.

 

CLIENT

Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and
Winter Games (VANOC)

 

AUDIENCE

Canadian and International Olympic Games participants and spectators.

 

 DESIGN CHALLENGE

There were 1600 entries, 9 judges and 1 winner in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Emblem Design Competition held in the summer of 2004. The competition was open to design professionals with proven certificates or proven extensive experience in the field and had no submission fee. A conference was held to explain the requirements, Olympic history and the Olympic movement, emblems from other games, and what judges were looking for. This conference was not mandatory and the fee was $150 to attend.

 Major design objectives included:

  • To represent the heart and vision behind Vancouver 2010
  •  To express the values inherent in the Olympic Rings and the global Olympic movement
  •  To tell a proud story of Canada: our land, our values, our unique sense of community, diversity and inclusiveness
  •  To work well in all scales, all media, horizontally, vertically, 2D and 3D, in a variety of colours and in black and white
  •  To create a clear distinction from all other emblems
  •  To capture and reflect the unique image and spirit of Canada, Vancouver and Whistler

One challenge associated with creating a logo is trying to communicate so much through a single, inclusive symbol. Choosing a logo is considered a gamble, and its success or failure can have a business impact of millions of dollars. In the case of the Olympic Games, a logo can influence the rest of the world's view of the host nation's identity as well as affect the sales of merchandise associated with the event.

 

DESIGN SOLUTION

Rivera Design Group Ltd. was announced the winner of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Emblem Design Competition on April 23, 2005 for their submission "Ilanaaq," the Inuktitut word for "friend." As the team thought about the values of Canada and the Olympic Games, they were inspired by Vancouver's Inukshuk, a local landmark in English Bay, and a symbol that is found across the country. Inuksuit (plural for Inukshuk) have been used to represent Canada internationally, including at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and the international terminal at Pearson Airport in Toronto. After researching all of the topics that they wanted to communicate - Canada's cultural diversity, national personality, and landscapes - the Inukshuk came up again as a concept that could represent them all. By adding a mouth to Ilanaaq, designer Rivera MacGregor felt it gained the friendly, open-armed attitude that they wanted to represent all Canadians.

The logo was the subject of some controversy and a great deal of conversation. The Graphic Designers of Canada opposed the logo competition, expressing a common concern among designers that entering a competition is giving work away for free, thereby undermining the value of design. However, as Rivera MacGregor explains, members were allowed to participate under the allowance for competitions for not-for-profit/charity work. The logo generated much discussion about our national identity and what represents Canada and Canadians. Many felt that it was inappropriate to modify or try to make 'friendly' a symbol of native culture. Others felt that the Inukshuk represented groups in northern Canada, but did not fully represent the country or the native cultures of British Columbia where the Olympics would take place. The main goal of the competition was to portray the entire country, so the designers purposefully chose not to propose a logo that would stand only for British Columbia. In fact, after researching native symbols from the province, Rivera MacGregor found that Haida art could only be used by native artists, and that their work could not be included in design for public projects. From another perspective, the logo was a welcome reference to northern Canada. Rivera MacGregor explains that at a press conference in Vancouver, the Premier of Nunavut discussed that there are no maple leafs where he comes from, that the Canadian flag does not represent his terrain where trees do not grow. He stated that they were happy that their culture was included to represent Canada.

Vancouver 2010 www.vancouver2010.com/en

Rivera Design Group www.riveradesign.com

CBC Sports: Vancouver 2010 logo unveiled www.cbc.ca/story/sports/national/2005/04/23/Sports/2010_vancouver050423.html

AIGA: What in the world is graphic design? http://whatintheworld.aiga.org/


© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.

Media backdrop, vertical banners and lectern sign for first media conference at Imagine 2010.

Media backdrop, vertical banners and lectern sign for first media conference at Imagine 2010.

Rivera Design Group
2005-04-23
CANADA Vancouver Region, British Columbia, Vancouver Region, CANADA
© Rivera Design Group


The design team is shown at a live broadcast on Breakfast Television.

The winning logo was the subject of a great deal of media attention. Here, the design team is shown at a live broadcast on Breakfast Television.

Breakfast Television
2005
CANADA Vancouver Region, British Columbia, Vancouver Region, CANADA
© Rivera Design Group, 2005


A young boy is pictured here with the logo painted on his face.

The Vancouver Public Library Square hosted a party for locals to watch the passing of the Olympic flag to Vancouver during the closing ceremonies of the Torino Winter Games. Here, a young boy is pictured with the logo painted on his face.

Photograph by Conchita Rivera, logo by Rivera Design Group
2006-02-26
CANADA Vancouver Region, British Columbia, Vancouver Region, CANADA
© Rivera Design Group


These banners on Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver display the Olympic logo and welcome visitors to Vancouver.

These banners on Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver display the Olympic logo and welcome visitors to Vancouver. Similar signs can be found on major streets, bridges, at city boundaries and City Hall.

Rivera Design Group
2006
CANADA Vancouver Region, British Columbia, Vancouver Region, CANADA
© Rivera Design Group, 2006.


Elena Rivera speaks about how and why she became a graphic designer.

Speaking about how and why she became a graphic designer. "When I was in high school I had no idea what I wanted to do and every dinner, you can imagine, the grilling process would start – “So what do you want to be?” – and I would come up with whatever would be the most shocking thing. You’d give your parents answers and then they’d take that to their friends and [say things] like “My kid wants to be an astronaut!” So out of all my answers my dad came to me one time and he said “You know you’re very creative” and I thought he was referring to all the answers I gave regarding my career. I took that to mean that was something I had an ability to do and that’s what got me to start looking into design. I did four years in Emily Carr […] – it’s now an institute - then it was a college when I did it so it was the Emily Carr Institute of Graphic Design. I did a four year program and that program really helps because the first year you do foundation so everybody does the same thing. You get exposed to pretty much all the areas that there are – there is photography, illustration, you do colour – so its very basic but its all arts related and you can really get creative with all that is available there. And then you narrow it down. Second, third and fourth year is just graphic design. So the program is great because you get walked through typography and computers and colour again and design composition – all the different areas and then when they gel together in the fourth year that’s when we have the nice graduation project. I really enjoyed it. It’s a nice school too because you have the influence of other areas. There’s photography, there’s a ceramic studio, there’s printmaking – there’s just the variety of things going on in the school. You can feel how they have an influence on how you build yourself creatively as a designer. "

Qasim Virjee
Elena Rivera, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson, Qasim Virjee
March 2006
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Elena Rivera speaks about how and why she became a graphic designer.

Elena Rivera speaks about how and why she became a graphic designer. "My father was an entrepreneur so in my mind that’s just what you do – you know what to do so you just go and do it as a business. When I graduated there was a bit of a recession happening. I had met people that said “When you graduate give me a call” and by the time I graduated there wasn’t that same economic stability that had been there while I was going to school. So I did start a business, I had an office, I had business cards but I didn’t even have a computer so, you can imagine, the road was pretty tough. In the beginning I did end up working for about ten months at a press where I learnt everything that I now know about the printing process, which has helped me with my clients because I can provide a lot of printing coordination and management. That’s part of my design process so we’re never stuck with a project that is unprintable and things like that. And then I worked for a firm that hired me for 10 months where I was replacing someone on maternity leave. And then after that I’ve been on my own."

Qasim Virjee
Elena Rivera, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson, Qasim Virjee
March 2006
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Elena Rivera speaks about what makes her design practice different.

Elena Rivera speaks about what makes her design practice different. "We are extremely picky that all our proofs have to be impeccable – always – we never waste a clients’ time proofing our work. We proof our work. So working with us is always a delight – if you want to call it that – because it’s always very sharp, very clear, and people enjoy that. There are very clear expectations on that end. Design wise our motto is ‘work is play’ so if we’re not having fun we’re not doing a good job. We always incorporate fun in what we do and clients like that because it’s a good energy […]. The reason that I like design is because I love the variety so we work with all kinds of different design projects. Really we solve communication challenges so it doesn’t matter if it’s a small business or a medium business or if its government because we have a wide variety. We’ve done government, and we’ve done small businesses’ and we’ve done start ups. I like helping start ups because I can provide a lot of marketing ideas when they don’t have a lot of money. To me that’s a great contribution, other than the design, that they can take what we do and get started without just going “Ok so I have business cards now what do I do?” So that’s always been really nice and it’s also nice to go into a larger company and organize them when they’ve gone too long in a very conservative path. You give them a fresh new look and everybody’s so bored and you get the energy of the company up. So either side of the spectrum – I enjoy them both."

Qasim Virjee
Elena Rivera, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson, Qasim Virjee
March 2006
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


The competition for the Olympic logo had a variety of goals and many requirements for the designers to fulfill.

The competition for the Olympic logo had a variety of goals and many requirements for the designers to fulfill. "So the challenge was defining – well – designing something that represents the country, the people, the culture, the environment, the spirit of the Olympic movement, the athletes, the goals, VANOC’s goals, Vancouver’s goals, Whistler’s goals, a symbol that welcomes the world and that fits in Olympic history which is the toughest part of it. And that it can be reproduced in 2D and 3D, television, print. So it is a long list and there’s only so many logos that can accomplish that even in terms of what went into the competition. "

Qasim Virjee
Elena Rivera, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson, Qasim Virjee
March 2006
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


The design team overcame numerous challenges.

The design team overcame numerous challenges "The applications were one of the biggest because the logo needed to be produced in so many ways and to be – like I said print, web, clothing (I have on an example of clothing) the ice rink, the athletes numbers. The other thing that was really important – and I’m not sure how much thought other people gave to this – but when the logo gets converted from CMYK to RGB – if its not going to be printed its going to be seen on television and on the web – the colours that we chose had to translate identically from the print ones to the web ones. We couldn’t – if the logo was going to look different on every application then it wasn’t going to be consistent throughout. So those colours that we picked were specifically converted as to whether you do it on the newspaper – newsprint that normally mucks up the colour – and when you do it on coded paper and all the varieties of paper – the variations are very slight. So much so that you can achieve a uniform look. So that was one of the things like in the layers of it all that was considered as part of the process and part of our submission. As well as the fact that it had to be unique. I think that was the other challenge that we faced that once we looked at Olympic logo history there have already been so many things that have been used, unique was very hard to come by. The snowflake has been used to death, and mountains, even the maple leaf and all the array that people ask ‘Why is there not this?’"

Qasim Virjee
Elena Rivera, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson, Qasim Virjee
March 2006
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


The design team overcame numerous challenges.

The design team overcame numerous challenges. "The process is very secretive. You can’t really let people know you are working on an Olympic logo entry. From the minute you sign up to participate in the process the package does tell you that this is confidential and that the entries you create are confidential and that once you submit them to VANOC – the Vancouver Olympic Committee – that they belong to them and you cannot use them in your portfolio and that you can’t show them to anybody or anywhere and say “Well, but this is what I designed.” So the whole process has got to be kept under wraps so we couldn’t possibly of had a group and asked them what they thought. It’s a very internal process. And once the entry goes out its as though it didn’t happen the entry does not belong to the designers, we can’t use [the designs] for anything so unless you’re announced the winner nobody knows what you’ve done. "

Qasim Virjee
Elena Rivera, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson, Qasim Virjee
March 2006
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Reaction to the logo - it is not easy trying to keep a whole country happy.

Reaction to the logo – it is not easy trying to keep a whole country happy. "One of the hardest things was to communicate attitude. I think the logo communicates a friendly attitude. It communicates it both ways – as proud as we are as Canadians for our friendly attitude that we’re known for around the world. It communicates that with the welcome open arms attitude and the smile which is something that is very characteristic of Canadians – that’s how people perceive us. And, on the other hand, it’s how people like to be invited and welcomed to a country. We have received emails from people around the world saying that they feel welcome when they see the logo and they feel like they want to be part of the movement and that this logo is about to hug them. So they are happy to be embraced as a guest. The other thing that was interesting to the process in terms of judging is that we were asked in the original conference, where we learned about what were all the requirements for the logo design, to name our entries so that the media didn’t name it for us. Because what happens is if you submit something and it doesn’t have a name the media will pick it up and just call it whatever they want. So we did submit a logo that had a name and the name is "Ilanaaq". And “Ilanaaq” means “friend” in Inuit and that was part of the package. It does have an attitude, it represents attitude and its name has the same friendship that we wanted to reflect for the Olympic movement, you know, when it comes to Vancouver. So those were additional elements that the judges were looking for and that they found in our entry. "

Qasim Virjee
Elena Rivera, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson, Qasim Virjee
March 2006
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Reaction to the logo - it is not easy trying to keep a whole country happy.

Reaction to the logo - it is not easy trying to keep a whole country happy. "And when you have two million people and twenty million people [in Vancouver, in Canada] one person in the boardroom represents that one percent [who might object to the logo]. That one percent represents thirty thousand or fifty thousand people so it’s a matter of scale. All the cities that have launched logos have the same process – they present the logo and people will tell their reaction. So I think that once the Olympics are here, and it’s all about inviting the world and welcoming the world and the Olympic movement, and it becomes accepted and it grows on people. People have come to me and said “You know, we really, really loved it”. They either loved it from the beginning or after all this time has passed it’s really grown on them. Kids really like it. They really identify with it, which I think is great. I like that it involves kids because kids don’t normally see a logo and go “Oh, there we go. The Olympics.’ They pay more attention to it because they really identify with it so that’s a great crowd to have pay attention to something so big. So I’m just really thrilled for them because I think that all together they – the Inuit community- will have more attention than they ever thought possible. They are now in the global map, which is, I think, one of the best things that could happen."

Qasim Virjee
Elena Rivera, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson, Qasim Virjee
March 2006
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


A rewarding experience.

A rewarding experience. "I really enjoyed the opening ceremonies where it [the logo] was revealed to the world to billions of viewers around the world. That was quite thrilling. A lot of the clothing. You know, it’s nice to see people […] I think that participating in the competition – we did it for fun and we did it because it was a great team project and because, I personally, wanted to know if I could solve the communication challenge because that was my drive to be part of it. It’s like “What if I cold solve this puzzle?”. I would say that it’s not always a good investment of time depending on what else there is on your plate to be part of a competition. But in this case it was totally worthwhile to be part of it. A lot of people that entered the competition but that didn’t win also sent us emails that said you “You nailed it. We were all working with the same problem and you solved the puzzle.” So it creates great camaraderie to hear things like that and to be connected to the rest of the design community is really neat. So it’s for projects like this that you really end up loving [your job]."

Qasim Virjee
Elena Rivera, Daniela Bryson, Elise Hodson, Qasim Virjee
March 2006
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Beginning with a macroscopic view of brand identity, students evaluate the definition of national identity and how governments and individuals express it. To do this, students compare branding strategies by different countries, then, assess Canadian identity and how it is perceived internationally. They might also identify logos or marks of their favourite retail or commercial brands such as Nike or Roots and discuss the social implications of compelling marketing programs. At a micro level, students explore their neighbourhood and create symbols for a variety of services, locations of interest, and cultural diversity. Students apply the design process through research and collaborative problem-solving. Students engage multiple learning styles and cognitive skills; practice planning, organization, and interpersonal skills through group work; use current technology to research the problem and render their final solutions, and describe the social, economic, and environmental impact of brand identity.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans