Logo Design Love

For graphic designers and all who love logos.

London 2012 logo threatens Iran

Here’s a story you might’ve seen in yesterday’s Guardian.

London 2012 Olympic logo

Iran claims that the four-year-old London 2012 logo spells the word “Zion,” and has lodged a formal complaint with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “As Internet documents have proved, using the word Zion in the logo of the 2012 Olympic Games is a disgracing action and against the Olympics’ valuable mottos,” the Iranian government wrote in a letter to the IOC, which was released via the state-backed Iranian Students News Agency. “There is no doubt that negligence of the issue from your side may affect the presence of some countries in the Games, especially Iran which abides by commitment to the values and principles.”

An IOC official confirmed that the letter had been received, but insisted that the logo “represents the figure 2012, nothing else” while a London 2012 spokesman told The Guardian that “we are surprised that this complaint has been made now.”

I’m on Iran’s side. Not only does the logo spell Zion, but if you squint, tilt your head, hold your breath and give yourself a good slap, it’s a swastika.

2012 Zion reported elsewhere:

London 2012 Olympics: Iran objects to Games logo due to similarity to word ‘Zion’, The Telegraph
London 2012 Logo Is Racist, Spells Out ‘Zion’, Huffington Post
Iran calls logo for 2012 Olympics racist, CBS
Iran NOC oppose ‘racist’ London 2012 logo, BBC

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

52 appreciated comments

  1. Gerhard

    Great Bear, Big Dipper or Plough? Everyone sees what they want to see. For example, I notice two human figures: the left one is standing while the right one is crouched towards him (or her)… maybe practising their french?

  2. Eric J.

    Wow, paranoia reigns. Personally I see a poorly designed logo. What’s next from this regime?

  3. Tom

    “As Internet documents have proved…” Someone tell Mr Ahmadinejad not to believe everything written on Wikipedia

  4. DM

    Dear Mr Ahmadinejad,

    This logo has been an insult to all good taste and everything a majority of graphic designers have learned and feel about – we have chosen to ignore it, and maybe you should too – but we still hope some kind of magic will transform the logo before its use in 2012 to a proper piece of artwork signaling style and vision.

  5. Lol, I hope you managed to wash the lemon out of your eyes David.

    Terrible identity, logo and associated typeface etc. Although it would work as a great childrens TV identity…if it was still 1982. A total embarrassment for the design community. As you can tell I dislike it. And it’s not often I say that about an identity.

    But does anyone seriously think it is some Zionist conspiracy? Some people really need to get a life and realize that life, people and common sense are more important than old out of date conspiracy theories, hate and fear.

    If Iran doesn’t want to come, then don’t come. Simple. Or pay a trip to Specsavers.

  6. I try very hard not to criticise (nastily) other peoples work, but oh my stinking heck. There is just NO excuse for how BAD this logo is. It actually causes me an unpleasant physical reaction every time I look at it. I didn’t actually know who did it, but I followed your link, and I’m sorry to say, that the Wolff Ollins website, is nearly as bad. Somebody remind me not to work for them okay?

  7. Well, honestly, if Iran’s paranoia kills this logo, it will be one good thing Iran will have inadvertently done for the people of the world. I think if they knew how much most everyone hates it already, they’d be singing it’s praises instead.

  8. I think this logo was designed by Nostradamus! 2012? The Middle East? Failure to create a decent design for the OLYMPICS!? It’s the end of times, I tell you! *sarcasm*

    This logo is hideous! Such a shame. I SINCERELY hope they edit this. I agree 100% with the previous comments. Nicely written article!

  9. It never ceases to amaze me how much controversy this logo still causes!

    When it first arrived on the scene, I really despised the design — very much like what Vanessa mentioned above. Now, however, the more I see it the more I like it. Maybe this was the Wolff Olins plan from the get-go. If you see a bad logo too many times, you’re logo-blind ;)

    As for Iran, if they love design critiques so much, they should have had their say about the Gap redesign instead…

  10. Forget about whether it spells Zion or not. The logo is terrible!

  11. there

    If anything it says Zoiz.
    I imageins Shaggy of Scooby-Doo fame yelling that.

    “ZOIZ!”

  12. MC

    how the heck did they read this thing…??? at the very least it says “ZORZ”
    come on Iran….get over yourself….

    i personally think that this is going to be one of the most controversial logos of all time…and probably at some point someone will discover that it actually represents communist natzi’ saluting satan….

  13. I’ve always kinda liked it.

    There, I said it.

  14. MC

    okay so did you hear about this one: the logo looks like LISA SIMPSON (on the right) giving someone a blowjob…. i just saw this on an online newspaper…jesus….

  15. I can’t look at it for the fact that I’m allergic to magenta and yellow.

  16. Wolff Olins should be thanking Iran, ’cause now they have the perfect excuse to change that weird logo. And they don’t even need to admit they did a poor job to begin with.

  17. Gustavo

    I did all the lemon squeezing thing and can’t see the Swastika…

    Actually, I can see nothing since then…

  18. Jodi

    Obviously, if everything is viewed with hatred that is all they will see.

  19. Perhaps he’s just trying to find a more news-worthy way of saying ‘that logo is horrible’.

  20. So, there is a bad logo, a bad interpretation and lots of paranoia.
    I see 2012 and is bad luck, because the world is going to an end… the number of the corners is 70 which is the number of the beast and magenta is there for the blood of the ones who will perish…
    Geee, what those people smoke?

  21. Giles

    Surely the minds of Iran have better and more important things to be thinking of? It’s a bright modern logo that say 2012. Like it or not, that’s what it says.

  22. Marcus E

    I agree with Andrew Kelsall. The more I see, read and hear about it, the more I like it. Although initially, I dismissed it as it made no connection with me whatsoever.

    I don’t see Zion, (assuming the characters are being read from top left, bottom left, top right, bottom right). I see ZIOR in that matter or ZOIR if read in western form.

  23. I too see ZOIR. Iran must be blind or something.

  24. Brendan

    I always thought it was lisa simpson giving head ?

  25. nathan

    Hey, I’m 15, and LOVE this site, I also babysit a 5 year old who could draw something prettier, and he would be happy to exclude any offensive terms.
    I’ll email the IOC his picture of a duck, and he’ll be on the payroll tomorrow.

    In all seriousness, I hate the logo, the paranoia, and the eye piercing color of this design… hot pink and yellow? This Ollins dude needs an injection of class.

    …not to rant or anything…

  26. Jon Clark

    It doesn’t say “ZION” and it doesn’t say “ZOIR” – it says “ZOR”, always has done.

    Perhaps the IOC would have been better off inviting designers to submit ideas on a spec basis over the internet and then selecting the best one (not that they have to accept any of the designs submitted, you understand). Then they’d have saved the money they paid Wolff Olins as the winner would have been happy to provide the logo for free in return for all the publicity he/she got?

    ;-)

  27. Excellent point, Jon. A contest would’ve worked a treat. And for all those who’d lose, it’s still great practice, and fun, too — who doesn’t love to design?

    Posts on everything great about a good old contest.

  28. nathan

    David. You should hold a logo competition right here on your site, to see which one of us can can design the best logo. Then, email the IOC with the results.

    -Any takers?

  29. Christopher

    I propose that all logo designers in the right mind boycott the olympics.

  30. I’m sorry but i think this is ridiculous, to my knowledge, only a minority of Asian countries read down the page rather than across and as Jon Clark stated, it says ZOR if anything other than 2012. Why is everyone so quick to accuse people of hatred, offence and racism these days? Everyone just needs to calm down and stop taking everything so personally.

  31. I do agree that it requires a good deal of tinkering to spell the word. However, to those of you mocking Iran for its ‘unfounded’ claims, let me remind you a couple of points:

    –> Different people see different things. Don’t expect the whole word to not see what you don’t.
    –> International logo designers know how to design simple, universal logos that offend no one.

    My full reply here http://kaish.in/1l

  32. I see a very poorly designed logo especially for london 2012, however it is not just the designer that failed, the client (IOC) also as they go with the logo and they should at least take a better look at it as they need every 4 years a new one…

  33. Remco

    I agree this looks odd, however this is part of a total brand communication. Really interested how that looks like… Does anybody have a link for me? Also interested in the thoughts and the designer of this logo..

  34. Marcus E

    Not that I am siding with people claiming it “intentionally” says “ZION”.

    However, people may read ZOR, just as people may read or see ZOIN, ZION, ZIOR, 12R or whatever the case. It’s a series of abstract shapes that can be interpreted in many possible ways as Kaishin pointed out.

  35. Kev Lee

    The Logo itself is bad. Ever since it came out there has been complaints about the look and feel of it. Now we have people thinking it spells ZION. Even though I think thats crazy, it does go to show just how wrong this logo choice was. The Olympics is about bringing people together not creating all this hub bub. There are some great ones out their that they could have used like this one I found on Behance London 2012 Logo Change http://www.behance.net/gallery/London-2012-Logo-Rebrand/1078521.

  36. I disagree with the conspiracy theory, but any reason to for this shocker of a logo to be redesigned is fine by me!

  37. I’m going to put myself out there now and say – is this perhaps the MOST controversial logo of all time?

  38. Roger

    Everyone intuitively despises this logo.
    Whether they think it’s ugly, confusing or downright satanic, doesn’t really matter. It sucks and has to go.

    I personally can read it as 2012, 2102, ZOR, ZOIR, ZIOR AS WELL as ZION.
    What does that mean? well…not much since I have no way to prove that there was unsavory actions taking place to insult the Arab world. No one can prove this. If they can, I haven’t heard it. (Doesn’t mean it’s not real)

    The bottom line is this…..THEY NEED TO CHANGE IT.
    I bet there are literal thousands of graphic designers who could take the olmypic logo a little more seriously.

    And talk about an jab to the online community. The designers said they wanted to make something the online community related to.
    Apparently they think we relate well to things that are ugly, stupid, and potentially insulting to entire countries of people.

  39. Iran pulling out of the Olympics… And? They’ve had four years to bring this up. I like the logo, I think its different. As with everything design related, its all about opinions… and we all know what opinions are like… a*rse holes, everyones got one and they all stink : )

    Much Love x

  40. B Brand esq.

    I totally agree that this abomination should be banned, but not for saying ‘Zion’ – which it clearly doesn’t – but for sullying Lisa Simpson’s reputation in such a sexually explicit way. Which it obviously is. (Either that, or it’s an old man with a bad back picking up rubbish. Which it is too.)

    Yours with a warm handshake.

  41. Robert

    This logo looks so dated now. It would have worked well for Los Angeles 1984!

  42. L-M

    I think the logo gets better with every insult thrown at it. At first glance when it came out I just grinned and hated it, but as it creates this strong emotions, there must be SOMETHING in it. Sure it’s silly and sure it looks like a toy commercial from 1991, but anyway.

    Even though I like it, I’m not convinced it’s a good design. Also the 2012 London website does not put these broken shapes into any use. I expected something that would blow my brains out and make me cry for Zeus, Zoir or Zior or whatever to help me, but no. Just plain corporate site with a boring logo on it.

    So I’m guessing the Iranian conservative theocratic leaders are just on a crusade against bad graphic design. And to not to insult those hard-working lads in the advertising agency they just have disguised it in the clothes of anti-Zionist politics. Well done.

  43. Tessa

    Is this really supposed to say 2012? Why arent the two 2s the same then atleast?
    whats that diamond in the middle?

    All i can see is Lisa Simpson on her knees, holding something she shouldnt be. sorry. its a terrible logo and i hope its redone. An embarrasment to graphic design.

  44. Adrian

    Omg… if someone is telling that this logo is bad, he/she should leave the design industry, or go educate themself in design school about logo and identity design.

    Educate, Educate, Educate… then CRITICIZE

  45. So we all shall leave the industry? Because of someone made a logo we do not agree with? I have no design education and i still think i can say what i feel about a design. Relax dude this is part of the life. Critique is a benefit most of the time! I grew a lot because some people told me what they think about my work! So enjoy life!

  46. I am just embarrassed on peoples thoughts on this! Its another reaction of the politically correct society. I do not think that the intention was to write “Zion”. I do not think that the intention was to somewhat look like a swaztika. In some peoples eyes things look different. Dont let this be a political matter (which obviously is Irans intention)! Let it go! Its not the nicest of Olympian logotypes, but it works. Dont go that far on this…

  47. Chris Clowes

    I thought it said LISA…. as in Simpson….!!

  48. Kev

    This is one of the nicest and boldest government initiated identities I have seen so Iran had better not spoil it with their bog eyed, thick finger pointing.

  49. Mr. Clute

    As sloppy as it is, it can’t be any worse than some of the National teams’ track outfits worn during opening ceremonies. The Olympics have always stood for garishness.

  50. Amir Makhani

    I used to think that this logo was pathetic, stupid, idiotic, and immature etc.. etc… But i soon came to the realization!

    Well from what I take out of the logo, is that it represents the “2012″ itself. If you look at it carefully it just says 2012! Its very creative too, and this pink/purple color is very nice!..

    I really love how the designer left the open space inside, you draw and do your own thing inside!

    London 2012 Logo = Awesome.

  51. @Amir Makhani
    You where not wrong in the first place.
    Due to the fact that the logo has the enormous exposure and it was designed by a huge name in advertising – this facts shall not diminish the value of the result.
    As for an instance, the position in a society shall not replace the value of the advice given by a lawyer for example. The very fact that people are talking about this logo too much, is not a conclusion that this logo is a good one.
    The question in the first place was how well designed is.
    The fact that a well-known agency designed a poor looking logo is mathematic and nothing less. If you are a well trained person in a field you have less chances to do mistakes… but there are chances to do wrong.
    Nevertheless, nobody wrote that the creators of the logo where stupid…
    is just that they failed this time and they shall cope with that and be responsible. That’s all.
    Cheers!


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