Design a series of pictograms and a signing system using those pictograms for the London Olympic Games in 2012




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I showed the pictograms without text to seven people and asked them to identify the sport in the context of the Olympic Games. The results are shown below:





Sport

Right

Wrong

Don’t Know

Equestrian

7

0

0

Pentathlon

1

3

3

Weightlifting

7

0

0

Fencing

6

0

1

Rowing

6

0

1

Running

6

1

0

Athletics

0

7

0

Football

7

0

0

Diving

7

0

0

Shooting

7

0

0

Karate

6

0

1

Boxing

6

0

1

Total:

66

11

7

Average:

79%

13%

8%


The numbers are not nearly sufficient for statistical analysis or to draw firm conclusions, though two main anomalies were shown. Athletics was understandably interpreted as running/sprint. Pentathlon was misinterpreted (equestrian) or answered ‘not sure’ in the context of the other equestrian pictogram. Shooting tended to be identified as pistol.


Semiotics, Comparison with previous Olympics


The figures in my designs are articulated in that they have separate sections that can be linked together by the perceptual principles of Gestalt. The syntagms are the limbs and head that make up the figure. The pictograms are digital codes comprised of signifiers; figures and apparatus that attempt to signify a discipline of the games without resort to language. Adding text can be used to reinforce the meaning of the signs (redundancy), though this won’t be understood by everybody, in which case text might be considered to add noise. Arrows have been added to convey a new signified that of direction. Context dictates the meaning of the sign and this is dependent on what medium and where and how it is being used e.g. an icon on TV versus one located on a signpost will have different meanings (Chandler, D., and Crow, D p41-3).


Most of the pictograms are highly motivated in that they are iconic and easily deciphered. The pictograms make more sense collectively as part of the paradigm of Olympic pictograms though, similarities and differences confer meaning. Some of them might be used alone to identify a sport, others could be interpreted less precisely without this context. Running would be an example of one that wouldn’t work as a standalone representation of a sport; these representations are also present in warning signs such as Fire Exits etc. The pentathlon pictogram lacks motivation in that you need to understand the convention (shared repertoire of meaning) of the extra symbol to understand the meaning. My basic results would indicate that perhaps most people don’t.


My final designs are similar to the structured (geometric), minimalist approach of Los Angeles ’84 and Munich ’72, though omitting the body is taken from the less figurative designs of Sydney 2000 and Barcelona ’92. Los Angeles (Fig. 27) used a similar set of core components without joins to mine, influenced and similar to Otl Aicher’s Munich design before. The arms and legs had a similar range of angles that were reused throughout the design.


c:\users\computer\desktop\la picto1984.jpg

Figure 27: Los Angeles 1984, Archery

Sydney 2000 (Fig 28) used abstract symbols without the trunk; the cultural symbol of the boomerang was used for arms and legs repeatedly. The latter restricted the range of movement available at the joints which limited design to a degree as regards precision. Some pictograms aren’t easy to pick up at first glance (Fig. 28)


c:\users\computer\desktop\sydney 2000.jpg

Figure 28: Sydney 2000, Judo

Atlanta ’96 (Fig. 29) is a very different design that drew on ancient (Corinthian) depictions of figures to develop highly iconic figures, showing much more detail of the human form. This might be considered too detailed for the requirements of pictograms (Abdullah & Hubner 3.2:82)


c:\users\computer\desktop\atlanta.jpg

Figure 29: Atlanta 1996, Running

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