Only 32 years have passed since this fantastic official poster for the 1976 Montreal Olympics was produced, but from a 2008 vantage point it’s hard to imagine how a committee ever okayed it. Whoever they were, they were in Montreal, it was 1976, things were groovy. See here. With the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics coming up and with the athletes’ village not that far away from my Chinatown studio, it’s getting hard to ignore the sad new state of official Olympic design. The phrase “corporate clip art” comes to mind with every new design the Vancouver Olympic committee puts out, and that seems to be an Olympic trend. Some of it looks distinctly like it might be selling feminine hygiene products.
1960s and 70s design—graphic as well as interior and architectural—seems more fearless, open, uncluttered and somehow international in its outlook. The Montreal designs had all of these virtues. It’s just inconceivable to imagine the bold, edgy and yet friendly poster above being sanctioned by any Olympic Committee in these newly staid and oddly style-less times. Vancouver won’t even be getting basic good graphic design, let alone anything as deft as the instant classics that Montreal managed to produce—see below. Also see the Canadian Design Resource on the topic of what has happened to Olympic design in general.
I particularly like the fact that in 1976 the Canadian government issued well-designed official Olympic posters showcasing then-cutting-edge contemporary art (bottom right). Can you imagine that happening now? My favourite of the 1976 posters below, though, is the wavy white Olympic logo on red. Beautiful and simple—and so is the beaver “Amik” mascot.
Nostalgia may be a weakness, but if design were better who would need to indulge in it. And it’s all too easy to shut down discussion by calling a liking for good design nostalgia when it’s not. The fact is, the 1970s were a golden age of graphic design. We are trailing; it’s a fact.
Tags: 1970s, 2010 Olympics, 70s design, Amik, bad design, Beaver, Canadiana, clip art, corporate, graphic design, graphics, logo, logos, mascots, Montreal, Montreal Olympics, nostalgia, Olympics, Olympics posters, Vancouver, Vancouver 2010, why are things so boring now?