The 2012 Olympics have a lot to answer, being told we can’t travel to work next August, cabs banned from Olympic Priority “Zil” Lanes, and Lord Coe’s self-satisfied face on television every night of the week, but its biggest affront is about to be unleashed on Londoners in the next few weeks, namely:
Soon every bus, taxi and billboard will be advertising the 2012 Olympics. Avenues of lampposts will have hanging from them banners written in a font called 2012 Headline, and as if to rub salt into the wound they will also be displayed in . . . French. Every lamppost in the Capital looks to have hung from it what the International Olympic Committee call pageantry, and because French is the Olympics’ second language expect the “pageantry” to appear in England and French.
Why should be present ourselves in such a fashion? Thirty years ago London was regarded as a culinary desert offering only meat and two veg or fish and chips in most of its restaurants, now because of the brilliance of its chefs London can claim to have some of the finest restaurants in Europe. In the world of fashion – so they tell me – we have surpassed New York and Paris as the place to show the work of cutting edge clothes designers.
So what have we given the world to advertise London’s Olympics and to place it yet again at the forefront of design? A font that looks like a group of primary schoolchildren has designed it during a wet lunch break, but don’t take my word for it. In a list of the world’s worst typefaces Simon Garfield in his recent book Just My Type placed it at number one, that despite some very strong competition. Simon Garfield claims that the public were so outraged by the London 2012 Olympic logo that the Games typeface will just go unnoticed. At the time of its unveiling some accused the logo as looking like a swastika, unfairly in my opinion, at least the swastika has symmetry, others rather bizarrely saw within its jagged shapes Lisa Simpson having sex, but gave no thought to the logo’s typeface.
Some might think that the choice of typeface is unimportant amid the enormity of London’s Olympics, but we identify companies, institutions and events by the advertising used to promote them. If amongst all the other crazy things that Transport for London does they one day should choose to “rebrand” our Underground by getting rid of the familiar roundel and Johnson’s typeface, petitions would be at every station in protest within days.
I know that the Olympics were started in Greece, but did we have to brand London’s contribution to the Olympic heritage with a typeface that wouldn’t look out of place above a dodgy kebab takeaway down the Mile End Road?