Taking place for the first time in 2015 from June 12 to June 28, the inaugural European Games will be hosted by Baku, the capital city of the Republic of Azerbaijan. (Hopefully not to sound too uncultured: first time I hear of this land). The duties were won by Baku back in 2012 when 49 National Olympic Committees voted its approval — it was the only bidding city. Approximately 6,000 athletes from 49 countries will compete in 19 sports. In November of 2013, the Baku organizing committee introduced the event’s logo, designed by Ankara, Turkey-based Adam Yunisov, and at the end of August it unveiled the Look of the Games, designed by London-based SomeOne.
The multiple elements of the logo and their meanings are explained in detail in this press release. (Too lengthy to repeat here).
Laden with meaning — a carpet! a flame! a wave! a “benevolent, mythical flying creature”! a pomegranate! — the logo manages to scrape by as decent simply by ambitiously capturing various relevant elements of Baku’s culture and history. As a graphic device, though, it lacks sophistication and has far too many swooshy flares no two of which seem to be visually related… I think I am being far too forgiving: looking closely at the icon, it’s a real mess. Luckily, it seems SomeOne was given permission to clean up some of the shapes — see detail directly below — with the benevolent flying creature benefitting the most. (It would be the least productive use of both your and my time to even get into the cons of the original logo’s typography).
Central to the new brand is the pomegranate tree, which symbolises unity in Azerbaijani folklore. Interwoven with the branches of the tree are historical symbols of the country’s heritage and culture, along with eye-catching pictograms of the different sports and disciplines.
Incorporated in the eye-catching new designs are other symbols of Azerbaijani heritage including the colourful stained glass shebeke, the ornamental detail of the buta and references to carpet design and weaving which play a significant part of the country’s proud history.
This inspired the creation of a living property — the Baku 2015 pomegranate tree. Alive with athletes, Azerbaijani art and the pomegranates themselves, the tree has been designed to be adaptive, celebrating elite sport in the amazing setting of Baku.
Probably knowing from the very beginning that there wasn’t much potential in the logo itself, SomeOne smartly introduced a whole new set of visual elements to create the Look of the Games, using some of the original logo’s elements. Mainly, the pomegranate tree. Created in a rich, sinuous, eclectic style, the main tree graphic is vibrant and colorful, sprouting with equal glee leaves, pomegranates, and athletes. It’s a highly attractive design and lends itself quite nicely for different crops and framing.
From the concept images shown above, it’s easy to tell there is great potential in the identity as it’s a very flexible and interchangeable set of elements that provide endless consistency no matter the application. It will be interesting to see how it translates in real life, though, as I’m guessing the ultimate application and execution will fall to the in-house design team of the organizing committee. But for an inaugural edition, Baku has already established a strong design precedent that hopefully will carry on for future editions every four years.