Set to launch in 2016, the Olympic Heritage Collection is a global initiative by the International Olympic Committee to make the logos and other identity elements of past Olympic Games available to international licensees like Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, and Ralph Lauren, who have already gotten theirs. You can currently buy merchandise like this at the official Olympics shop or at The Olympic Museum shop in Laussane, Switzerland. The problem is that the digital assets from which these are made are not 100% true to the originals so a large part of the Olympic Heritage Collection project was to produce the best assets possible. The challenge of both the digitization of more than 100 years of Olympic design materials and the identity for the Collection was undertaken by Vancouver, Canada-based Hulse&Durrell.
There are two parts to this post: the first covers the identity of the Olympic Heritage Collection and the second the updating of the digital assets and their potential use in licensed merchandise.
The Olympic Heritage brand aims to unite 120 years of Olympic art and design, while positioning the collection to remain relevant across generations and nations.
The typeface for the collection, Akzidenz-Grotesk, was originally released in 1896 — the same year the modern Olympic Games began.
We chose gold to symbolize Olympic achievement, tradition, and legacy. It also plays well with colour trends across the decades.
Packaging was designed to provide a neutral frame for the artwork, which spans every art and design movement of the last century.
The logo for the collection is not surprising or overly creative and, really, there is no reason for it to be either. It’s the Olympic rings with a stately wordmark underneath whose loose spacing echoes quite nicely the large counterspaces of the rings. The logo can be white on gold or gold on white. That’s it. Simple, elegant, Olympic.
In application, the logo lives in a simple rectangle that can be added as a subtle tag or imprint on the merchandise. Again, not much else is needed and it highlights the products. Now, here is where things get extra awesome…
Where possible, emblems, mascots, and pictograms were re-created with the original techniques of their time. Design manuals originally intended for use with protractors, compasses and paintbrushes became blueprints once again — this time with a digital toolset in mind.
For wordmarks, classic typefaces like Univers, Helvetica, Times, and Futura were adapted to reflect the movable type printing process of their respective times and places. Physical artifacts were also referenced against the modern Pantone colour matching system to ensure tonal authenticity.
The result is the most comprehensive, authentic Olympic art and design collection ever created.
Partners Ben Hulse and Greg Durrell travelled to Switzerland to get access to as much original source material as possible — what a drag, huh? — and start creating assets from scratch. Most of the logos and identity elements from Olympics prior to the 1990s were not properly digitized or not completely accurate to the way they were actually used during the Games, so Hulse and Durrell referenced multiple artifacts for each logo they recreated to be as close to the original as possible.
The above are only three out of 41 logos recreated and it shows the detail and extent of authenticity that they tried to achieve in each one. With logos done after 1998, there were digital files available but everything else only existed as drawings or specs in identity guidelines and anything older than Tokyo 1964 was only available in old posters, tickets, and other objects. Even logo files for something like Beijing 2008 were corrected to place the tradermak symbol in the proper place. Everything was documented in a 379-page PDF that Hulse&Durrell provided to the IOC as reference for their handy forensic work. With proper and high-quality digital assets, the Olympic Heritage Collection can pump out stuff like this:
Even as Photoshop prototypes I would buy each and everyone of the above. The older logos, identity elements, and mascots — Waldi FTW! — look fantastic in modern-day objects and play to the love of retro and nostalgia of consumers. I’m sure the licenses are not cheap nor easy to come by but for any company that snags one I’m pretty sure it’s money in the bank. A big part of that looming success is the insane effort from Hulse&Durrell in making available the best, most crisp, and authentic assets possible that capture the Olympic spirit.