I would like to offer a challenge to the people who commissioned the design of the 2012 London Olympics logo, and to Wolff Olins, the agency who did the design.

I was in London on Monday June 4th when the logo was unveiled. At first, when asked to comment, I said that it’s appearance did not matter too much, people would get used to it and it was more important that it met the many stakeholder and technical concerns that such devices had to meet. Now, after two days of extensive media criticism, including at least one negative front page headline and a double page spread in a London daily, I’m not so sure. I have doubts about both the management of stakeholder concerns and the capacity of the new logo to meet technical constraints. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, summed up public concern about one technical aspect of the design when he said on BBC London 94.9:

If you employ someone to design a car and it kills you, your pretty unhappy about that. If you employ someone to design a logo for you and they haven’t done a basic health check, you have to ask what they do for their money.

The methods for generating such logos and making sure they are publicly acceptable are fairly well understood. They are a subset of information design methods used for generating other types of visual communication: nothing particularly esoteric or hard to explain to a general audience, but certainly requiring specialist methods and know-how.

My quick back of the envelope calculations, based on costing other similar projects, suggests that it would take about 200 hours to complete such a project, including allowing a generous amount for stakeholder consultation—a vital part of such a project.

According to reports, Wolff Olins received a fee of £400,000 for their work. By my calculation that is a fee of £2,000 per hour. Not bad!

So, apart from lots of bad press, what have the London Olympics organizers and the British public got for their Money? The answer is that nobody outside Wolff Olins and those who commissioned them knows.

None of the methods used or results from research on the development and refinement of the logo have been published. Such methods and research, if they were in the public domain, and if they conformed to acceptable standards of professional practice, would go a long way towards explaining why the logo looks the way it does and how it will work in practice. It might even mute some of the public criticism.

My challenge then to the people who commissioned the design of the London Olympics logo, and to Wolff Olins, the agency who did the design, is to release into the public domain a full report of their methods for creating the logo, and the findings from the research they undertook as part of that development. After all, the public who are paying for it have a right to know how their money was spent. Moreover, such a release may go some way to assuring the public that a £2,000 per hour fee was worthwhile. On the other hand…