The 1968 Mexico Olympics logo and brand identity made an unforgettable mark on design history and set a precedent for the capability of design. Its Op art beauty and sociopolitical applications left a resounding impact on Mexico City.
Behind this campaign was a young Lance Wyman. Having never even been to Mexico, Wyman was greeted with resistance from the city’s locals who felt that the logo should be created by someone with a connection to Mexican culture. Nevertheless, Wyman was given the responsibility of designing an identity that stretched beyond the 1968 Olympics.
He based the logotype on the art of Mexican “Huicholes” culture, working extensively with indigenous artists throughout the campaign. The repetitive geometric forms simultaneously allude to both ancient Mexican architecture and the Olympic rings. Along with the logo, Wyman also designed a map with colored icons that allowed international visitors to find their way around the city without needing to read labels. As the designs were integrated into installation art, signage, postage stamps, apparel and later, iconography for the metro system, the new visual identity saturated Mexico City.
In parallel to the Olympics, students were protesting economic disparity in the city. At the time, Mexico was going through an economic upswing (the Mexican Miracle) which increased wealth disparity in the country. As the resistance gained more momentum the government decided to intervene. Police violently removed protestors from the streets in an attempt to keep up appearances for the celebrations. In retaliation, protestors decided to assume the Olympic designs and use them for their movement. Wyman’s images were altered to create antigovernment posters. The protestors “… took a poster he made, with a silhouetted image of runners racing, and turned it into silhouettes of troops beating people with batons… They were playing with the propaganda of the Olympics and hinting at a darker political reality.” The ability of a campaign to affect a city on a visual, functional, and political level demonstrates the extent to which design can adapt to function.
This post was inspired by a recent 99 Percent Invisible episode about the campaign. Check it out here