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2012 Olympic Games Posters: Blurring The Line Between Art And Design

Nov 8, 2011 • 1 comment • 2108 views
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A set of 2012 Olympic artist posters are being reintroduced to bring pack an old tradition of posters once celebrated during the 1972 Olympic/Paralympic Games. The historical significance of this posters acknowledges the success of posters used to raise millions of dollars in support of the Olympic Games. At first glance, I found them to be a let down, they don't in anyway connect me with the subject matter. In fact, if the tagline were taken off the bottom of some of these posters, I would not recognize them as a celebration of the Olympic games. Then, I started to think about this more and came to a slightly different opinion. Even though I might critically examine them as artist missing the mark, I cannot totally blame the artists here—they are simply creating art that fills their aesthetic and conceptual perspective, as it pertains to the subject matter. Inherently, the problem is actually in the Olympic Committee process—how do we ask artist to create artwork, then call it a poster?

My background is graphic design. As a professional designer, I often see blurred lines of distinction between designing and creating art. Most of the public’s perception of graphic design, as a term, is generally misunderstood. It is often confused with just making things look good rather than using creative and critical thinking to solve problems or help readers understand/embrace ideas. So really, what my reaction comes down to is not that the posters are poorly done, but the fact that these are technically NOT posters. If I were asked to approach this as a piece of art for the Olympic games, I would approach this very differently than being asked to create a poster design that represents the Olympics. This mistake trumps the effort and intentions of the artists—the handling of this selection of posters seem to epitomize Olympic committee’s lack of understanding of what design is and what it can be used to do. In retrospect, these pieces are beautiful in their own way, but this should not be the only limitation of this poster. If it is, lets call it art for the Olympics, then everything feels in the right perspective. If it is a poster, let the design be, 1) beautiful, 2) used to bring excitement and anticipation and 3) tell a story or visually represent something unique or valuable about being a part of the Olympic Games.

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Great post Mo, very insightful. Totally agree with you. It's a shame that the aesthetic of the Olympic games isn't at the same high level as the games themselves.
11.18.11 •
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