Though they’re still a year away, excitement for the 2020 Olympics is starting to build, especially in Tokyo, Japan, because the city will once again be the Olympic host. The city has hosted the Olympics once before, previously in 1964. In order to commemorate their first time hosting, Japanese graphic artists are paying homage to their predecessors by recreating the original graphic designs.
Since 1964, graphic designers have been using pictograms to portray each of the events that will be played in that year’s game. As a matter of fact, Tokyo was the birthplace of the pictograms being used for the Olympics, according to MediaMadeGreat. Thereafter pictograms were used in every Olympic event, for everything from venue maps to website infographics.
What Are Pictograms?
Before we talk about why pictograms are so important in the Olympics, let’s talk about what they are. In brief, a pictogram is an image that “conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object”, according to HistoryofGraphicDesign. Basically, they’re simple pictures that represent different objects, and in the case of the Olympics, they’re pictures of the different events being held. For example, the pictogram for football, or soccer, shows a stick figure (for lack of a better word) kicking a circle. Even though that sounds like a simple design, pictograms are actually genius ideas that graphic designers must design carefully, to convey the right message.
Why Pictograms Are So Genius
Do you know how many languages there are in the world? A lot. Now, there are only three official Olympic languages, English, French, and the language of the host country. But if you’re not fluent in any of these languages, what’s the next best thing? Obviously, pictures that are easy to decipher. Unlike words, pictures are universal and mean the same thing in every language. So symbols that clearly depict the sport being played would make it extremely easy for you to follow directions, thus making sure you don’t miss anything important.
That is what makes pictograms so genius; they are undoubtedly the only way that everyone participating in and supporting the Olympics are able to communicate.
So What Do The 2020 Pictograms Look Like?
Japan’s chosen graphic designer, Masaaki Hiromura, has created 50 graphic designs, though there will only be 33 events, meaning that some will have multiple designs. There are two types of pictograms, framed and unframed. The unframed versions will be used for posters, tickets, and licensed products while the framed versions will be used for maps, signs, guidebooks, and on websites. The graphics themselves are “simple and schematic shapes” that “create the silhouette of an athlete’s body in action”, as Dezeen explains. As can be seen in their video, the site also explains that the pictograms will be mainly in the emblematic blue of the 2020 Olympics, but will also sometimes appear in deep red, royal blue, cherry blossom pink, violet, and green.
Why Throw It Back To 1964?
Not many countries are given the chance to host the Olympics, let alone twice, so this is a big deal for Japan. Additionally, the fact that the standard graphic designs used for all Olympic events since 1964 were first used in Tokyo, is something to be commended. So Hiromura, as the chosen graphic designer, decided to pay his respects to the original graphic artists: Yoshira Yamashita and Masaru Katzumie. His depictions of the athlete’s bodies in movement mimic the designs of the originals, with simple lines and circles portraying movements. Conversely, every other pictogram created since 1964 has had stylistic differences such as unique curves, different thicknesses in lines, and even designs that depict athletic clothing. Therefore Hiromura is respecting the fact that Tokyo was given the chance to host the Olympics twice, and that the Olympic standard messages were first used in Tokyo.
Hiromura expertly uses his graphic design skills to represent all of Japan’s appreciation and pride in their position as the 2020 hosts.