Following the debacle of the alleged plagiarism of the official Tokyo 2020 logo, the organisers opened up the competition to design the replacement to anyone with a pencil or clipart collection.
This hasn’t gone down well with some, and the professional graphic design organisation AIGA has penned an open letter in protest.
Competitions that ask designers to contribute their creativity and hours of work without remuneration in the hopes of their work being selected are against the global standards of professional practice for communication designers. In essence, a compromise of the ethics of the profession that protect the interests of designers, clients, and the potential for extraordinary outcomes. The reason for this is that any remarkable design is the result of a designer working with the client to create an outcome that captures all of the interests and needs of the client and the messages to be illuminated. This cannot be done without a collaborative engagement with the client in advance of designing the results.
Secondly, if the competition is open to the broader public rather than trained and experienced professionals, it demonstrates both disrespect for a universally respected Japanese profession and also suggests that the interests of the committee are served as easily by those with little experience as those with judgment and skill.
The first part of that extract is easy to support. The prize, 1 million Yen, is around £5,400 which isn’t a lot for a job like that.
The second part, however, is bullshit. It’s the Olympics. It’s a celebration of amateurs.
When the modern Olympics were established (following their revival in England, as it happens) they weren’t just focused on sport. There were medals available in architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. Igor Stravinsky was one of the music judges at the 1924 games.
Sadly, those days are gone but maybe people will see sense and the geeks, artists and musicians among us will have a stab at winning gold without having to be good at sports.
And therein lies the real issue the AIGA should have noticed. The winner of the competition shouldn’t have received a cash prize (which would turn them in to a professional designer, and probably eligible for AIGA membership) but a goddam medal.
Joking (was I?) aside, I find that paragraph a little bit condescending. Sporting events have enough money floating around as it is. Injecting some audience participation is a good thing – I was part of the launch of the competition to design the mascot for the 2014 Commonwealth Games (the judges said ‘no cliches’, I said on the BBC ‘oh go on, cliches are great’ and we got a walking thistle – my small part in Commonwealth Games history).
And let’s face it, when professional designers get a stab at designing Olympic logos, the end results aren’t always that great. Remember this turd?
(As it turned out, that logo worked quite well with the brash graphics of the games but it’s still, in isolation, pretty awful).
The original 2020 logo, regardless of the plagiarism allegation, is also poor. It reminds me of a packet of cigarettes. So what price ‘professional expertise’ when it so often seems to result in design that diminishes the worth of graphic design in the eyes of the masses when they look at it and say ‘how much did we pay for that?’
So I’m going to stick my neck out here and say well done AIGA for pointing out that professional design should never be commissioned via competitions and free pitches, but bad call on suggesting that the quadrennial celebration of amateur athletics shouldn’t also open itself up to amateur graphic design. So long as a professional gives the winner a bit of a polish, it’s an entirely appropriate time to open up to non-professionals. They’re the people’s games, after all.