Categories BlogWork

My top 5 Olympic Posters from the past

Graphic designer Emma Fowle gives us her insights on the official designs from past games, and unlocks their hidden meanings.

My top 5 Olympic Posters from the past.

The London 2012 Olympics are over. But there has been much criticism of the London 2012 logo, and much discussion about the ‘legacy of inspiration’ they’ll leave behind to get more people into sport. I decided to look at how well past Olympic posters have done with those issues. Here are my top 5 designs.

1912 – Stockholm

This poster marked the beginning of Olympic advertising. The 1912 Stockholm Olympics was the first to have an official poster. Created by Olle Hjortberg, it shows male athletes waving flags of all the nations in gorgeous, billowy, curved lines. The idea was to convey the image of Sweden as a forward-thinking sporting nation. Unsurprisingly, it was banned from many public places because it depicted male nudes. This was despite the fact that the poster simply echoes the way in which, historically, athletes competed naked during the ancient games. The orange ribbons have been added here to help to shield the figures’ modesty.




1964 – Tokyo

This iconic design was one of four commissioned for the Tokyo 1964 Olympics. Others used photographs of the athletes. However only this one made the grade– and it’s easy to see why. It showcases the ‘Rising Sun’ emblem synonymous with the Japanese flag, with golden Olympic rings underneath it. The design is bold, striking, simple, and the perfect image for a nation on the rise. Perhaps the Japanese wanted correlate the use of gold with their success in the games? Whatever the reason, the use of gold type is always going to be a winner in my eyes!






1968 – Mexico

A whopping 287,000 posters were printed for the 1968 Mexico Olympic games – in 18 different styles. This psychedelic poster design was typical of its era, a year on from the summer of love. It illustrates the traditional patterns of the Huichole Indians, and completely stands out from its predecessors. The design is visually difficult, but showcases its age perfectly. It’s also in a square format just like vinyl record covers of the time.







1988 – Seoul

This official poster depicts ‘harmony’ and ‘progress’ via the combination of two images. The projected light of the Olympic rings is meant to symbolise a pure Olympic spirit spreading world peace, forever. The runner portrays mankind’s progress towards happiness and prosperity. And the light blue and bright orange colours were blended to symbolise Korea as the Land of Morning Calm. I like the layout and aesthetics. This ultra-modern and hi-tech design looks very advanced compared with previous ones. It utilises computer technology to generate the desired graphic effects.






1996 – Atlanta

This poster is named ‘The Look of the Games’ and was drawn by artist Primo Angeli. He’s used a more freestyle approach to illustrating the Olympic spirit, and I can see why it was chosen as the official poster. It utilises all the colours of the rings as part of the main design, making the image stand out. And the use of an athlete’s silhouette in the centre, employs negative space to break up the page into four bold blocks of colour. But the subtly shaded ‘falling stars’ inside the figure aid the fluidity of line and save the image from starkness. The type at the bottom is very much in keeping with this approach – clean, minimalist and simple. This poster is my favourite purely because of that boldness, vibrancy and simplicity. And the use of the Olympic rings to complete the ‘bar’ on the middle ‘A’ is a clever touch.









Katie Sanders :Katie took a sales background into marketing, and holds chartered marketer status with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. A devotee of PR she heads up our publicity team.