Archive for March, 2009

Varoom magazine

March 12, 2009


I love the logo design for this illustration lead journal.  It’s pretty amazing.


Relationship between mascots and olympic logo

March 11, 2009






How not to have an Olympic mascot nightmare

March 11, 2009

The five Chinese Olympic mascots

Recognise these chaps?

By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine

The London 2012 Olympics organisers will be picking a mascot in the next year, possibly through a public competition. But how can you avoid an Olympic mascot disaster?

The launch of the London 2012 logo a year ago was met by a blizzard of negative public reaction.

At some point in the next 12 months the London organisers will choose a mascot, and throwing the process open to entries from the general public is one option being considered. Whatever method is chosen, avoiding a repeat of the logo storm of negativity will be as important as anything.

Since the first official mascot in 1972, there have been examples of successful and unsuccessful choices. Think of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and many will remember Cobi, the stylised, Picasso-influenced Catalan sheepdog. But try and cast your mind back to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Remember the mascots? They were Syd, Ollie and Millie, now long retreated into obscurity.

Looking back over 36 years of mascots, there are definitely lessons that can be learned.


Whether the designer of the London 2012 mascot is a professional or a member of the public, they should be prepared for barbed salvoes from the minute their design is launched.

Rarely has there been more vitriol for a mascot than that aimed at Izzy, designed for the 1996 Atlanta games.

Izzy and Cobi

Hit and miss: Atlanta’s disastrous Izzy (left) and Cobi

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening described it as “a bad marriage of the Pillsbury doughboy and the ugliest California Raisin” and in the US press it was derided as anything from a “blue slug” to a “sperm in sneakers”.

Twelve years on Atlanta designer John Ryan – who received only a “handsome tie and a bottle of wine” for his work – still looks back with sadness at the reception to his design for Izzy.

“It was very effective for kids, we got a lot of interesting flak from adults. Journalists were ripping the mascot and making it stand for everything that was wrong with the city, even potholes. It was a bad reaction and a lot of bad blood. To this day it will still show up in the press as ‘the much-reviled 1996 mascot’.”

What should have been the crowning moment of Ryan’s career has always meant mixed feelings.

“As a professional I wish it was something I had on the top of my CV… but it’s the red-headed stepchild. I hope that I can prove that I have something else that I will be known for before I die.

“It was amazing and yet as a designer you look back at the process and say that couldn’t have gone any worse.”


Once you’ve dealt with the flak, it’s important to remember that, as with the 2012 logo launch, the worst vituperation will fade.

This was certainly the case with 1992’s Cobi. The launch was greeted with derision from some quarters, with the Catalan president of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch understood to have been displeased. Even the designer, Javier Mariscal, was reported to have said: “It is hard to fall in love at first sight with a dog that looks as if he has been run over by a heavy goods vehicle.”

But after its initial mixed reaction, Cobi showed the value of riding out the storm. From the mascot launch to the start of the games is a matter of years, giving the public and officials a chance to get used the designs and learn to love them. In the end, Cobi won people over.


An Olympic mascot has to fulfil a complicated brief. The Olympics is an event attended and watched on television, in the main, by adults. But the mascot is also a commercial device – there’s no point putting it on stuffed toys, fridge magnets, rubbers, pyjamas and packed-lunch boxes if it doesn’t appeal to kids. And as well as appealing aesthetically to these two divergent constituencies, it must also convey a message.

Munich 1972: Waldi the dachshund
Montreal 1976: Amik the beaver
Moscow 1980: Misha the bear
Los Angeles 1984: Sam the eagle
Seoul 1988: Hodori the tiger
Barcelona 1992: Cobi the Catalan sheepdog
Atlanta 1996: Izzy
Sydney 2000: Syd the platypus, Ollie the kookaburra, Millie the echidna
Athens 2004: Athena and Phevos, dolls of Greek gods
Beijing 2008: Beibei the fish, Jingjing the panda, Huanhuan the Olympic flame, Yingying the antelope and Nini the swallow

“You have got to try and put the use of a mascot in a context. It is a supportive element of communicating something about your brand,” says Rune Gustafson, chief executive of branding consultants Interbrand.

“The mascot will not only have a recognition factor but will also have a commercial opportunity behind it.”

It’s tricky to have a mascot that has gravitas and looks good on pencil sharpeners.

Ryan feels he followed the design imperatives set by Atlanta’s committee.

“The directives were very defined to some high ideals. They seemed to be very child-oriented – they wanted to inspire children all over the world.

“Kids were loving it. Whenever the costume version appeared in groups kids were getting excited. It was very heart warming. But as a mascot designer you want to be loved by all.”


Most Olympics mascot designers have decided not to stray too far from the formula of picking the cutest possible animal associated with the games venue. Even the stylised Cobi was supposed to be a Catalan sheepdog. Moscow’s Misha was a cuddly Russian bear at the height of the Cold War. Los Angeles followed that with an affable eagle.

Ryan considered the route of simply opting for something characteristically Georgian – like a native animal – as “fairly trite”.

Athena and Phevos

Athena and Phevos were the subject of controversy

“We went through the barrage – let’s see, a peanut is from Georgia, a peach, a possum, you started to go through all the Ps. My initial response was let’s not go for an animal.

“You can either get pigeon-holed into this or do something a bit more playful and create a little something that everyone looked at and thought I don’t know what that is.”

In the end the blue cartoonish blob, with a gaping mouth, different coloured eyelid, lightning flash eyebrows and red training shoes, could certainly not have been accused of being characteristically Georgian and justified its working title of Whatizit.

Another departure from the animals theme, Athens’s Athena and Phevos, was criticised by a Greek religious group as being disrespectful.

If the London mascot designers decide not to go down the abstract route they will have plenty of animals to choose from, says Renata Kowalik, conservation programmes manager at the London Wildlife Trust.

The Olympics site in east London has kingfishers and plenty of eels. In the wider area there are water voles and otters. And if you want a symbol of 21st Century Britain, why not go for the black redstart, a robin-like bird that has adapted to the furious urbanisation of the last two centuries.


There is an old saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Certainly it’s hard to disagree with the notion that matters of design proceed better when led by one mind.

Misha the bear

Misha the bear presented a cuddly image of Russia

When it comes to the Olympics this is not easy. Committees proliferate.

“When you look back at mascots you very seldom see the designer mentioned,” says Ryan. “They become designed by committee. It gets co-opted by dozens of people who all think they are designers.”

What Ryan originally came up with was tweaked, shifted and recast by a host of competing officials. The greatest design success of the history of mascots, he believes, is Mariscal’s Cobi, aided largely by the designer being allowed full control.


There is no shame in admitting that mascot didn’t work. In the build-up to the 1996 games, the Atlanta organisers sidelined Izzy, apparently suffering embarrassment at any materialisation of the blue entity.

In 2000, Syd the platypus, Ollie the kookaburra and Millie the echidna were not particularly well received. And the vaguely sinister-looking trio found themselves more marginalised as the games went on. There was competition from Fatso the wombat, a very unofficial mascot, who by the end of the games was the more recognisable figure for many.

London should prepare for the same battle if it doesn’t get its mascot design right.

The Fuwa That Were Not

March 11, 2009

In today’s WSJ, we report on the creative process that went into creating the Fuwa, the mascots for Beijing’s Olympics.

The artist behind the Fuwa, Han Meilin, told us that his original vision for the creatures was five children, who could represent the five elements and five Olympic rings.

Here’s what one of his early designs looks like, as seen on a page from his sketch book.

Although the final Fuwa are very different, Han still refers to them as his “children.”

Earlier fuwa designs

Originally found at:

Han Meilin Interview

March 11, 2009

The translated script of an interview on Olympic Mascots designer Han Meilin. (Beijing Times, November 3, 2005)

Han Meilin and the Friendlies
Han Meilin and the Fuwa. [Xinhua]

Reporter: How did you come out with the image of the Fuwa

Han: The Fuwa were based on the prototypes given to me by Mr. Wu Guanying from the Tsinghua University Fine Arts Institute. On February 2 on China’s lunar calendar (March 11, 2005), after spending a fruitless night on them, I couldn’t go on with my work. So I took a cold-water shower. While I was bathing, the idea flashed across my head – why not let these creatures wear headgears with animal characteristics.

Reporter: The athleticism is a core factor to Olympic mascots design. How did you handle this?

Han: After deciding on the primary look of the Fuwa, we went through a great amount sports materials, text and graphic, to draft the firendlies practicing different sports. Panda practices weightlifting; Tibetan antelope running; fish swimming ¡­etc. But when all the drafts were combined first, they looked a bit clumsy than we thought. It was from the images of Tibetan antelope that we finally drew inspirations to tackle this problem.

the friendlies, han meilin
The first draft Han Meilin drew for the Fuwa.

Reporter: How many changes did you make along the process?

Han: We all together have more than 4000 manuscripts inside the process and more than 60 changes were made to the prototypes.

Reporter: Styles may differ within a designing team. Were there any disputes?

Han: Sure. You may like a color others don’t like; you may favor a image others don’t favor. We used to think about the proposal of rattle-drum, but when a drum was added legs, it turned out somewhat unacceptable to me. So we dropped it.

Reporter: You were severely sick during the period?
Han: Yes, two times of heart-attack, but I was back after receiving emergent surgeries.

Reporter: How much did the Olympics organization committee pay for your work?
Han: I don’t want any payment, besides the copyright, but the committee rewarded me one yuan.

Other candidates for 2008 Olympics mascots

Reporter: Do you have regrets over the Fuwa?
Han: Yes. The biggest regret that held me now is that the Fuwa failed to embody the great art of Chinese calligraphy. We tried for thousands of times, but the results came out unsatisfactory.

Reporter: Among the five, which is your favorite?
Han: All these five were from my hands. I am like their father. There’s no preference inside me. But picking up the color for Nini (swallow) tortured my team really, so the color side of Nini is a bit unsatisfactory to us.

Reporters: Why do we have five mascots?
Han: It’s become a trend for mascots to appear not solely since the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Actually we had six mascots candidates – Panda, Tibetan antelope, golden monkey, Northeastern tiger (Siberian Tiger), rattle drum and China dragon, but none of the individual could completely embody the image of China’s Olympics along, so we got five.

Other candidates for 2008 Olympics mascots

Reporter: Where did the idea originate from?
Han: A folk artist painted five babies based on China’s traditional concept of Wuxing (the five factors making up the world), including gold, wood, water, fire and earth. Our impulse is from that. The real art is from the folks.

Reporter: Why is the dragon discarded?
Han: Dragon is too solemn. It represents the soul of Chinese nation. To making a dragon frolicking around would hurt its dignity. Besides, dragon has a different meaning in the west.

Reporter: Why swallow?

Han: We hope the dragon could be substituted with a bird. Crane and magpie (the propitious bird if translated literally into Chinese) were options favored by many, but crane is too slime to match others and magpie also has a different meaning. Then we think of the swallow, which often appeared on the covering of traditional kites in Beijing.

Original text found at:

Banksy – the village pet store and charcoal grill

March 9, 2009

and my favourite:


March 9, 2009



Communicone is a simple piece of communication technology. In the digital age it’s easy to forget how simple it can be to get in touch with one another. According to Marshall McLuhan’s theory of technological determinism, by releasing Communicone we should be able to find ourselves doing a bit more doodling / filling / swapping / amplifying / looking”.

I think i just really appreciated the sentiment that these nifty little cones stand for.  As graphic designers we should be creating imagery by more traditional methods. Yes computers are great, but why does everything have to be so overcomplicated all the time?

Found at:

You can even print your own, linkage is after the jump!

iPod madness

March 9, 2009



“Engineers at Osaka University have developed a new system for controlling electronic devices that could enable people to navigate through the tracks on their MP3 player simply with a wink or smile.

The device – which has been nicknamed the “Mimi Switch” – consists of a small earbud that is capable of measuring movements in the wearer’s temple. Different actions or facial expressions result in a variety of actions, depending on how the system is programmed.

“An iPod can start or stop music when the wearer sticks his tongue, like in the famous Einstein picture,” suggested lead researcher Kazuhiro Taniguchi. “If he opens his eyes wide, the machine skips to the next tune. A wink with the right eye makes it go back.”

The team behind the system suggest that it could easily be integrated into headphones or glasses – and used to control a variety of other electronic devices, like home lighting or even washing machines.

The research paper detailing the Mimi Switch, which was actually published last year in the Journal of Robotics and Mechatronics, has suddenly resurfaced after being picked up online – but it is far from being the only invention of its kind.

Across the world, researchers in the field of human computer interaction have been testing out new ways of working alongside machines that seem more instinctive than the current mouse-and-keyboard norm.

I remember seeing one predictive text system – Dasher, from the physics department at Cambridge – that enabled you to type simply by breathing.

Meanwhile another innovative interface we’ve discussed in the past – the gestural system from 3DV – has been getting a lot of attention.

3DV’s ZCam, which allows you to control what’s happening on your computer screen simply by moving your hands, has reportedly been eyed up by Microsoft in a $35m deal. If you want to get an idea of how it works, here’s a video of me messing about with it at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas”.

Can you imagine London Underground? On the tube making facial movements all at the same time… as if the tube wasn’t scary enough.

Andrew Rae

March 9, 2009

Just because he’s a good illustrator…


ps1 – Mental Wealth

March 9, 2009

I love ad campaigns for Next Generation consoles.  To my memory, Playstation for their PS1 PS2 and PS3 have always created ads that first leave you with that “What the hell!?” afterthought.  They are often bizarre for bizarre’s sake.  To get you thinking, and talking about what you have just seen.  Chris Cunningham’s ad for the PS1 did this perfectly.  I have always loved this advert.


Commentary –

Let me tell you what bugs me of the human endeavor
I’ve never been a human in question, have you?
Mankind went to the moon
I don’t even know where Grimsby is
Forget progress by proxy
Land on your own moon
It’s no longer about what they can achieve, out there on your behalf
But what we can experience
Up here and of our own time
And it’s called mental wealth

Awards Won:
2000 D&AD Awards
Television & Cinema Advertising Crafts .. Special Effects

“Then Cunningham spent two days with The Mill’s Flame operator, Barnsley, designing a look for Fi-Fi. They pulled her eyes apart and turned them inwards, shrunk her nose, squashed her mouth and stretched her body out like a bean-pole.”