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Design critique of the Chicago 2016 Olympics logo

Mayor Daley and Chicago unveiled their logo for the bid to have Chicago host the 2016 Summer Olympic games. VSA Partners' Chicago office designed the logo. Here's my critique of the logo:

It's said that the skyline seen in the olympic flame represents how Chicago rose out of the ashes of a fire. That's really cool. They did a very fine job of making it look like a flame first, and our skyline second. When I first saw this logo, I totally thought it was a flame, and THEN I saw our skyline. Great effect. However, does it disturb anyone that when you really look at this flame and the building that it's kinda ghost-like? Or that our city is make of flames? Ah well, you can't be that literal with it, because it's got a fantastic metaphor about our city's history.

The blue and green in the handle are supposed represent the lake and green parks. That is one thing that people around the world should remember about chicago--our fantastic unencumbered lakeshore. It was a great part of Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago in 1909. in Personally, I think the green really represents how sustainable chicago is).

Pencil marks
The entire logo is composed of pencil-like sketch marks, which show action and energy. It also shows the real grit of Chicago. We're not some slick city. We play it real. However, the sketchy style is reminiscent of many logos from the 1980s, but hey, this is the logo for an event 10 years from now, maybe that sort of style will come back around and be back in by then.
Actually, I wouldn't mind this style coming back in, because it would really help erik's and my pencil rubbing cause.

I'm not sure what the font is. My first guesses were Avenir, Frutiger, and Vectora; however, they aren't quite it. If anyone knows the name of the font used, please leave the font name in the comments below. At any rate, it's a nice clean font. I'm thankful that the font Optima (found in parts of the CTA underground stations) was not used here.

It appears that this logo is a raster file, but lately i've been amazed by some of the effects vector art has been able to achieve. Maybe this was created with individual vector lines, which would have helped them fine tune the exact look of the logo.

Chicago is the city that works. We have a Mayor that totally gets things done. This IS our time. It's time to live that same Chicago pride that SHOCKED THE WORLD with the 1893 World's Fair. Daniel Burnham the legendary city planner said a century ago, "Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood." That IS Chicago. We have the vision. We have the blood. We have the sweat. We should have the Olympics.

This is a fine logo that should make the city of Chicago proud. Many years from now we will look back on this logo with happy nostalgia. This fire will continue onward to the future to ignite the Olympic games in the Windy City.

By Matt Maldre on Oct 13, 06 | 1:13 am  |   [32623] Hits  |   permalink | archives

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I feel a lot better than what New York got for its logo on the 2012 bid.

Posted by: spudart on Oct 13, 06 | 8:27 am

Here's a list of all the previous olympic logos:

Posted by: spudart on Oct 13, 06 | 8:32 am

I was hoping to get your critique of the logo when I emailed the story to you, but it looks like you were one step ahead of me! Nice work!

Posted by: Tom on Oct 13, 06 | 3:58 pm

Great blog post, spud. You nailed everything. This logo is simply fantastic on so many levels. I am very proud to be a Chicagoan (transplanted in the burbs.)

The logo is symbolic on many levels and it is very striking. Great, great work.


Posted by: on Oct 14, 06 | 10:44 am

The symbol is great after all it doesn't have to do a hard job to sell. If Chicago ain't a great city I'll eat my hat. I am just not sure about us having the olympics. It so expensive and the rewards might not cover the expense.

Posted by: Harrison on Oct 14, 06 | 10:28 pm

do you think we'll get a 5th star on our flag if we host the olympics? the olympics are star-worthy, right?

and yes, the logo rocks.

Posted by: donna on Oct 15, 06 | 10:53 am

Excellent point! Chicago SHOULD add a star to the flag if we get the olympics. Remember back in the day when the US of A would add a star for every state added to the union? Flags were much more updateable back then. We need flags that get updated regularly more often now. That would be make for some good flag fun. Plus, by adding a star to the Chicago flag, it would be a good lesson to everyone what the other four stars stand for.

Posted by: spudart on Oct 15, 06 | 6:51 pm

I'm onboard to add a 5th star to the chicago flag (if we get the olympics). That'd be great!

Here's a site that has a neat explanation of what the stars mean. Just roll over the stars! And don't forget to roll over the blue stripes as well.

If you're too lazy to check out the site, here's a quick run down:
Fort Dearborn, Chicago Fire, The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, Century of Progress Exposition of 1933.
Lake Michigan and North Branch of Chicago River,
South Branch of the Chicago River and Great Canal

Posted by: on Oct 16, 06 | 10:28 am

oh i forgot. The points on each star has symbolism as well. Just to that loosetooth site and check it out.

Posted by: on Oct 16, 06 | 10:29 am

Thanks for that link, moose. Here's what the points on the stars of the Chicago flag mean:


--civic pride

POINTS ON STAR 3 each represent the various hands that have laid claim to the land and the changing definition of the area:
--France (1693)
--Great Britain (1763)
--Virginia (1778)
--Northwest Territory (1798)
--Indian Territory (1802)
-Illinois statehood (1818).

POINTS ON STAR 4 each represent a different motto or nickname of Chicago:
--World's Third Largest City
--Urbs in Horto (the official city motto)
--the "I Will" motto
--Great Central Market
--Wonder City
--Convention City

Posted by: spudart on Oct 16, 06 | 10:35 am

arcchicago says of the logo: "It's pretty lame. The torch looks more like a golf tee, and the skyline making up the flame is so generic it could be anywhere." Man, it DOES look like a golf tee. crap.

Posted by: spudart on Oct 16, 06 | 7:22 pm

I understand the history but I'm not really sure how buildings on fire really sit with me after 9/11 and knowing that Chicago towers have been targets of plots.

And a golf T...yea, it does look like one.

Nice choice of font and nice styling of the skyline though.

Posted by: Chris on Oct 20, 06 | 11:37 am

It seems far too Art Deco to really represent Chicago. The type is nice, but it looks like a some sort of modified Neutra Face font? Why? It seems more New York or Miami with that color palette too. However it is one of the better olympic bid identities I have seen. Here is to Chicago FINALLY getting the Olympic games.

Posted by: ERIK on Oct 20, 06 | 11:50 am

I love the overall look of the logo and the Art Deco artwork, it really comes across as a symbol of Chicago, but I hate the typeface. It clashes with the overall 20's architecture style of the art and falls into the "futura-like" sans movement that is so overused these days.

Posted by: russ99 on Oct 20, 06 | 3:42 pm

I don't care for the font either. Seems a little bland for a logo for a city with some of the world's best architecture and the pride the city will feel when the Olympics come here!

Posted by: Tom on Oct 20, 06 | 5:43 pm

I will break this rating down into three catergories being as unbiased as possible and focused on attributes that make a great icon for our terrific city.

A scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest rating).
is how this has been developed:-Practical Applications.

1. Practical Applicaton (1 of 5) A failure.

It's way too vertical a logo to work over the wide array of applications that a global icon needs to.
The color blending will cause problems for all official licensing agents.
On braodcast, this will get sliced into many variations since it cannot work in the 5 x 4 (or now the 16 x 9 letterbox ratio that is becoming more common).

2. Memorable Chicago Iconography (2 of 5)

A torch. Very predictable. I would imagine that a city like Chicago with such a rich and robust visual language would provide more memorable imagery.

The Chicago Fire. Presenting a tragic event 145 years previous seems to be a macabe and negative event not to be focused in for such an uplifting and positive moment in ur history.

The Sears Tower. Are they paying for the naming rights in 2016? Then I get it but otherwise it's off target.

The reflection of the lake? Ok, I like that a lot.
We are a city on the water and should embrace that fact and this does a good job.

I will remember the logo for what it's not rather than what it is.

3. Emotional Appeal (1 of 5)

Would I want to wear this if I was traveling to another city of even country to spread the pride and passion for the Olympics? No.

Overall, I think that VSA is an outstanding collateral and systems firm. As it relates to global brands icons, I don't see the level of quality and experience to support the cities selection of the firm.

While pro bono is an admirable stance for nono-for-profits and public service initiatives, for the money making machine the Olympics will be, why do this for free?

If this logo is a forebearer of the process to come for 2016, go LA and SF.

Posted by: John B on Nov 09, 06 | 9:33 am

font: looks like 'Gotham' by Hoefler.

Posted by: Robert Wees on Mar 07, 07 | 12:08 am

I am a fan of the logo....while no logo will satisfy all parties, when you look at the link to Wikipedia and see all the other logos shared with the world, Chicago's is truly MODERN, progressive, visually appealing, compelling in telling our story without need for words and simple.

The previous comments on the pencil line and focus on our "city of broad shoulders" being our skyline is cliche but it is also what symbolizes our city.

It is the nuances displayed through color that really makes the head-heart connection to all the ideas and the spirit of our great city.

Posted by: David George on Mar 18, 07 | 10:57 pm

i am very happy to know thatchicago did beat L.A. in the Olympic race

Posted by: girl on Apr 14, 07 | 4:00 pm

The logo was just determined to be in violation of Olympic copyright. Candidate cities can't use flames!

Posted by: mike on May 16, 07 | 2:17 pm

I just read that story. In a Chicago online poll the majority of voters agree that the logo should be changed.

Posted by: Tom on May 16, 07 | 5:52 pm

ha. Chicago should say "it's not a torch, it's just the chicago fire."

I'm a bit disappointed by this news that Chicago has to change their bid logo. I was getting attached to it with all the photos I was taking of the posters around town. At least in the future, when we see this old version of the logo, we can point to a specific time when it was used. The new logo will help to differentiate the 2nd phase of the bid process.

I'm quite anxious to see what they will draft up. Hopefully, Chicago will stick with VSA Partners, as they did a wonderful job already.

Posted by: spudart on May 16, 07 | 9:53 pm

What about this concept?

Posted by: Joe R on May 18, 07 | 9:23 pm

definately Gotham Font (

Posted by: dfa on Jun 04, 07 | 11:36 am

I don't really understand critics... the logo seems fine.

Posted by: Sears Parts on Oct 15, 07 | 3:25 am

I think the logo is cool. It explains our city's history and has to do w/ the olypics. I'm not sure if having the olympics is a good idea,'s pretty expensive and we might not get as much money back


Posted by: Georgina on Oct 23, 07 | 6:33 pm

I think the logo is cool. It explains our city's history and has to do w/ the olypics.

Posted by: Canal holidays on Jan 14, 08 | 9:47 am

i've worked with the logo (old and new one) and they are raster... odd choice i feel.

Posted by: nate on Apr 11, 08 | 11:44 am

vote on what Olympic logo you like the best

Posted by: max on Mar 28, 09 | 8:58 am

Adding a 5th star to the city flag would end up costing the city a ridiculous amount of money. Just for the CPD alone they would have to re-outfit every Policeman with a new Chicago Flag.

I wouldn't mind this being one of the people who produces their emblems but it would just be such a taxing change.

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Posted by: Sears Parts on Aug 08, 09 | 10:58 am

The font that is used is SR Franklin Medium I think? Anyway, it's the same font that's used in the Chicago Theatre neon sign, they also use it in the cover of the movie Chicago.

Posted by: Cara on Feb 15, 11 | 3:53 pm

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Hi. I'm Matt Maldre. Every single weekday my blog on has a new post with an original idea or discovery. Be sure to stop by daily to see what's happening.

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