AIGA and Eye on Design writer Emily Gosling recently asked legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser to rate every single Olympic logo design in history from 1-100. He ranked all 50 of them. Glaser’s seminal work is the iconic I (Heart) NY logo, and he’s the man behind the logos for Brooklyn Brewery, New York Magazine and DC Comics. So you could say he knows a thing or two about good logo design.
Glaser definitely isn’t shy when he sees bad logo design. We rounded up his 15 favorite Olympic logos, leaving behind the ones he called “unfocused”, “too clever for its own good” and “a visual disaster”. Glaser did praise many designs, describing his favorites as “active”, “unexpected” and “well executed”. Basically he’s like the Béla Karolyi of graphic design. Tough, but fair.
So if you already miss the Olympic Games, but you’re hoarse from cheering on the world’s best gymnast and you can’t watch another gif of that weightlifter breaking his arm or you’ll lose it, settle in with an Olympic-themed cocktail and study up on the best Olympic logo designs of all time.
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1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics | Designed by Yusaku Kamekura, this is Milton Glaser's favorite Olympic logo design. He awarded it 92 out of 100 points, saying simply: "The parts fit."
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2004 Athens Summer Olympics | Designed by ad agency Wolff Olins, this is the only other Olympic logo design Glaser found worthy of an A-grade. He gave the logo 90 out of 100 points, because the color and wreath design felt "fresh and unexpected".
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1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics | Glaser found designer Josep Maria Trias' logo convincing because the human figure has "a good scale relationship to the world". He awarded it 85 out of 100 points.
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2008 Beijing Summer Olympics | Designed by Guo Chunning, this logo was also awarded 85 out of 100 points. Glaser thinks both the brush like quality of the figure and the lettering "convey the sense of Chinese calligraphy".
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2016 Rio Summer Olympics | The last logo in a 3-way tie for bronze, this emblem was designed by Brazilian agency Tatil. Glaser complimented the execution of the athletes holding hands, saying it "feels like something new". He gave it 85 out of 100 points.
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1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics | Along with opening, closing and award ceremonies, this logo design is the work of Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers. It stood out to Glaser for it's "distinctive and unusual" form. He awarded it 80 out of 100 points.
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1960 Rome Summer Olympics | This is the only Olympic logo featuring an animal, a female wolf nursing the young brothers Remus and Romulus. (Rumor has it they founded the famed Italian city). Glaser liked the combination of Roman symbology and Olympic rings, awarding the logo 80 out of 100 points because "it has strength and memorability".
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1968 Mexico Summer Olympics | Created by artists Pedro Ramirez Vazquez and Lance Wyman, and architect Eduardo Terrazas, this logo was also awarded 80 out of 100 points. Glaser thought the execution made the number 68 illegible, but conceded that the logo succeeded as a whole because "the graphic idea is strong".
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1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics | Glaser liked the clear layout of this logo and said "the stylized snowflake design adds distinction". Created as three rearrangeable square units by art director Kazumasa Nagai, it was awarded 80 out of 100 points.
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1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics | Glaser approved of the moving stars, which represent the awarding of prizes for first, second and third place. Co-designed by Sussman/Prejza and The Jerde Partnership, this logo was also awarded 80 out of 100 points.