Now there's no reason to expect that if twelve designers had been commissioned instead the end results would have been twelve amazing posters. As we all know, design is always subjective and one person's meat is another person's poison, but one would expect that generally the results would contain a larger proportion of hits than misses. Well, we've now been given the opportunity to see for ourselves how it could have panned out.
An exhibition of London 2012 posters by a range of contemporary British-based designers is currently on view at the Lethaby Gallery at Central St Martins, London N1. The show, entitled Fit, is the brainchild of designers Jonathan Barnbrook and Vaughan Oliver and has been staged as a reaction to the mass controversy that erupted within the British design community at the end of 2011, when it leaked that designers had effectively been excluded from the process. To help put an end to the collective grumbling, they invited a range of leading names from the graphic design industry to design their own posters, based on the theme of the London 2012 games and on sport in general.
As I mentioned above, you would expect the overall result to be graphically more successful with stronger, more communicative concepts. By that I mean simply that the average Joe on the street could look at the poster and say, "Oh yeah - the Olympics! I get it." Well, on the whole I would say that I like what I've seen of these posters a lot more in terms of eye candy, but if the brief was to promote London 2012 (which I believe was true at least in part with the previous artist's series), then there's a definite question mark hovering over some of them. What do you think?
I think the important point to make here is that all the designers that took part were not working on a 'real' project for a 'real' client. I haven't seen the original brief (if there ever was one), but my understanding is that each designer was simply asked to do whatever they felt worked for them within the loose '2012 sport' theme, and for me that would be a great opportunity to have some fun and design something that I wouldn't necessarily get to do if I were working to a restrictive brief or budget. I can't help but suspect that some of the designers involved took the whole exercise very seriously and treated it as though it were a full client-led project, whilst others enjoyed the fact that they could create something very personal which had only to tick the sport box without directly promoting London 2012.
With my professional designer's hat on, I would say that the 'serious' posters are the more successful as counters to the whole deal with the artist's series from 2011. However, I also like one or two of the posters that are less literal in their interpretation of how a London 2012 poster should look. I guess that this exercise hasn't proven one way or another whether it was a mistake not to involve designers rather than artists in the original process, but I'm not sure that was the point that Barnbrook and Oliver were trying to make. I think they were simply trying to provide the design industry with an opportunity to show that they could have done a lot more if they were given an opportunity to do so.
The show runs at the Lethaby Gallery, Central St Martins until the July 9, and thereafter at the Widow Gallery (same location) until August 30. The full list of contributors is as follows: Ian Anderson, Phil Baines, Jonathan Barnbrook, Neville Brody, Catherine Dixon, Fuel, GTF, Angus Hyland, Alan Kitching, Jeremy Leslie, Domenic Lippa, Morag Myerscough, Vaughan Oliver, David Pearson, Michael Place (Build), Tomato, Why Not Associates, Matt Willey, Marina Willer, Graham Wood and Michael Worthington.