Olympic simplicity

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Every day I cycle to our office over London Bridge and every day I take a quick look over my shoulder to the next bridge along the river Thames, which is Tower Bridge. Today Tower Bridge has a gigantic Olympic rings logo suspended from the top—measuring 5 metres wide, 11.5 metres high and weighing in at a whopping 3 tonnes. It has become a semi-permanent landmark in London over the last month and has helped to instill Olympic excitement and anticipation.


I recently decided to take an alternative route home to see the rings up close. I wondered if the colored rings from one side of the river were exactly the same color configuration from the other side of the river. They were. My curiosity was contained, but it got me thinking just how simple the Olympic rings logo is.

Designed in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, its five intertwined colored rings (blue, yellow, black, green and red) each represents the five continents that are willing to accept healthy competition. Graphically speaking, its design aesthetic is super-simple, eternal and a little ethereal. Construction-wise it is perfectly symmetrical and similar to that of Palindrome words and numbers (i.e., reads the same backward as forward). I am a very big fan.

It’s a simple thing, but I was really happy that the Olympic rings were colored correctly from both sides of the river. It is something that I imagine most visitors to the capital would not consider. It’s a logo thing. It’s a branding thing. It’s a brand consistency thing.

The informal motto of the Olympics is, “The most important thing is not to win but to take part.” I would like to add to that by saying, “The most important thing is not to win but to take part, and get things right in the preparation,”

So, from me, a very big thank-you to the creators of this semi-permanent London/Olympic landmark for getting it right from both sides of the river. And if you’re lucky enough to be in London for the remainder of the Summer Games make sure you visit Tower Bridge and have a look at the logo from all angles—it’s super-impressive!

Peter McCabe is a design director for Siegel+Gale’s London office.

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