There’s always a big buzz when new logos for the Olympic Games are released, but the logo for Tokyo 2020 generated even more than usual. The Games’ original logo was panned for plagiarizing from the existing mark of a theater in France, so it was eventually scrapped and replaced. To make matters worse, an unofficial mockup from a UK designer that went viral on Twitter seemed to be more popular than the actual design.
So clearly, plagiarizing makes a logo bad. But what makes an Olympic logo great? Jeffrey Kurtz, the creative director here at Ceros, says he’s looking for three things in a logo. “I want to see a connection to the local culture, a sense of sport or activity, and a sense of timeliness,” he said. “My favorite logos are the ones that couldn’t possibly belong to any other country.”
As judged by Jeffrey and the rest of the editorial team here at Ceros, these are the best Olympic logos of all time.
10. Sarajevo — 1984 Winter Olympics
Miroslav Antonić’s design features a stylized snowflake in the tradition of the region’s embroidery. While the burnt orange is not super wintry, the logo as a whole is well-composed, visually pleasing, and rooted in the local culture.
9. London — 2012 Summer Olympics
It’s one people love to hate, which is exactly why it’s here. Wolff Olins’ modern, energetic vision disregards a lot of conventions—you won’t find a single vertical or horizontal line, nor is there even a hint of a local landmark. Is it perfect? No. But at least it’s fresh and memorable.
8. Moscow — 1980 Summer Olympics
Vladimir Arsentyev didn’t just design this primary logo; he created a 533-page set of brand guidelines for all things Moscow Olympics. The red is bold, distinctly of the Soviet Union. The silhouette honors the architecture of postwar Moscow, but it also perfectly encapsulates the Games and what they represent—competitors joining from all over, racing along the track to the top, finishing with a bang… hopefully on a podium.
7. Vancouver — 2010 Winter Olympics
This design is unmistakably Pacific Northwest in depicting a multi-colored inuksuk, a stone landmark built by the Inuit people of the Canadian arctic. Though not a perfect representation of a traditional inuksuk, Elena Rivera MacGregor’s design is friendly and concise, with a color scheme that’s both bold and welcoming.
6. Barcelona — 1992 Summer Olympics
Designed by Josep Maria Trias, this emblem is fairly abstract, but this leaping hurdler still looks perfectly at home at the Games. It’s colors—yellow and red to represent the flags of Barcelona, Catalonia, and Spain, with a splash of Mediterranean—are striking. The logo seems distinctly ’90s, too.
5. Lake Placid — 1980 Winter Olympics
The soothing blue is evocative of a wintry Adirondack mountain, and the red, white, and blue add a distinctly patriotic pop. Plus, the rings have a place to live within the design. A dignified, sporty look from designer Robert Whitney.
4. Tokyo — 1964 Summer Olympics
Perhaps the simplest of all Olympic logos also turns out to be among the most timeless. This rising sun, designed by Yusaku Kamekura, includes nothing but the most necessary elements. Clean, dignified, iconic.
3. Munich — 1972 Summer Olympics
Though the Munich Games are forever marked by tragedy, Otl Aicher’s logo is transfixing—almost hypnotizing. Along with Paris 1924, it’s one of only two logos that doesn’t feature the Olympic rings—and it doesn’t need them. Refreshingly energetic and unique.
2. Montreal — 1976 Summer Olympics
Designed by Georges Huel, Montreal’s logo is one of the few that actually incorporates (and even builds upon) the Olympic rings. The rings are extended upwards to form the shape of an “M,” evoking the image of a Canadian maple leaf or the Montreal Expos.
1. Mexico — 1968 Summer Olympics
Designed by Lance Wyman, this is our team’s favorite of all time. What it lacks in typographical maturity, it makes up for in energy and uniqueness. It’s got an athletic, racing-stripes vibe, and it incorporates the Olympic rings well. Timeless, unique, and well-suited to its host, this mark is lauded by fans, creatives, and critics alike for a reason.
Can’t get enough Olympics? Click here to see our ranking of the worst logos ever.