Merseyside-based designer Roy McCarthy has come up with an alternative Olympics brand for anyone who wants to connect with the games but isn't a major sponsor...
The 2012 Olympics in London will certainly bring excitement to the UK and the organisers have talked a great deal about it being an inclusive event. However at the same time it's been reported that the organising committee has a troop of lawyers out there snarling at any perceived brand infringements. If you're not an official sponsor, you can't use the five rings. Publicans can't even write 'Come inside and watch the Olympics' on their blackboards. Heaven help the butcher who tries to sell gold medal burgers or Cumberland Olympic ring sausages. Taxpayers have forked over £9billion to fund the games, compared to £2billion from sponsors, but that doesn't seem to matter.
To the rescue comes designer Roy McCarthy who has gleefully responded to the controversy with his own alternative Olympic identity, which he calls Pymlico. We spotted it last week and featured it in the Inspiration gallery, and since then it's been popping up all over the place. Just as he's rearranged the letters of the word, Roy's moved the five rings around a bit to come up with a new logo. He's giving it away free on his website to anyone who wants to support the games and connect with them, without getting a knock on the door from brand police. We asked him a few questions about why he decided to take on the mighty Sebastian Coe and his corporate sponsors...
What are the implications of this kind of brand protectionism and what do you think of the way it's being handled?
I create brands for my own clients, so I understand how important it is to protect what you’ve created and prevent the integrity of that brand from being diluted or destroyed. Having said that, I can see why business owners are upset by the Olympic brand restrictions. I think we’ve always seen the Olympics as a great event for the whole world to enjoy, rather than as a business or a product.
I suspect people think we ought to be able to treat the word ‘Olympics’ and the Olympic rings as something available to all, like a country’s flag or your favourite football team’s colours. It’s almost too familiar to feel like a brand, which is possibly why it feels so unfair to a lot of people that they are prevented from using it in their celebrations.
Do you see this a kind of protest?
Pymlico isn’t a protest at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. My aim is to give people the chance to show support for the games without causing unnecessary trouble for themselves. Those organising the event have more than enough to do without having to visit every sandwich shop and café in London, just to check they aren’t displaying official Olympic branding. The police definitely have more important things to do during the run-up to the games, and I’m sure they could live without the extra hassle of having to deal with individuals who are, perhaps innocently, falling foul of the branding guidelines. I’m trying to be helpful, and I’m hoping people will respect the official guidelines and use something unrestricted instead.
You've created a logo and lettering - how can people use them?
I’m not placing any restrictions on the use of the Pymlico brand, and I’m giving it away free because I want people to have something they can use however they wish. They don’t even have to be showing the Olympics to use the brand – perhaps they just think the Olympics are great, or would love it if you popped in to have a cup of tea and talk about who might win the 100 metre sprint. I also don’t care if someone prints it in black and white, misses half the writing off the page, knackers the aspect ratio or runs out of ink halfway through the printing and finishes it off in crayon. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that everyone can show how they feel about the games without having to worry that they are some kind of criminal.
Tell us a little bit about the design process?
I messed around with the word Olympic for a while, almost settling on the not-very-catchy 'Cipmylo', before spotting a much better anagram in the shape of Pymlico. I know it’s not the exact spelling, but I think it’s still quite London.
When I actually sat down to design the Pymlico brand I encountered a couple of problems. One of which is that I don’t know anything about sport. The second problem I encountered was that when I created my Pymlico logo the most obvious solution to being prevented from using the interlocking Olympic rings seemed to be to place them inside each other. I did so and was about to publish it when I decided to take a quick look online to make sure there wasn’t already a similar design for a previous Olympics. That was when I spotted one that looked a lot like mine and I was obviously a bit disappointed. I figured I needed to go back to the drawing board and start again, which is when I decided on the logo as it is now.
Incidentally, since I made the Pymlico brand available a number of people have pointed out the fact that the design I saw, I’ve since discovered it was Daniel Eatock’s alternative Olympic logo, is also available to download for free and has been for a number of years. Had I known this was the case earlier I probably wouldn’t have bothered creating Pymlico. I might have just got on with some proper work instead.
The ‘Look Here’ eye and ‘Listen Here’ megaphone were the first two I finished, referencing a couple of old-fashioned, typically English phrases as a way of saying ‘We are watching the Olympics’ and ‘We are listening to the Olympics’ respectively. I followed these up with a circular version of the logo and the other two versions, ‘Pymlico Positions’ - my own personal favourite - and ‘Pymlico Superstars’.
What do you hope will become of Pymlico?
My hopes for the Pymlico brand are that it becomes something that’s genuinely useful as a way of generating a real community spirit, outside the cut-throat world of big business and corporate laws. I’d love it to become short-hand for some kind of hippy notion like ‘we are all in this together’ and for it to transcend this year’s Olympic games to become an unofficial supporter’s emblem for anything the big brands don’t want us to be involved with. I’d also love it to become something that is just out there, like the rainbow symbol or the peace sign, just doing its job without me having to spend all my time tweeting about it and then worrying about whether I’ve done something illegal!
So far I’ve been blown away by the support I’ve received from people all over the world. I’ve got Twitter followers, messages, tweets and re-tweets from up and down the UK, the Netherlands, the USA, Brazil and Spain. The phrase ‘Viva Pymlico!’ wasn’t even my idea, it was someone who took the brand and made it their own as soon as it went online. It’s not something I’m used to at all and it feels very strange to be getting such a lot of attention.