Jul 20, 2021 – The invention of pictograms at the 1964 Tokyo Games heralded a major change in graphic design, and the creator of the Tokyo 2020 kinetic pictograms is hoping for something similar.
The ties that unite the historic Olympic Games Tokyo 1964 to their modern 2020 counterparts are omnipresent, and nothing more than through the two sets of instantly recognizable pictograms. These priceless little graphics made their global debut 57 years ago in the Japanese capital, and it’s no surprise that the two who designed the modern versions are looking to their ancestors.
“I worked on this project as if I had received a witness to inherit our tradition and pass it on to the next generation,” said Kota Iguchi, designer of the kinetic pictograms which will add a 21st turn of the century to the genre.
The pictograms were invented under the direction of Tokyo 1964 artistic director Katsumi Masaru as a non-verbal means of communication with the mass of foreigners expected in Japan for the country’s first Olympics. Figures depicting men’s and women’s toilets came first, and the simple and immediately understandable design was applied to sports, using photographs as the background.
It was a masterstroke, and the concept has been used not only at every Olympic Games since, but all over the world. Iguchi, a graphic animation specialist, was as much in love with designs as anyone.
“Static sports pictograms were first introduced at the 1964 Tokyo Games and are said to have been created from the idea of communicating via emojis instead of an alphabet, as the alphabet was not widely used. in Japan at the time, ”explained Iguchi. “I can sympathize with this type of idea because it is a typical Japanese way of thinking.
“And when I applied the idea to the world today, I thought the idea of kinetic pictograms was a natural process.”
In order to make the pictograms move, Iguchi needed a 2020 static design to work on. Up stepped up local designer Masaaki Hiromura. Neither does he intend to depart from the example given in 1964.
“I felt not only the simplicity, but also a glorification of each sport and the true enjoyment of the sport in the design. I found that Japanese simplicity and minimalism had an affinity with my design, and I wanted to inherit that philosophy, ”confirmed Hiromura.
“Like the designs from 1964, we also came up with the idea of creating a design to allow people to experience pure joy in sport and the excitement of competition, rather than just making it neat and tidy.”
The key requirement for Hiromura was to maintain a unique concept that can be understood by people of all ages and nationalities. It is a common thread that not only connects the 1964 Games to their 2020 counterparts, but has also run through every edition of the Games since.
The pictograms changed little in the design from 1964 until the 1990s, when a semblance of national identity began to creep in. First in Lillehammer in 1994 came a design based on the famous rock carvings of a Norwegian skier dating back 4000 years. These were followed by pictographs influenced by a boomerang at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, while the Athens 2004 versions incorporated the feel of the ancient Olympics. In Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010, there were 3D designs to contend with.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that, working on the back of this whole story, Iguchi took her time to make sure her contribution was the right one.
“The first thing I did was give the athletics pictogram some movement,” he said. “I created over 50 prototypes, and I suggested in a motion diagram (that the) static pictogram ‘appear’ and ‘disappear’.
“From there, I watched a lot of sports competition videos and studied the movements of various athletes to recreate such movements. My work has been scrutinized by professionals in each sporting category. Adjustments have been made to every little detail of the movement. Finally, it took me over a year to complete the 73 kinetic pictograms myself.
Such a labor of love seems worth it, especially when Iguchi considers the impact his work can have, like that of his compatriots before him.
“I hope that the kinetic pictograms will be created again by the locals during the next Summer Games in Paris and the LA Games in 2028 and beyond,” Iguchi said, before adding: “The pictogram kinetics has already been created by the local designer for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.
“If people around the world continue to pass the baton on to others like this, this new challenge that Japan launched in 2020 will be inherited forever. It’s fun to imagine if the movements of the Paris pictogram will highlight the beauty of the city, as Paris always does, or if Los Angeles will create something quite entertaining like our general image of America. I’m glad to know.