The Power of Design: the Madrid 2020 Olympic Logo Controversy

Good intentions – bad results. Olympic logos seem to keep going offtrack. Remember the London 2012 controversy? Well the latest logo disaster getting lots of attention online comes from Madrid’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. An attempt to represent both the Olympic rings, an architectural landmark in Madrid and the mark “M20″ somehow turned into a childish looking brand symbol that seems to move the games from 2020 to 20020! Disaster – but an eloquent lesson in the power of design, both good and not so good.

Logo of the Madrid 2020 Olympic aspirations

2020... or 20020?

Above is the controversial logo. To many people, that first, all-important impression is of a chopped off symbol that seems to be a typo, moving the 2020 games into the future by about 18,000 years! A look at the original design below will help illustrate where things went off track here.

Art student's original design, via

The original idea was created by a 22-year-old student named Luis Peiret. What came to appear as “20020″ was originally “M20.” However the Madrid-based advertising agency Tapsa made some confusing changes which to many derailed their branding efforts. When the initial response to such a design is so clear, you have to wonder why the design firm did not see these problems in advance, or if seen why they decided they would not overshadow their purpose.

A logo that needs to come with an explanation defeats the purpose of good design. In this instance, the arches in the design represent a historical landmark in Madrid, the colors represent the Olympic colors – however black was exhanged for purple (?) A Spanish online poll found 81% of people said they did not like the logo. Pieret’s comment: “This is not my logo.” Ouch.

The old saying is that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Perhaps this is a good example of how too many well-intentioned design authorities produced a confused, ineffective brand result. If you ever wonder about the power and importance of good design, this controversy over the logo could potentially hurt Madrid’s chances to host the Olympic Games – a high price to pay for a questionable design decision.

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