A Stolen Logo?

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As people in London get ready for the upcoming Olympics, Rio de Janeiro is still in the planning phases for their own Games. Interestingly, their Olympic logo design is creating just as much stir as the controversial 2012 London logo design, although for a very different reason. Rather than simply being ugly or offensive, the 2016 Rio logo may actually be stolen.

Introduced this New Year’s Eve on a giant television screen viewed by a crowd of over one million on the famous Copacabana Beach, the Brazilian logo almost immediately was criticised by people familiar with the logo of Colorado charity Telluride Foundation. The similarities are easy enough to spot—both images feature abstract people in bright colours holding hands in a roughly circular formation. However, the logo designers behind the 2016 Rio logo design claim that any similarity is mere coincidence.

Is this logo theft? The creators of the logo design claim that they performed extensive research to ensure that the image was unique and unfortunately never came across the Telluride Foundation’s logo. The logo was purportedly based on the concepts of energy, diversity, exuberant nature, and the spirit of the Olympics. The design certainly is representative of those sentiments, but it also is strikingly similar to that of the Telluride Foundation.

NYC - MoMA: Henri Matisse's Dance (I)
Image by wallyg via Flickr

No one can deny the similarity, but is it due to plagiarism or a mere coincidence? The ‘circle of friends’ theme is not a new one. In fact, it has been used in many logos and indeed in many forms of art and design. My neighbour has a candleholder that bears a striking resemblance to both logos, and you probably have seen the motif as well. In addition, the logos both resemble a famous Henri Matisse painting, ‘The Dance’. It is not unusual for a circle to be used as a symbol of togetherness, nor for people connected at the hands to have the same significance. There may indeed be nothing new under the sun.

Regardless of whether this logo design can actually be proven a plagiarism, the accusation will certainly put a blight on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics brand. As we saw with the 2012 London logo design, getting off to an unpopular start can be devastating for an event brand. Because this is the first Olympic Games to be held in South America, this blemish is truly unfortunate.

Whatever the reason that you need a logo design, it is essential that the logo be both appropriate for its audience and completely original. This will help you avoid the unfortunate fate of both the 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro designs. On one hand we see a design that was inappropriate for its audience and thus never really embraced as a symbol; on the other hand we see one that is perhaps not as original as the event demands. Either way, the logos in question are a massive fail. Your event, business, or other concept deserves better!