Initial Ideas (on the computer)



Olympic Pictograms

I wanted to look at the past Olympic Pictograms to understand some of the core elements that I should include within my design.


Tokyo’s 1964 take are actually quite a comprehendable set of icons which can be easily understood for each individual sport. It keeps consistency within its style and really shows the motion of each sport. I particularly like the horse-riding icon as it clearly illustrates someone riding a horse without fully having the full body of the character. It knows the minimal amount of essential iconic shapes to get the message across, something I hope I can achieve within my design.


Another Olympic Pictogram set that’ll inspire my design is the Munich’s 1972. It uses a gender-neutral design and illustrates each sport through stancing and simple shapes to represent items in the sport. Its simplicity throughout shows me the importance of using the least amount of elements to get the message across.


I particularly wanted to look at Beijing’s 2008 pictogram as well as I saw this set as the most potential of motion. The simple shapes for the arms, body and head allows the motion to be easily done whilst keeping consistent over the other designs. I want my design to be able to show motion without the feel of uncanny valley.

I will use all different aspects of these pictograms to create my own styled pictograms that looks fluent in-motion, gives meaning to the sport and conveys the message.


As the Olympic Explainer videos requires to communicate with such a diverse audience, I wanted to look into methods of communication. One of these methods is Isotype. Isotype (also known as Vienna Method) shows social, technological, biological and historical connections in pictorial form through simple illustrations with little to no wording. It is a picture language that is usually used to display facts and quantitative information. The leading director of this method was Otto Neurath , who originally wanted the idea to teach people of Viennese about their city. They didn’t want to bombard the audience with accurate, long-winded facts but instead bring them to life. Some argue that it shows of detail in the facts but Neurath (1973) argues  “to remember simplified pictures is better than to forget accurate figures”. Through research, this museum apparently experimented with animated film using Isotype, something I should definitely look into.


The bold colours and focus on minimal design allows you to understand the illustration easily with little amount of type to assist the viewer. This is something I need to achieve within my own work.

Marie Neurath was the “transformer” behind the Isotype method who aimed her work at younger readers, allowing them to understand information through isotype as an easier alternative to it being explained. Some of her work is quite fascinating and really shows you the diversity of this method even with its minimal style. A specific example of her work is the “the transformer”


Finally, I want to look at the works of Gerd Anrtz, a crucial member of the Isotype team in 1928. Gerd really pushes the boundaries of Isotype by giving it a more stylistic twist than the more conventional pictograms. It really brings his designs alive whilst still giving information clearly and simply. I will most likely look towards Gerd Anrtz work as inspiration when looking into my own design.


However, I want the Olympics Pictograms to be gender-neutral so details such as hips and hair need to excluded within my designs.

Neurath, O., Cohen, R. S. and Foulkes, P. (1973). Empiricism and Sociology: The Life and Work of Otto Neurath. Netherlands: Springer-Verlag New York, LLC.

“ISOTYPE (International System Of TYpogra phic Picture Education) method, expressed the modernist ideals of minimalism, functionalism, of design, with the factuality, universality and neutrality, relative autonomy and stability, of the visual with respect to interpretation and cultural references. It had an abstracted, simplified, elemental and Gestalt-like conventional quality intended to convey a concept through the constructed representation of a typical individual—also similar to Bauhaus ‘essential types’, a graphic product of the same German intellectual culture of typology which included taxonomy, morphology, physiognomics (discussed by Neurath in 1921), eugenics and Hempel and Oppenheim’s logical analysis of types (Hempel and Oppenheim 1936).” –


After deciding on the idea, I have finally decided to go with creating explainer videos for certain sports for the Olympics. This has to represent a style of pictograms that communicates to all nations about the sport the video is trying to explain. This will be difficult but should hopefully payoff with research, an understanding of all the different aspects and design style.

I first wanted to look at the different pictogram styled imagery each Olympic game uses. This video explains the many different styles of Olympic icons and, in his opinion, which ones are best representing the variety of Olympic sports. This will be a great starting point to which I base my design style around.

I wanted to particularly look into the Munich Olympic design as I felt it would be the most achievable in motion.


The Munich style explains the sport easily whilst being simple. It gives you enough information through iconic shapes (such as a curve being a bow) to instantly get what the icon is representing. I am also liking the look of Rio’s 2016 icon set as the body are more intact, allowing it to be easier to animate and give more persuasive motion to the characters. I am unsure if I should create my own pictogram character to accommodate my animation or use a previous generations set of pictograms. I will decide this when brainstorming ideas.

I also looked at some explainer videos within Olympics. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any animated videos to gather inspiration from but there are simple video guides of what you have to do in each sport. This will allow me to get a better understanding of which sports need to be explained within my explainer videos.



After researching into some areas of flat design and infographics, I came back to Rob with more ideas of what flat design can be used for such as:

  • Language – audience which all speak differently – olympic icons
  • Rudimentary language – developing language skills relies on imagery over text to communicate. E.g. How do they know that icon is meant to be them?
  • Still images – Signs (Hazards sign, bathroom sign etc)
  • Cave paintings – convey stories minimally.

Making a universal language

Evaluative point: When the image is recognizable enough to stand alone. For example, it becomes an icon to itself.

Finding the contrast of opposing or opposite styles in order tto create an accessible image.

Less isn’t more, just enough is.

IKEA instruction manuals.

Paperman – Shows story through emotion and imagery. No speaking.

An image is worth a thousand words (if its appropriate).

Taking minimalism too far can have serious consequences on visibility.

International Design

I want my final piece to be based around the style of the International Style which uses the principle of “form follows function” with minimal style and structured layout. It was looked highly upon in the 1920’s by graphic designers from Russia to Netherlands but didn’t become famous until 1950’s in which artists all around the world started using it, hence the name “international style”. This implies that the style can be comprehended and replicated within every culture and gives it a diverse audience for which the style can be used in. Its aesthetic is mostly minimal elements of style instead of high-detailed illustrations, its favors simplicity over detail. This aspect of design is important to me as I feel some designers get lost in the details of a design, instead of the function that design needs to reveal. I believe that a design needs to stand on its own and still be comprehended by the audience. For example, an icon can be identified without the need of a website banner.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry