The Best And Worst Design From The 2014 Olympics

From the minimal logo to the super-sized halfpipe, here’s a roundup of the best and worst design at the Olympics this year.

1. BEST: Photographs Of Life In Sochi Before The Olympics Swept In

Before the 2014 Olympic Games came along, Sochi was a humble little seaside city. Residents there hardly knew what they were in for. Photographers for a new book called The Sochi Project spent two years documenting Sochi and argue that it makes next to no sense to turn this resort destination into a world stage for a massive sporting event. [Link]


2. BEST: A Visual Guide To Corruption At Sochi

When Putin and his cronies stormed into Sochi, they spent a total of $51 billion–$40 billion over budget–building the most expensive Olympic Games in history. An infographic by Russia’s Anti-Corruption Foundation reveals how government officials and businessmen turned the Olympics into a source of illicit income. Marvel here at the staggering costs of the Games, from a $25,000 stadium seat to an $8.7 billion highway (the world’s most expensive). You’d think they could’ve bought a few working doorknobs, too. [Link]

3. WORST: The Architecture Of The 2014 Winter Olympics

So, how did all these ridiculously expensive skating palaces and ice domes turn out? We ranked the Sochi architecture from best to worst (spoiler alert: Vladimir Putin’s chest is tied for number one). [Link]

4. BEST: A Rebranded Olympic Museum

More impressive than most of Sochi’s gaudy monoliths was Base Design’s rebranding of the Olympic Museum in Switzerland, a sleek graphic identity, which we awarded with an imaginary gold medal. [Link]


5. BEST?: Behind The Minimal Look Of The 2014 Olympics Logo

With all the money they spent, you’d think the Olympic Committee could have designed a flashier Sochi logo. But there’s actually a compelling story behind the 2014 logo’s minimal, futuristic look. The first Olympic logo made with the digital world in mind, it beat out an original proposal for a more traditional, ornate design. Check out the history of Olympic logos (many of them much worse than Sochi’s) here. [Link]

6. WORST: Under Armour’s Mach 39 Speedskating Suit

Sochi’s biggest uniform fiasco came when the American speedskating team ditched Under Armour’s fancy Mach 39 speedskating suit. Team members claimed it slowed them down, and switched back to their old suits. Embarrassing for Under Armour, but not as embarrassing as one poor bobsledder’s pants split. [Link]

7. WORST: The Sochi Poster (And More Olympic Posters, From The Good To The Bad To The Ugly)

A tour through Olympic posters from 1906 to today is a lesson in the evolution of graphic design. Posters throughout the last century channeled Art Deco, minimalism, the hippie aesthetic, and Keith Haring’s graffiti art, all toward the same end of capturing the spirit of the games through design. Sochi’s poster, a vivid diamond pattern, doesn’t capture much of anything. [Link]


8. WORST: Sochi’s Quilt-Like Branding

Speaking of the rainbow diamonds plastered all over this year’s Olympic poster: They also informed Sochi’s branding. The design references a hodgepodge of Russian arts and crafts traditions, quilting them together in a big blanket that, if you look more deeply, glosses over a complicated and violent history. This strategic branding attempts to persuade the world that Russia is one big happy family, dammit. [Link]

9. BEST: Soviet Propaganda Turned Into Fabulous Gay Pride Posters

It’s been suggested that Sochi’s rainbow branding is a ploy to visually drown out any rainbow pride flags waved in protest of Russia’s recent legislature banning “gay propaganda.” Protesters around the world have been coming out in support of Russia’s oppressed LGBT community. One of our favorite protest campaigns turns old Soviet Propaganda posters into Pride Propaganda, replacing hammer-and-sickle flags with rainbow pride flags, depicting the bygone USSR as one big happy gay family. [Link]

10: WORST: The Halfpipe Design

Over the past 16 years, the Winter Olympic halfpipe has almost doubled in height. This means trickier tricks and, you would think, more dangerous falls by competing athletes. But industry insiders insist that the halfpipe has actually gotten safer (though it didn’t stop this year’s athletes from falling left and right). [Link]


11. BEST: Nate Silvering The Sochi Medal Count

As of today, the U.S. has won 24 medals at Sochi. Before the games began, with a statistical model painstakingly crafted over the course of four years, data analysts Dan and Tim Graettinger predicted that the U.S. would win 29 medals this year. We visualized their predictions here. [Link]

12. BEST: The Winter Olympics In Downtown New York

A luge track through Times Square? A ski jump over Bryant Park? Though it would’ve made commuting in New York this winter even suckier, a creative visualization by the New York Times proves that the Winter Olympics in downtown New York City would have looked nothing less than dope. [Link]


About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.