Being a designer in Southern California is like doing comedy; it’s much harder than it looks. The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was a perfect example of this. I remember the spring before the Olympics. Everyone planned to leavetown. “It will be like Armageddon,” people said. “The freeways will bejammed. People will be stranded on the 405 for days.”
The games began and the freeways were wide open. It wasn’t because everyone was in Palm Springs or San Diego. There was a remarkable L.A. spirit surrounding the Olympics and I’m sure the design set the tone.
Thedesign program included the talents of The Jerde Partnership, RobertMiles Runyon, Sussman/Prejza and an extravaganza of other Los Angelesdesigners.
Sure it’s bright and fun and has a touch of new wave. But it workedbeautifully. It had a unique and energetic spirit and functionallynavigated an enormous audience around a complicated city.
Like the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics, the visual system’s vibrant and playful attitude told everyone, “Relax, have a good time.” Of course, to the outside world, that’s LA.
Now the downside was that the design was not somber and serious, a study in grey and grey. So I’m sure somebody really snooty looked at it in their dark basement apartment, and said to the television set, “Well! That is simply too much! Too bright, too fun, and too happy. Don’t those designers realize how serious the Summer Olympics are?”
Fortunately, they did, and they created something impossible that looks effortless and light and creates joy, but functioned flawlessly, backed with years of hard work and sweat by an entire community.
SeanAdams is a partner at AdamsMorioka in Beverly Hills, California, whose clients include The Academy of Motion Picture Arts andSciences, Adobe, Gap, Frank Gehry Partners, Nickelodeon, Sundance,Target, USC, and The Walt Disney Company. Work by AdamsMorioka has been exhibited widely, including a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Sean has been recognized by every major competition and publication including STEP, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Directors’ Club, and the New York Art Directors’ Club, and as one the forty most important people shaping design in the I.D.40. Sean is a frequent lecturer and competition judge, teacher at Art Center College of Design and president ex-officio of AIGA. He is the co-author of Logo Design Workbook, Color Design Workbook, and the book series Masters of Design.