London 2012 Font: A Critique

The London 2012 font is a bespoke, or custom, font. Called “2012 Headline,” it was designed specifically for the Olympic Games by the branding firm Wolff Olins.

And, boy, it is ugly.

london 2012 font

2012 Headline is the name of the official font of the 2012 Oympic and Paralympic Games

Why Is the London 2012 Font So Ugly?

Many fonts are unattractive, but they at least work in context. (It’s okay for a 10-year-old to make a sign for her lemonade stand using Comic Sans.)

But 2012 Headline is ugly and inappropriate.

On the plus side, people find the London 2012 font memorable. But that may not be a compliment. After all, the Hindenburg disaster was “memorable.”

The Olympic Games conjure up words like “tradition,” “pageantry,” and “patriotism.” The London 2012 font, by contrast, looks—well—goofy.

  • It is an oblique (italic) face, meaning the letters slope to the right. Italics should be used sparingly, usually to show emphasis or set off non-dialogue words or sentences. The use of an italic face without the dominant backdrop of a roman (non-italic) face is strange.
  • In the logo, the L in “London” is lowercase, not uppercase. London is a capital city. Is a capital letter too much to ask?
  • The 2s look like Zs. In fact, the Iranians thought that the 2 in the logo was indeed a Z (and that the …012 was …ion). Yup, Iran demanded a change to the logo because it clearly spelled Zion. (And some say that the logo looks like Lisa Simpson engaging in oral sex.)
  • The London 2012 font is jagged. Look at the steep climb that the transverse stroke of the n makes, only to drop off a cliff when it descends. When I think of Olympic-caliber athletes, I think “fast” or “strong”—not “jagged.”
london 2012 font

For the athletes it is, sure. But not for the font. Image: Matthew Smith

Alternatives to 2012 Headline

Well, just about anything would have been preferable to 2012 Headline. The typeface should have been classy, yet not pompous. Cool, yet not avant-garde.

The London committee should have gone with Kino Design, the firm that designed the logo for London’s Olympic bid. That logo was at least context-appropriate.

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