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From the Design Desk: Branding a Country

I absolutely love the Olympics.  I've watched more TV since Friday than I probably have in the past three months.  I could go on forever about how much I love watching gymnastics, swimming, diving, and Ryan Lochte.  But one of the things I love about the Olympics is the branding - not just of the Olympics themselves, but the nations represented. Each Olympic host nation strives to differentiate themselves from their predecessors.  It's an incredibly detailed process that begins the moment a new city is chosen - some six years before the actual games.  Check out this great comprehensive list of Olympic logos dating all the way back to 1924.  London's funky angled "2012" logo stirred up a lot of controversial buzz when it debuted - but it certainly stands out from the relatively safe designs of the past few years. Branding the Olympics begins with the logo.  Rio de Janeiro, which will host the Summer Olympics in 2016, revealed their logo last year - and just recently brought attention to the custom typeface designed specifically for the 2016 Games.  But designing the Games isn't just about logos and fonts.  Everything is meticulously planned, all the way down to the design of the medals.  Vancouver made headlines in the 2010 Winter Games for their weird, wavy medals.  If you've been watching this week's coverage, you've undoubtedly been subjected to the incredibly pink floor at the North Greenwich Arena.  How the gymnasts don't find it as distracting as I do... The point is, incredible detail and care has been given to every element of design in these events.  Every athlete's uniform has been specifically designed to showcase their home country, in most cases.  Team USA has been in the hotseat over their opening ceremony garb and now their medal podium outfits.  Personally, I don't mind the toned-down look, especially when compared to some of the more gaudy get-ups on the Olympic athletes (I'm looking at you, Russia and Spain). So, as you continue to watch the Olympic coverage over the next few weeks, think about the work that went into branding such a huge global event.  And then think about your own brand - how can what you see in London translate into a modern business environment?  Are you trying to stand out, or are you more inclined to be traditional?  Do I really need my own custom typeface?  

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