Olympics’ Retro-Inspired Kinetic Pictograms Show Innovative Nature of Design Behind the Games

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If the Olympic games are anything, they're dynamic and utterly captivating.

In true Olympic fashion, for the first time in the history of the games, Tokyo has introduced kinetic sports pictograms to help showcase and represent the characteristics and pure dynamism that comprises each sporting event.

Simple static pictograms were first introduced at the Tokyo 1964 Games with art direction by Masaru Katzumie and graphic design by Yoshiro Yamashita. They emerged due to the necessity of visually communicating with the largely international group of athletes and spectators in order to help bridge the language gap. This year, however, the kinetic pictograms were created to subtly convey each sport's qualities and pure athleticism and highlight the innovativeness of this year's games while still taking inspiration from the initial design from the 1964 games.

The 73 kinetic pictograms, 23 representing the Paralympic and 50 symbolizing the Olympic sports, are designed by Masaaki Hiromura and animated by Kota Iguchi. Each pictogram is designed with simplicity in mind, featuring limbs, circular heads, and simplistic geometric shapes for the equipment involved.

While the forms might seemingly look simple, it took Iguchi and the team over a year to finalize the designs. As a result, the kinetic pictograms are getting utilized at the competition venues, broadcasts of events, the Tokyo 2020 website, social accounts, and digital signage.

And, in case you missed it, further proving the innovation of this year's games, the opening ceremony showcased a live version of the pictograms.

This year's games have come with plenty of shocks, from unexpected silver medals and surprise withdrawals to an unexpected loss for China's divers and proof that mental health is just as important as physical health. While viewership might be down for the games this year, these kinetic pictograms are vibrant and at least bring a perfect mix of creativity and structure to the game's visual language.