Lin Cunzhen’s winning logo for the 2020 Olympics: A behind-the-scenes view on the selection process
(All photo credits to Lin Cunzhen.)
Designed by Lin Cunzhen, the winning logos for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing (BOCOG) 2022: “Flying High” and “Winter Dream” were inspired by the Chinese characters for ‘winter’: 冬 and ‘fly’: 飞. They were intended to highlight the striving for sporting excellence with a ribbon-like quality that suggests the movements of skating, skiing, and a wheelchair flying across the finish line, as well as the Winter Games host country’s surrounding rolling mountains.
The final selections by Lin Cuzhen were revealed in the Chinese capital on 15 December 2017 in an inauguration ceremony attended by Chinese Vice-Premiers Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yandong; BOCOG President Cai Qi, who is also the Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee; Sochi 2014 speed skating gold medallist Zhang Hong; and wheelchair curler Zhang Qiang. ico-D's participation in the jury for the Winter Games Beijing 2022 was a consequence of the Council's ongoing advocacy work to ensure that international design competitions are as equitable to the designer and as professional as possible.
In this article we hear from both the designer and a juror on the collaborative processes involved for both the creation and selection of the final logos.
DESIGNER LIN CUNZHEN ON DESIGN PROCESS
Lin Cunzhen described the process around being chosen and how the emblems were finalised:
"In January 2017, after two rounds of jurying, my submission was chosen from a total of 4506 entries for the emblems of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. A team of Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) professors, including myself, was quickly formed to further the development of the design, a process that ran from January to November. This involved thorough study, development and refinement of the graphics, colour system and typography. Much consideration was given to the application of the emblems on different media such as paper, cloth, screen and VR, etc. Meticulous adjustments of the form, type and colour with attention to every line and stroke was routine procedure. As a pictorial vehicle for communications among different people, the design of the emblems demanded not only excellence in design, but more attention on winter sports, Chinese features and the need for international communication."
"In terms of Chinese features, rather than self expression or indulgence in Chinese cultural heritage, we tried to interpret the 'Chineseness' using a 'world language'. We borrowed the calligraphic form of the Chinese character for winter (冬), but not as a simple graphic representation. Instead, we took into account international communication in the design, rendering the dot, line, plane and movement so that it is internationally legible. The result is, we hope, a new image of China—vital, yet associated with its 5000 thousand year civilisation."
—Lin Cunzhen, logo winner of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics
Lin Cuzhen refining Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing (BOCOG) 2022 logos: “Flying High” and “Winter Dream”.
INTERVIEW WITH WINTER GAMES 2022 JURY MEMBER DAVID GROSSMAN
The degree of international collaboration and expertise involved in the selection process was a winning situation for the designer, a woman, and for the international design community at large. Following an approach by the International Olympic Committee to the International Council of Design (IOC) requesting ico-D to provide expertise in best practices, the 2015-2017 ico-D President, David Grossman, found himself sitting on the international jury established by BOCOG to choose among 4506 submissions by designers from all over China. Presumably, a daunting task.
In January 2018, ico-D interviewed Past President David Grossman regarding his role as a member of the jury in the selection process:
Q: How long did the jury process last and what kinds of issues came up in the discussions?
DG: The process was well structured, well organised and extremely serious. A very large jury was empaneled, perhaps twenty, who spent two whole days reviewing the submissions and discussing the strengths of the final shortlist of designs.
The jury was supported by an army of assistants required to organise the review of such a large number of submissions, and a team of experts made sure to accurately tabulate and certify the rounds of votes and ensure that the process established was judiciously implemented. It was an extraordinary operation.
Q: How would you characterise the jury overall. What kinds of voices assembled at the table?
DG: The jury was impressive, composed of a broad range of viewpoints including: senior designers with extensive experience, some who had participated in the successful visual design of the Beijing Summer Olympics; very senior representatives of Chinese Universities; senior representatives of Chinese sports, including an Olympic medal winner who made very constructive contributions; representatives of the 2022 event with administrative, communications and branding responsibilities. In addition to myself, there was another international jury member, Theodora Mantzaris, whose experience designing for the 2004 Olympics in Athens enabled her to make very important contributions.
The discussions were very serious and all jury members recognised the importance of the Olympics to China. Each jury member certainly came to the discussions with a different set of experiences and priorities. There were very many areas of expertise, sometimes cultural, sometimes design specific and sometimes technical, and resulting in long, and sometimes spirited exchanges.
Personally, I have to admit that, though I have participated in many international juries, this experience caused me to re-examine some preconceived notions. A uniquely Chinese predisposition to reach a consensus for the common good proved a powerful pathway to reaching an effective result.
While jury members expressed opinions with passion, there was readiness to listen and an overall desire to reach a consensus and to select a result that would well serve the Games, and the country. There are many considerations that come into play when selecting a symbol. And the actual symbol, of course, is only the keystone of a much broader design language that encompasses many additional components and is applied in an amazing range of situations.
Q: Why, in your opinion, were Lin Cunzhen’s emblems chosen?
DG: Lin Cunzhen's designs were chosen because they are successful on many levels. The visual references are clear and coherent, reflecting the essence of winter sports. Culturally, they are based on Chinese forms that add a depth of meaning to Chinese speakers yet understandable to international audiences. The forms can also be developed effectively to serve the many variations required for the Olympic games—including the ability to be animated. In the end, through a series of rounds, this choice acquired wide support.
Q: During your stay in Beijing, and through your other expansive work for ico-D in the region to promote value within the Chinese design economy, what have you learned most about the culture of design and design professionalism in China?
DG: Design is being recognised as a key component of economic development in China, by the highest levels of government and industry. As such, very substantial efforts and resources are being devoted to developing design education and the design industry infrastructure. The need for a very large number of professional designers is recognised, but unlike "hard" infrastructures of concrete and steel that are developed in China at lightning speed, the "soft" (human) design industry infrastructure takes more time. Chinese design professionals are of a very high caliber. But until their numbers grow substantially, there is an important role to be played by international designers. ico-D has a dual role: supporting our Chinese professional and academic Members in developing the design industry, and serving as a bridge to the vast Chinese economy to our international Members.
Q: Establishing international best practices for design competitions is a traditional ico-D role. What did you learn from this experience?
DG: It is true that ico-D, from its early days as Icograda, has long played an important role in setting international standards for design competitions, and it has been my privilege to participate in many juries over the years. My recent experiences, and particularly this one, brought home to me that the standards established—sometimes decades ago—require review to reflect the dynamic changes in the international design community, including the impact of technology. When established long ago, the standards reflected a Euro-centric cultural approach, mirroring the focus of most organised design activities of the time.
Times have changed. Today's design activities are far more international and the standards should be reviewed to reflect a far more diverse cultural spectrum.
And speaking of diversity, the new situations raise very interesting and challenging issues of different aspects of diversity, issues requiring us to re-examine our preconceptions.
The Council wishes to thank Lin Cunzhen and David Grossman for sharing their contributions and perspective.
LIN CUNZHEN BIO
Born in Beijing, China, Lin Cunzhen (PhD) is an Associate Professor, Vice Dean at the School of Design of Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). She holds a BA from the Department of Decorative Design, Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication (BIGC) and an MA from the Academy of Visual Arts, Hochschule fuer Grafik und Buchkust Leipzig, Germany. She acquired herPhD at CAFA.
She was a founding member and vice editor-in-chief of the Journal Art and Design 1997-1999, vice section chief of the Look and Image of Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) 2006-2008. Over the years, she was involved in the design of a number of important events, including the Beijing Olympics, Icograda World Design Congress Beijing 2009, Shanghai Expo 2010, the emblem of 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games, IAAF World Championships BEIJING 2015, the logo for Beijing’s bidding for 2022 Winter Olympics and the emblem of Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the emblem of Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. She is also a frequent award winner. She is focusing on social innovation design in her teaching and research.
ico-D is a Council of independent Member organisations—a global network spanning over 65 countries that share common positions, commitments and standards around design. ico-D Members create a unified voice for the global design community and drive high level dialogue on the leading role design plays in society, culture and the economy. It is the role of ico-D to set and maintain global standards of professional practice for design—standards that support the best interests of both designers and their clients, and ultimately, global design value.