With many cultures and languages coming together in one place for the Olympics, pictograms have been important iconography to clearly indicate different events on signage, tickets, etc.
Here is a quote from the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee about designing the 2018 Winter olympic pictograms:
“They have been designed based on the Korean alphabet known as Hangeul. This is a system of letters that is unique to Korea and it was also used in the design of the official Games emblems. From the 16 vowels and 14 consonants of Hangeul that exist, four consonants and three vowels were selected and have been reflected in the pictograms.” — POCOG Press Office
The Evolution of Olympic Pictograms
“Aicher’s pictograms marked the debut of the circular head, the 45- and 90-degree angled lines, and the simplified body shapes that would become standard stick figure iconography not just in the Olympics but throughout the world–even the design schema developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation was based on it.”
The original Olympic Pictograms by Otl Aicher and team for the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics
Pictograms of the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics
“Notice the painterly, imperfect, almost calligraphic lines. Some of the designs even veer into the abstract. ”
Barcelona Summer and Albertville Winter Olympics Pictograms (1992)
“This design awakening took on the task of introducing cultural history into the pictographs. In 1994, Lillehammer gave us some Norwegian rock carvings.”
“In 2000, Sydney threw some boomerangs into the effort. And in 2004, Athens found inspiration in the artwork of ancient Greek vases.”
“The 2000s saw a rapid advancement in design software and the pictograms of the Turin Olympic Games in 2006 and London in 2012 feel likewise touched by a more advanced set of tools. Witness a whole new level of craftsmanship in the presentation of volume, transparency, form, and color.”
Why It’s Hot: The original Olympic pictograms created by Otl Aicher have influenced other pictograms, like the US Department of Transportation. As time has gone on the pictograms represent more and more of the host city’s culture and language, which makes each set a unique expression of the time and place of that event. This year’s pictograms have a return to simplicity, while still being able to convey and represent South Korea’s rich language and culture.