Blog: Secrets from the Chef

The graphics style of the 1972 Munich Olympics

Denis KortunovAuthor: Denis Kortunov
23 June 2010

One day I spotted a rather unusual poster. It looked very special and I was won by the pleasant mix of colors and simplicity.

It turned out that this was one of the posters made for the Olympics of 1972 in Munich. I was surprised by how fresh and contemporary the work looked realizing that the poster was created almost 40 years ago. I decided to study the style of this event more carefully and started web surfing.

The first thing that I came across was far from design. So it happens that these games became sadly famous because of the hideous terrorist attack. Later I located even more magnificent posters:

1972 Munich Olympics Poster  1972 Munich Olympics Poster  1972 Munich Olympics Poster
I found these posters here:

I got really involved into the subject. I’ve learnt that all the graphics for the Olympics had been conceived by a German designer named Otl Aicher. By the way, he was also behind my favorite typeface Rotis.

The logo for the Olympics was also very unusual:

Munich 1972 logo

Some sources insist on the sun rays connotation but the original brief features something resembling a cake:

Munich 1972 logo

Interestingly, when the logo was presented to the public, it was not warmly accepted. Many did not like the logo at all — looks like it is the fate of all innovations in design. Here is what people used to say:

  1. “What’s it got to do with sport? It doesn’t even have the Olympic rings on it”.
  2. “If this is supposed to symbolise Germany, or Bavaria, or even Munich, it’s a complete disaster. Why are we paying for this?”
  3. “It looks like a doodle a child would do on a school book”
  4. “I’m having difficulty seeing any relevance that the logo has to Munich, the Olympics, or Germany.”
  5. “Can we really trust the poster companies to get this the right way up?”
  6. “At the risk of stating the obvious (although the logo designers may not have understood the point) the Olympics is about Sport. So, I would have hoped to have seen an elegant design that suggested athleticism, grace, movement, human endeavour and aspiration…”
  7. “I could have knocked that thing up in five minutes”
  8. “It looks like it has been made out of a kid’s paper chain kit from the craft shop.”
  9. “It doesn’t symbolise Munich, Bavaria, Germany, sport, or the Olympics”
  10. “It doesn’t even show the five colours of the Olympic Flag”
  11. “They will need to publish an explanation alongside it, because nobody will know what it’s meant to represent!”
  12. “I am a designer and a logo like this would take me 30 seconds”

The situation with the mascot for the Olympics was not that complicated. The already mentioned Otl Aicher designed and drew a nice looking dachshund Waldi. This did not create any contradictions — dachshunds are fast, resilient and agile — therefore they make for a great mascot for the Olympics.

Munich 1972 logo

Dachshunds are also very flexible in graphic sense — it can be contoured, monochrome or even 3D.


And, clearly, I could not avoid talking about the icons made for the Olympics. The main idea lies in simplicity and style unification. The designer did a great job portraying the motion dynamics.

The icons fitted surprisingly good into the overall graphic style of the Olympics.

The created style gained a timeless appeal. One can baldly use some of these original methods in today’s design and the result would appear fresh and contemporary.

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