Sunday, 26 August 2012

Designers are ponytailed wankers right?

We get it.  You smoke.
Since legendary Godfather of stand up, Bill Hicks, said that anyone in marketing should kill themselves, "seriously, no joke, kill yourselves" it's been tough for us marketing/advertising/creative workers when we leave our offices to mix with ordinary people.

When we went to a comedy club, looking to unwind and steal jokes, we took it in good heart. We laughed along with the estate agents, Americans and racists in the crowd who were picked on for their assumed lack of scruples. Our entrance money was the same colour as everyone else's, explaining the racists' presence, so we smiled even while being collectively vilified. Like the craven opportunists we were portrayed to be, (accurately) (so that doesn't remotely qualify as a simile) we even laughed and looked round to see where these hapless marketing people, estate agents, Americans and racists might be sitting, thus covering our own embarrassment.
But one legacy of the London 2012 Olympic games and perhaps the most important, is to prove the true value of the creative wankers with their creme de menthe and stupid trousers.  True value as in making people happy.
And looking back, shortly after I watched Bill Hicks live at the Hackney Empire back in the 80s when he was alive - oh and by the way, how many Godfathers do you need, alternative  comedy? I have come across thousands of Godfathers mentioned casually by successful comedians and most seem to be little known names whose claim to the title of joint spiritual guide is based on being brave on stage, by not being funny enough.
But looking back from this post Olympic 2012 moment, when I can take lofty satisfaction in being part, at last, of a 'making people happy' industry, I don't understand why it's taken me so long to see the irony that it was Bill Hicks who went away from the show in which he instructed me to kill myself, and killed himself.  With cigarettes. Cigarettes which creative industry professionals like myself weren't allowed to advertise, so Bill Hicks can't even posthumously blame us for his early death. Although, to be fair to Bill Hicks, the supreme comedy craftsman of his era, he may have been attracted to the colourful pack designs.
For among the legions of la-di-da generators of tomtittery, none has been as publicly and as universally mocked as the design company Wolff Olins for its acidic London 2012 logos. The Daily Mail, the BBC, the man in the street, the woman in the headscarf and most painfully, like the very sheep they purport not to be, your stand up comedians, were united in their immense communal sneer.  'Why can't they just do it properly?'. Where are the Olympic rings, that's the famous things!' said the ordinary people.   'A child could do better!' said the Daily Mail, and readers sent in something better from their children to prove their point.  The BBC damned it with special smirks to camera, getting a retired design guru to mock it, then for balance got a risible oaf to defend it.
But the big game was not just to say that it looked fugly, but to let us all know what it looked like.  'It looks like a cat with two pelvises.' 'It looks like someone's been sick, but not in a toilet, somewhere funny, like a chessboard.' 'It looks like a bomb's gone off in a Chinese laundry', and before anyone could say, what the fuck are you talking about, we don't really have Chinese laundries any more and the London 2012 logo is far to clean in its lines and balanced as a composition to resemble the carnage and chaos that would follow such an event, they found themselves joining the laughter.
Yet the logo inspired much that was successful about the 2012 games, setting the tone and creating an energy, sure. But that would be just the bullshit part. Its fonts and colourways (ugh) made signage through one of the world's most confusing places, the London Underground system, outstandingly simple.  For millions. 
Something to do with Wolff Olins, 
The eye could immediately find its destination above the visual hubbub of a rail terminus, aided by the jerky type and silly colours. It also brought a kind of joy to the venues themselves.  The unmistakeable bright purple playing surfaces made every event feel like it was in some clean, virtual world, rather than the festering stink-hole that most venues, by virtue of their location and history, actually were. When you go through your volumes of Olympic games memorabilia, as you probably do periodically, London's will sing out among others. Take away the colour scheme, the creative energy of the London games and what will you will remember? The host nation doing well? That had nothing to do with Wolff Olins, but even the stand up comedians, even Bill Hicks, could not accuse a design company for not contributing enough to the training facilities of our Olympic hopefuls. So put aside the actual performances and the creative energy and you would have been left with what we all expected.  Expensive, elusive ticketing, empty seats, administrative cock ups, rampant, clumsy commercialism and two boy-faced men trying to out-appear the other in Olympic photographs.
So fuck off, stand up comedians, with your 'bits' and your 'callbacks', and the unexpected opening lines to your 'sets'.  You can run back to your Godfathers with your balloons between your legs.  

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