Todays lecture at NUCA was from legendary American graphic designer Lance Wyman, and was in conjunction with the exhibition of his work at the NUCA gallery; You Are Here a brilliant little exhibition mainly featuring the Mexico 68 olympics graphics (above) which he is most famous for, as well as excerpts from a few other projects and more recent work.
He started the lecture with a summary of how his life lead to him being hired to work on the Mexican Olympics. From working on a fishing boat and in factories, to studying industrial design at the Pratt institute around the time of the birth of the American graphic design industry, at the time of Saul Bass and Paul Rand. After graduating he worked for General Motors, had a few years in the army where he gained a love of maps, then to the George Nelson office in New York. Where through meeting certain people and some unexpected circumstance he ended up flying to Mexico to work on the designs for the Olympics…
The work he produced for the olympics is truly amazing and still very impressive and appealing to this day. The main identity came from the genius idea that two of the rings could be the lower counters of the 6 and the 8. The black and white geometric patterns of the logo were influenced by the Op or Kinetic art that was very current of the time and the patterns often seen in pre-hispanic Mexican imagery and folk art. From this a typeface was born and a black and white visual language instantly recognisable as related to the games. It was applied to a huge range of things like clothes, hats, giant balloon, interior design and even the ground around the stadium.
As well as the branding he also designed great pictograms for the games inspired by traditional native glyphs. Lance has designed a lot of icons through his career and they are something he really loves. An interesting moment in the lecture came when he showed the similarities between his 68 icons and the app icons on the first iphone. He also designed lovely colourful stamps with silhouetted sports people which have a recurring pattern that joins up at the edges, which he also pointed out were quite similar in style to those original ipod adverts !
After the olympics he stayed in Mexico working commercially there on the Mexico City Metro and Mexico world cup mascot. Then he came back to New York in 1971 where he has worked ever since on a huge range of projects, a lot of logos, pictograms, wayfaring and maps for companies and city councils. My favorite that he showed was his work for the National Zoo.
At the end of his lecture there was time for a few interesting questions. On the 2012 logo he said that it was at least different! And that at the time he had said ‘give it a chance’, but that he hadn’t seen anything interesting done with it yet! Then on the subject of computers he said that he had used a compass on his 1968 logo, and that when the compass was invented there must have been a lot of dumb circles drawn. Nice analogy!