The 1968 Olympic Games, the first held in Latin America, left in the Mexican capital a wake of modernity that could well be summarized in the aesthetic op art (optical art) of your logo, signed by the American designer Lance Wyman (New Jersey, 1937). The hypnotic black and white lines of the typography, fused in the same plane with the Olympic rings, dressed the celebrations in streets, buildings, garments and postage stamps.
It was one of the most visible signs of the modernizing effort promoted by the committee in charge of the organization, led by the Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez (1919-2013), which was joined by professionals of all kinds. The priority objective was to rely on the Games to project to the world a renewed image, free of clichés, from the host country. In November 1966, Wyman joined the project from the United States with a clear mandate: "The logo had to represent a modern country, not the negative image of a Mexican with a hat sleeping under a cactus," he explains.
The other condition that the organization exposed was the need to gather in the same logo the Olympic rings, the name of the country and the date. Wyman went to the Museum of Anthropology of the capital in search of inspiration and, as he declares to EL PAÍS, he fell in love with Mexican pre-Columbian art, particularly the recurrent use of parallel lines in engravings and other representations. The requirement to combine the three elements in the same space was the basis of an experimentation in which the concurrence of curves favored the superposition of figure 68 and the five rings. The next phase of the process, Wyman describes, was the adaptation of the six letters that make up the word Mexico in the style of numerical forms. "The geometry of the resulting image was very Mexican," the designer concludes.
The final version of the logo required many hours of work with sketches and color tests that culminated in December 1966, almost two years before the opening of the Games at the Olympic University Stadium. The multidisciplinary team that defined and adapted the image of Mexico 68 worked practically until the day of the premiere so that the capital and all sports venues looked appropriate. The Mexican Eduardo Terrazas, director of urban design, was the one who developed the application of graphics to the three-dimensional world. The modernity of those unmistakable parallel lines clung to the posters, to the decoration of stadiums and streets and even to the attire of the volunteers.
The aesthetic leap that accompanied the first Olympic event on Latin American soil has been widely reviewed by the students of graphic design, who consider it a reference in the creation of a brand and its adaptation to the signage of urban spaces. But not only with regard to the logo: the team of Wyman also designed the iconography that represented the different Olympic sports giving a new life to the pictograms as signaling tools in international events.
This pioneering use of color and symbolism, a standard of communication in the society of smart screens, had a derivative that still survives in the suburban of the Mexican capital. In the heat of the Games, the managers of the Collective Transportation System commissioned the American designer a signaling model that all users, regardless of their level of education, could understand. At the beginning there were only three lines, now they are the 12 that form the network. Each station is represented in the maps, accesses, platforms and corridors with a name and an identifying symbol.
"I realized how effective the icons could be, not only to communicate in a multinational environment like the Olympics, but when everyone speaks the same language," says Wyman. "By identifying metro stations in Mexico with icons, I was able to create an identity that worked in different ways. Each can be described in any language (duck, pyramid, apple cage …), but also in its symbolic relationship with the history, the functions or the natural environment of each season ".
In the eyes of the creative, what then (in 1968) was seen as a necessary tool to integrate the illiterate population began to gain utility as a complex communication system. "Now we navigate our lives through icons."