Mexico 68

1965–1968

Design: Eduardo Terrazas (Mex) & Lance Wyman (USA)

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The Mexico Olympics were the first Olympics held in Latin America. They are remembered for many things: Mexico City’s high-altitude, student riots, Beamon’s spectacular long jump and a Black Panther salute. The XIX Olympiad is also noted as a milestone in the evolution of graphic systems.

Led by architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, the design program, in particular the wayfinding scheme, married rigorous pragmatism with a visual fiesta. Central to the graphic system was the ‘Mexico 68’ logotype. The form is a clever integration of the five Olympic rings and the number ‘68’. The original sketches for the logo were done as a series of tablas by a group of Huichol artists. Central to their visual language is the use of convergent, parallel and concentric lines. Eduardo Terrazas then developed a lineal typographic font. Further refinement and the implementation of the concept was realised by Lance Wyman. An important kinetic application of the logotype was created by radiating its parallel lines outward to form a pattern of infinite size. On pavilions, posters & other advertising material, the resulting patterns created dazzling and eye-catching visual effects.

The Mexico 68 logotype is simply a design masterpiece. It reveals the combined influences of international style, the patterns of the Huichol Indians and Op Art (which was then the preeminent artistic movement). Importantly, the overall image powerfully expressed a sense of place and culture. It was the perfect visual embodiment for the aspirations of Mexico, then an emerging Third World nation, “as a modern, current, contemporary country.” The design was not just branding an Olympiad but an entire nation. According to Vázquez: “We wanted the whole world to remember the event and through the event to remember Mexico.”

The Mexico 68 logotype is perhaps the last great Olympic trademark which was not shamelessly exploited. Although the games are floated on a tide of high-minded idealism, they are now supported by aggressive marketing campaigns and licensing deals – that sell the right to ‘exploit’ the logo to the highest bidder.

Soon after the XIX Olympiad, the Mexico 68 logo was officially retired. Similar to the branding devices of other major global events (e.g. World Cups, Expos) and unique amongst design solutions, the expiry date is clearly stated.

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