"Everyone on the team was so passionate about creating the best possible work to represent this time and this place. It was our chance to reintroduce Canada to the world"
My Olympic journey began at Calgary ‘88. I was 8 years old. I was not yet a Canadian, but already felt like one after emigrating from England two years earlier. I attended the Games with my family and discovered the true meaning of Olympic. A British athlete by the name of Michael Edwards, better known as "Eddie the Eagle", would become the first in 60 years to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping. The entire stadium was behind him. Chanting his name and cheering him on. His story was about doing your very best with what you have to work with. Although he finished dead last, this moment of sheer determination stuck with me, as well as the excitement and spectacle of the Games.
Fast forward nearly two decades and I found myself in a position to contribute one of my passions, design, to the Olympic Games in my hometown. What a bit of luck.
Three years out, we began working on the Vancouver 2010 Look of the Games. It was by far largest identity system that anyone on the team had ever created. The challenge was daunting. We spent the first few weeks doing field trips — visiting urban and outdoor spaces around the city. Over several months, the layers of our west coast look came together to reflect transformation — of a growing, multi-cultural city with a lush, ever-changing natural environment. Our Look of the Games was truly a collaboration of the entire design team. As our Design Director, Leo Obstbaum, would say — a "Frankenstein"!
One of the most historic applications for the identity system was the official poster of the Games. When we began work on the poster, we were deep into the development of our brand and the most quintessential Canadian icon had not yet made an appearance. We felt that the official poster could be the right place — so the iconic maple leaf became a window into our Games.
Cropping the leaf in half lead to an interesting solution: one side of the leaf for the official Olympic poster, and the other for a Paralympic poster. And together, they formed one image. The idea was sketched quickly on paper and a digital draft was complete within a few hours. The concept stuck, but the process had just begun.
In his signature Spanish accent our remarkable design director, Leo Obstbaum, referenced the magic of Andy Warhol prints, saying “I need to smell the ink!” We discussed how ink collects around the edges of a screen print, leaving a sign of life that endures long after the paper is dry. We, too, were determined to make it real.
Over several weeks, each design element was hand-stencilled and inked at a 1:1 ratio (on a 24 x 36-inch canvas) before being digitally assembled.
The posters received international attention from newspapers, design magazines, and television, including an appearance on The Colbert Report on the eve of the opening ceremonies. The posters now appear in museum collections around the world and were added to the second edition of A Century of Olympic Posters by Margaret Timmers.