Having been writing about the Beijing branding for well over a year, I almost feel like I have nothing left to say. I mean, you all saw it, right.

When I was watching the games I was obviously watching the sports, but I had a keen eye on the background graphics, the signage, the uniforms, the flags, the t-shirts, the baseball caps, and every other bit of graphical brickerbrack that appeared on screen. And what I saw was pretty awesome.

The graphics for this years games were daring and modern, but also warm and welcoming. They didn’t command too much attention, but rather blended in to provide a great scenery before which the dramatics could play out. All the world’s a stage, and China provides the set.

I had three main observations about the graphics: First, there was a lot of cool swirly, firey, spectrumy stuff happening. Second, for a country that uses Red as it’s national colour, everything felt very blue. And there wasn’t much typography, which makes sense but sort of snuck up on me.

Since this is about graphics, let’s just take a look. These photos are brilliant, but take a look at the backgrounds, especially the blueness.

Beijing 2008 photos
Is there some rule about gymnastics equipment that it has to be blue?

Beijing 2008 photos
These girls where everywhere during the beach volleyball events, although not wearing the Chinese national colours

Beijing 2008 photos

Beijing 2008 photos
many of the backgrounds were blue, as were the staff uniforms

Beijing 2008 photos
A rare instance where the logo appears against a red background

Beijing 2008 photos
The Chinese hostesses wore white and blue, not red

Beijing 2008 photos
More blue backgrounds

Beijing 2008 photos
More blue backgrounds

Beijing 2008 photos
The tennis courts were coloured blue, although this does seem to be a standard among hardcourts

Beijing 2008 photos
While the backgrounds for most of the arenas were blue, the medals themselves were attached to red bands. Here, the national colour is apparent, as it was in Athens 2004, and Sydney 2000 (blue and green respectively).

Beijing 2008 photos
Multi-coloured backgrounds, often using yellow, were popular at the Games as well.

I have two theories about why the Games were so blue. First, red is a bit of a harsh colour. It’s overpowering and in such large quantities, may have people a bit on-edge, feeling threatened or nervous. Blue is much more soothing and neutral. Also, red is the colour of Communism. With the always-tense political climate in China, covering the city in red might not be the best idea. No need to remind the world who they’re actually dealing with. More about this in my next post about China, the Brand.

As I mentioned, there was a ton of swirly, firey, tribal-style patterns that were seen on everything from the uniforms to the medal bands.

The Beijing Medals

These patterns were featured on a number of uniforms, including the United States’ basketball jerseys, so I suspect that Nike and other outfitters had something to do with pushing the trends. But these patterns did make things a bit more interesting, and created a bit of intricacy against what could easily turn into a flat and dull series of flag-like backdrops.

The wooden spoon award for this year’s Olympic-based design goes to Canada and their team uniforms. This is a classic example of going overboard, and trying too hard to be innovative. Wow, these are seriously ugly.

Canada's uniforms. Ugly.

For more info about the graphics at the Beijing games, check out this interview with Design Director Min Wang. »