26 Mar Elements x Osmond Tshuma | Typography as a Golden Thread
After Nicole Dalton shared with us what she considers to be the height of branding, MARK Studio’s Craig and Frederick spoke a bit about the ritual of packaging design. Next up in our Graphic Design Month feature Elements, we’re unpacking the sub section of typography and we’ve called on the expertise of artist and graphic designer Osmond Tshuma to help us do this. Deeply fascinated by the diversity of African history, Osmond’s work is informed by his native land of Zimbabwe and by the diverse local cultures found in South Africa. The Colonial Bastard typeface he designed, one of his personal favourite projects to date, is based on identifying certain key characteristics of fonts and typography used during the Colonial Era. It makes sense, then, that the project Osmond chose to highlight in this edition of Elements also finds its roots in culture and history – that of the city of Mexico.
The 1968 Mexico Summer Olympics were marked by many controversies, however on the creative side one thing stood out; the Mexico 68 identity. The first time I saw the Mexico 68 campaign was four year ago in varsity and I was totally impressed. There is an amazing standard of craft, precision and simplicity in the logo design, wayfinding system and typeface. This project encompasses the relevance of Mexico, the Olympics and the sixties. Remarkably, both the typeface and the identity of the Mexico Summer Olympics are still as crisp and modern today as they were 47 years ago. They continue to outshine many of those which have been created years after them and this goes to show that good design can stand the test of time.
Cultural program cover
The Mexico 68 typeface is a geometric display font which, created specifically for the Mexico Summer Olympics of 1968, forms a significant part of the branding. Designed by Lance Wyman, the typeface was derived from the simple geometric Olympic logo which references Mexican pre-Hispanic art, Mexican folk art and 1960s Op Art.
“The logotype powerfully expressed a sense of place and culture and visually exclaimed the Games were in Mexico.” – Lance Wyman (Olympic Museum)
5 stages of the Mexico 68 logo / Numeral logo and logotype
Mexico 68 typeface
The typeface was used on every collateral for the 1968 Olympics and the lines were repeated to create a visual language for the identity. The objective was that wherever the typeface was used, there should be a connection to the logo. The application of the typeface included: inflatable balloons, postage stamps, tickets, memorabilia, posters, exhibition stands, inscriptions on coins and medals and two huge logo sculptures – one at the Chapultepec Park and another at the stadium entrance. All of these elements had messages and icons of their own, but were instantly recognisable as the Mexico 68 collateral because of the use of the typeface which linked everything together with a golden thread.
“Mexico 68 sticks in the mind because the originality and cogency of its system of communication converted it into a paradigm of modern graphic and event design.” – EYE Magazine, 2005
Tickets for the Mexico 68 Olympics
Commemorative postage stamps
Various venue names set in the Mexico 68 typeface
Logo sculpture at Chapultepec Park, Mexico City
The way the Mexico 68 typeface was utilised in the identity of the Olympics was by tightening the kerning of every character to a point where the word became one element, creating uniformity throughout the collateral. Furthermore, this allows the eye to flow through the word swiftly. The typeface is composed of uppercase letters and numbers in an effort to keep all collateral material consistent. The typeface is made of three strokes and through the use of negative space in between them, the strokes convey movement, speed, action and dynamism which are some of the attributes of the Olympics. You could even make the connection to say that the strokes are representative of a track; for instance, if you look at the ‘O’ it resembles a racetrack.
The Mexico 68 typeface doesn’t have structural differences unlike other typefaces such as Univers, which has a structural difference between two weights. Instead, the thickness of the characters of the typeface are uniform and consistent. The strokes are perfectly straight and even when there is a curve, the curve is geometrically perfect. Looking at the 6, 8 and 9 one can identify circles in them, so not only do these look identical but also share an identity when it comes to counter-sizes. When observing C, E, G and O the C is derived from the O and E and G are derived from C. P and R are derived from the B while A is derived from the U, the modification is that the A is rotated 180 degrees and a crossbar was added to make it. M, W, 6 and 9 are the same form but the difference is the orientation of the character; one is facing downward while the other is upwards. The O is the same as the 0, the characters are 100% identical, the difference is when context is given that the O becomes the 0, or vice versa.
Looking at it in its entirety, Mexico 68 is a beautiful, inspiring and well-crafted typeface which has since inspired many others including Mexcellent font and the Max Little Olio Inline.