Sapporo Winter Olympics Logo

Logo mark design with three rearrangeable square units

Symbol mark 1971
CL: Organizing Committee for the Sapporo Olympic Winter Games AD/D: Kazumasa Nagai

In October 1966, it was decided that Sapporo would host the first ever winter Olympic games in Asia. The Organizing Committee of Olympic Games immediately set out to produce the official symbol and conducted a closed competition to select it. Eight persons were selected to take part in the competition: Hiromu Hara, Yusaku Kamekura, Kenichi Kuriyagawa, Ikko Tanaka, Kazumasa Nagai, Gan Hosoya, Makoto Wada, and Masayoshi Nakajo. The conditions for the symbol were that it must include the five rings Olympics mark and the words “Sapporo 1972,” and that it must symbolize Japan and wintertime or Hokkaido. The review committee was chaired by Masaru Katsumi, and was composed of Takashi Kono, Kiyoshi Seike, Yoshio Hayakawa, Hideo Mukai, and four member from the organizing committee, including the vice chairman and secretary general. As a result of the review, the committee decided to use one of the three designs I had submitted. The selected design was composed of three squares stacked vertically, with one square each containing the Japanese flag, a snowflake, and the five rings mark with “Sapporo ’72.”

From the beginning, I had decided on the Japanese flag to symbolize Japan. The reason was that the Olympics symbol mark which Yusaku Kamekura had designed for the Tokyo Olympics had spread around the world, and with its success it had built up a positive image, and I thought it would be easier for the world to understand if I continued with the same image for both the summer and winter Olympics. However because the Japanese flag is red, the image is precisely opposite that of winter, and deciding how to resolve this was a key point in the design. I think it that a good effect was achieved by separating the Japanese flag and snow and giving equal weight to each. Because gold had been used for the Tokyo Olympics, I decided to use silver here.

For the snowflake which symbolized winter or Hokkaido, I did not use a realistic, sharply-pointed crystal, and instead chose an ancient Japanese crest called hatsuyuki (first snow). I reworked the curves from a modeling perspective to transform it into a sharp design. This is a piece of cultural heritage that could be described as a Japanese hieroglyphic, making it a good match with the Japanese flag and providing a powerful symbol of Japanese beauty.

The most important point was that the mark be variable. Because the items which had to be included in the symbol were many, I organized them into three squares and handled each of the squares as an individual unit, making them suitable for a vertical layout, horizontal layout, or in a variety of three-dimensional arrangements. They could be arranged horizontally on a horizontal banner or vertically on a vertical one, and a square shape could be used for the pins. I also designed the symbol tower. Because each individual unit was powerful, the image did not change no matter how the squares were stacked. I believe it managed to incorporate a sense of modernity by creating a single image that still remained fluid.

Several large-scale national projects supported Japan’s period of rapid economic growth. These included the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, 1970 Osaka World’s Fair, 1972 Sapporo Olympics, and 1975 Okinawa Ocean Expo. Hosting the first ever summer and winter Olympic Games in Asia was deeply important for Japan, and the entire country was in a state of excitement and overflowing with enthusiasm. By 1972, televisions had become quite widespread, and people conflated the sight of the highly successful Japanese ski jumping team with the growing nation as a whole.

It is hard to overstate how much these events were an inspiration to the people of Japan, and how the performance of the athletes striving to meet the expectations placed in them generated enthusiasm throughout the country. It is because a company makes good products that the company survives, and a symbol will not shine clearly unless the product is good. A design policy comes to life when it is supported by a strong backbone. Applying this idea to the Sapporo Olympics, we see that it was a time when the relationship between the event itself and the symbol was much stronger than in later periods. It was because of the enthusiasm that existed at that time that this symbol mark continues to have meaning in the present.

Kazumasa Nagai
Born in 1929 in Osaka. Withdrew from the sculpture faculty of the Tokyo University of the Arts in 1951. Participated in the launching of Nippon Design Center in 1960, where he currently serves as chief advisor. In addition to many CI and symbol marks, beginning from the latter half of the 1980s, he has produced the animal-motif “Life” series. Major awards include the JAAC Members Award; Asahi Advertising Award; “Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo” Prize at the Tokyo International Biennial Print Exhibition; ADC Grand Prix and ADC Highest Member Award; induction into the Tokyo ADC Hall of Fame; Japan Advertising Award Yamana Prize; Yusaku Kamekura Award; Masaru Katzumie Award; Mainichi Design Award; Minister of International Trade and Industry Design Merit Award; Minister of Education’s Art Encouragement Prize; Medal with Purple Ribbon; the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette; Gold medal, silver medal, and special prize at the Warsaw International Poster Biennale; Grand Prix and gold medal at the Bruno International Poster Biennale of Graphic Design; First prize at the Mexico International Poster Biennale; Grand Prix at the Moscow International Poster Triennale; Grand Prix at the Zagreb International Poster Exhibition; Grand Prix at the Helsinki International Poster Biennale; Grand Prix at the Ukraine International Graphic Art and Poster Triennale; and Grand Prix at the Asia Pacific Poster Exhibition (Hong Kong).

Symbol tower 1971
CL: Organizing Committee for the Sapporo Olympic Winter Games
AD/D: Kazumasa Nagai