The official posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have debuted. This exciting and diverse collection was created by fine artists, graphic designers, calligraphers, and photographers from Japan and beyond. There are 20 posters, including 12 representing the Olympics, and 8 representing the Paralympics.
Since 1912, when the first Olympic poster was created for Sweden, the Olympic Games have used official posters to promote and showcase to the world the special features of each quadrennial event.
I asked each member of the team at Cleveland Design to choose their favorite and write why they loved it. For me, it was a tough choice. The passion and creativity in each poster is abundant, and each speaks to a different perspective that collectively makes a single statement.
Below are our thoughts on the poster we each loved best.
Horseback Archery, by painter Akira Yamaguchi
At first, I was drawn to the posters created by graphic artists, which of course would probably be expected of me. The ethereal yet incredibly powerful nature of the scenario presented here brings the representation of the Paralympics to a fulfilling level that I can’t unsee. At first view, it has a yamato-e (traditional Japanese painting) style to it with a twist of contemporary Samurai warrior. The muted tones of color are in stark contrast to the energy that the artist conveys. It has at once a traditional Japanese artistic style and a bold stamp of pop culture—and it’s just a beautiful piece of fine art. The determination and grit of the warrior Olympian just makes me want to cheer for a gold medal for all the competitors!
Fly High!, By Shoko Kanazawa
I find this poster’s simplicity and elegance striking. I love its nod to Japanese tradition, yet it remains wholly contemporary. While it uses none of the typical iconography associated with the games (the rings, the torch, etc.) the dynamism in the calligraphy captures the energy and grace of the athletes so vividly. The gold foil background, which references the tradition of screen paintings, illuminates the characters and adds depth to the image. And the meaning of the characters—“Fly High”—seals the message like a one-two punch.
The Sky above The Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa, By Hirohiko Araki
There are so many things I love about this poster—the art style, use of color, the history, its unique composition and the artist’s immense attention to detail. But my favorite part has to be how he lifted inspiration from Katsushika Hokusai's classic print, Under the Wave of Kanagawa. The wave is drawn beautifully and the way it flows seamlessly into the clouds is flawless. He took a piece of art from almost two centuries ago and made it relevant in today’s modern world. I love the cotton-candy pink against the flat indigo background. The athletes running through the clouds, high above the rest of the world, really captures the intensity and determination of the world’s top athletes. I could stare at this piece for hours and still see new details I had missed before. It really is a beautiful piece of art.
PARALYMPIAN, By Goo Choki Par
The fractal nature of PARALYMPIAN’s elements drew my attention to this poster. Its kinetic energy with the pieces wanting to burst out, but somehow staying together in their forward motion, is inspiring. This is how I imagine an elite athlete must feel just prior to leaving the starting line. I also appreciate how fitting it is as a representation of a Paralympian with its seemingly broken pieces coming together to achieve power.
Now it's your turn!, By Naoki Urasawa
As a fan of Japanese manga and graphic novels in general, I was immediately drawn to the stark drama of this poster. Devoid of color, it is packed with emotion. In a few frames, it captures simply and powerfully the focus, determination, and inner strength that are essential traits of every Olympic and Paralympic athlete. I can’t read the Japanese characters, but that’s not necessary; the personal story of an athlete in the tense seconds prior to competing with the world’s best is clear. It’s our turn—let’s go!
We would love to hear which posters you love! View all of the posters here.