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WARNING: Posts may contain offensive content and red wine
09/11/2001 WE REMEMBER

"Fear is the foundation of most governments." - John Adams

"My family is more important than my party." - Zell Miller

Earlier this month Tokyo released the shortlist of mascots for the 2020 summer Olympic games. One of these 6 will be chosen by every school child in Japan and their affiliate schools. What's even more interesting is the list was chosen from 2042 entries in a competition open to the public, so, the selection process is incredibly democratic.

The first mascots chosen by public vote were 2014's winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and consisted of a polar bear, leopard, and hare. The designs were so successful, since then 3 of the 4 last mascots were ultimately chosen by public vote, and the process appears to be getting more and more democratic as time goes on.

In the past, a LOT of Olympic mascots used to suck. Badly. I can only imagine committees would hire a designer without properly vetting the person or explaining the themes/paying much attention to it, and that lead to a TON of terrible mascots. In recent years submissions have been open to the public, and this has improved the quality (infinite monkey theorem), but it wasn't until a few years ago members of the public had the final word. Because most people do not have a trained eye for design, I do not believe such monumental decisions should be made by anyone who isn't a designer themselves. I also believe, while designs may be submitted by the public, committees include a professional artist to refine it. I'm certain most of these designs were made by professionals, but removing the refiner from the process means all the mistakes made from the first individual go to the final product and pushed in front of the world over.

Every Olympic game since 1972 had an official mascot, but the process to this day still has not been nailed down.

There are 25 Replies

Not entirely sure if I agree with the gen 8 pokemon starters but I'm hoping the additional starters will add a new layer innovation to this decades old franchise.

Posted December 31st, 2017 by S.o.h.

with all that soapboxing about design I was waiting for your thoughts on the nominees, mguy. If you think some are clearly better than others, if they're all good/bad for various reasons, which one(s) you'd vote for...whatever.

1 2 3
4 5 6

first impression: I prefer 3, 4, and maybe 6. 4 with a more modern feel, the others more traditional. 3 in particular reminds me of Ōkami Amaterasu, which seems appropriate.

Posted December 31st, 2017 by Pirate_Ninja

3 or 6 gets my vote.

Posted December 31st, 2017 by nullfather

^ yeah, 2 is alright too.

Posted December 31st, 2017 by poptart!

Lmao at gen 8 Pokemon starters!

Posted December 31st, 2017 by ShadowFox08

The obvious answer is 1.

Posted December 31st, 2017 by S.o.h.

They all have issues.

The first one has good proportions and a sharp appearance, as well as a distinctive shape that makes it the most iconic of the 6. However, the head shape is far too large to balance properly and will be difficult to pose. The color is too dark, making the whole character stand out with such ridiculous contrast. The square patterns can be simplified to lines and larger swaths to make the character easier to render and eliminate several awkward tangents. This is the strongest and most balanced design, of course. The attitude of the character is focused and neutral, which is most appropriate. A few tweaks and this could work incredibly well!

The second is less bold, but color choice around the eyes is necessary to lift them out of the dark. The cape shape is a bit odd, and there are too many vertical lines in the patterns, ears, and the pose. Diagonals are necessary to make a character look dynamic and lively. But the attitude, much like the first, feels very appropriate for the events.

The less said about these two, the better. Posing on the left is amateurish. Everything is round and flowing: without sharp lines, the character does not appear to be well grounded. Eye colors are offsetting. The right one is... very happy to be here. But devoid of focus, and very bubbly. Best linework and best coloring (technically, w/ regards to execution), but possibly the worst personality for an event like this. This is the Olympics, not a preschool televison program.

Something more traditional? I'm not a fan of patterns on characters: the shape and construction of the character itself should matter more than the skin. Both designs are very flat and solid without a real sense of weight or depth. Colors should NOT be so saturated, or else they actually flatten a design. And for a flat design... it just doesn't work.

So... I made some tweaks to the first mascot in Photoshop. Made the main color less of a deep dark blue and more of a desaturated cyan. I also gave darker patches to the segment around the eye, back of the hands, and "belt." The outline is dark blue instead of black: it's subtle, but makes the overall image softer. I also shrunk the head to a sane size. Overall this design is more harmonious and unified, and appears to be more dynamic and corporeal. The patterns are still very sharp and oblique, and there are still some ugly tangents, but this is an improvement over the previous. It should be said dark blue is very difficult to get right, so this might need more tweaking beyond what I had already done so far.

Posted December 31st, 2017 by mariomguy

That looks better than the original. Could you also make edits of #3 and #6? I'd like to see that.

Posted January 1st by nullfather

3 and 6 have fundamental issues with the construction of the character. It would require a dramatic redesign to get those to work.

Posted January 1st by mariomguy

3 and 6 have fundamental issues with the construction of the character. It would require a dramatic redesign to get those to work.

That's kinda disappointing. Those are the ones that I like the most.

Posted January 1st by nullfather

ShadowFox +1

Can we get a Reddit-esque upvote system here?

Anyway, I think I like #6 the best. #1 and #3 are good too.

Edited January 1st by Jahoy Hoy
Jahoy Hoy

Like like can we get a REDACK Esau’s upvote system update here?

Posted January 1st by Weid moonray
Weid moonray

Mascots can encapsulate a wide range of designs, from symbolic to extremely detailed and resolved cinematic characters. I like to veer away from symbols as much as a possible because symbols are not as expressive or dynamic as more fleshed out characters. The more dynamic characters are better for posing and appear more lively. I posted some successful designs below to give a better idea for my tastes:

Posted January 1st by mariomguy

I do like mguy's tweaked design better, because the overly-dark blue was one of my three main problems with number 1. Another one was apparently not even a real problem - looking only at the embedded image of the six nominees, I didn't realize those were its ears. The OP image cuts them off and I thought he had a bunch of antennae-looking things on his...facial solar panels or whatever you want to call them. Which I thought looked really bad...but that's apparently not what it really looks like. Doesn't address the fact that I still don't really like the solar panels themselves as part of the design, but it helps.

I also agree that 2 and 5 are awful, and thought that 3 and 6 share the concern mguy raised. I think I get what they were going for and I appreciate it, but it definitely strikes me as limiting. Sort of like less of a mascot character and more like a piece of art, if you will. In particular I'd like to see 3's design implemented somehow in their whole Olympic spread, but it doesn't have the right feel to me for this purpose.

Can we get a Reddit-esque upvote system here?

this helps: [Like button plugin]

Posted January 1st by Pirate_Ninja

OK... I went kind of mad and did full shading on this thing :P

Posted January 1st by mariomguy

Why not Pikachu?

Posted January 2nd by Kaot0


Posted January 3rd by mariomguy

I like #6 and #1 the best. I think the #4 is a good design but the cherry blossom motif has a weird connotation in a competition, I think? They'd know better than I would, though. I agree on #2 and #4 looking excessively cutesy. #3 just looks like he doesn't want to be there.

Posted January 3rd by Pink Peruvian Flying Bear
Pink Peruvian Flying Bear

I actually wouldnt mind seeing pikachu as the mascot...

Posted January 4th by s.o.h.

So, back to the main point:

Every design should go through 2 artists: a blue sky designer who drafts the concept of a character, and a refiner to take those designs and buffs out the issues to make them stronger and more production-ready. By opening the field to the public, they have removed the refinement part of the process and bind themselves to the mercy of their submissions. Then they get a Boaty McBoatface situation all over again.

Come to think of it, this issue can be taken to our politics as well: should we be so eager as to let people vote who do not know how to make such choices themselves? Intelligence is a rare quality, and revolutionaries who can appeal to the masses are very hard to come by. Extremely good candidates who support great policies are often overlooked in favor of the popular ones. Donald Trump struck a chord with America's anger, and Sanders was not popular enough to beat Clinton, resulting in the least liked President in America's history. I am not seeing enough evidence to suggest that popular vote coincides with the best vote, not just for mascots, but for leaders as well. I wish we lived in a Meritocracy, but it seems that day just won't come in our lifetimes.

Here's to hoping for better choices, and better victors.

Posted January 6th by mariomguy

Kinda fun nny how you say to get back on topic and then make a big political comparison in the same post.

Posted January 6th by nullfather

Well I posted this in this forum for a good reason. I was hoping the discussion would lead to talk about the pitfalls of popular voting and how merit keeps frequently being thrown out the window. If we can fix the Olympic's mascot issue, we can certainly fix America's voting and President issues. The problems between both might be shared.

Japan received over 2000 entries for the Mascot. A committee reviewed each one and narrowed the final selection down to 6. These 6 go for a final vote. The problem I noted is you have a situation where one designer will cast a design that was not ever fixed by anyone else, giving rise to the possibility that unrefined aspects to the design will win simply by virtue of the whole design being somewhat better than the rest. The option for perfection is tossed out the window and there is no safeguard against allowing public imperfections to pass through. There are other potential issues like the fact that better designs may have been passed up due to the people involved in the committee.

My proposed fix to this is the committee narrows down the field in a first pass to eliminate the worst designs, or the ones that definitely won't work. From this selection (maybe 40 or so), an on-board refinement artist can fix minor issues with the designs from here and perform cleanup. It would help to have multiple artists on staff to accommodate different styles. The remaining 40 refined designs are then given back to the committee to decide on the final 6. Then the final 6 go for public vote by ranked choice. Though, I debate whether or not we should give the final say to the public, an artistic director of the show, or the committee. While a combination of all three could provide more information for a final decision via discussion rather than voting, it could give the public an uneasy feeling knowing that their vote may not have as much weight, and with the committees' failures determining mascot decisions in the past, I'm inclined to accept pure public vote as the final say.

Here's what makes this system work:

  • Every design has to go through a first pass. Most unusable or uninteresting designs here will be discarded.
  • A large round of designs get touched-up, cleaned, refined, and primed for production, ensuring no amateur mistakes go through.
  • The second round from the committee gives the committee more experience with voting and a second chance to vote correctly if any mistakes were made from the first week.
  • Ranked choice voting prevents a heavily contested design from making through (like #6's love-it-or-hate-it vs. #1's universal appeal).
  • The public vote is used, but doesn't come in until later. At this point the 6 designs are all production-ready, fixed, and adored by the committee. The public vote in a sense won't change the quality of the design because all candidates have already been refined by professional artists. The final selection will not be swayed by opinionated individuals, but instead by the population in general. And when judging design without throwing too many variables in the mix, the public vote tends to be more successful.

  • Posted January 6th by mariomguy

    If we can fix the Olympic's mascot issue, we can certainly fix America's voting and President issues.

    Posted January 6th by nullfather

    Well, I think so.

    Posted January 7th by mariomguy

    should we be so eager as to let people vote who do not know how to make such choices themselves?


    Also, as an alleged "progressive," you should probably take a moment to reconsider using the same exact argument that has historically been used to suppress black voters for a century and a half.

    Edited January 7th by Jet Presto
    Jet Presto
    Reply to: 2020 Tokyo Olympics Mascot

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