Special Olympics Athletes Helped Publicis Design the Logo for 2022 USA Games

Participants provide a 'fiery spark'

Dissatisfied with the logo they'd produced for the the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, creatives at Publicis Seattle set that concept aside and turned to the athletes themselves to provide a spark. 

During a three-day workshop, nine athlete artists—with backgrounds in painting, writing, fashion and design—helped produce the emblem below, which the Special Olympics describes as "a fiery spark" that captures the competition's enduring spirit. 

"Hearing the athletes talk about what the games mean to them was very inspiring, and this final logo really speaks to that," Publics senior designer Michelle Billings tells Muse. "Many of their sketches had common themes of passion, often represented by fire and warm colors, as well as unity and inclusivity, represented through different colors coming together." 
 
Oscar-winning filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi chronicled the initiative in this video:

"We went into the project not knowing what to expect, but the more we learned about, and from, these athlete artists, the more we realized we had made the right decision," says Publicis group account director Garth Knutson. "By giving up this control, we ended up with something we never could have created on our own." 

The process of discovery and growth was a two-way street.

"One thing that stood out was the amount of restrictions we as an agency and creatives put on ourselves about how things 'ought to be done,' or the amount of time 'necessary' to achieve great work," says agency creative director Chris Campbell. "The idea of just getting everyone in a room and making a logo in two days seemed an affront to everything I know and have been taught. But not to these athletes and artists. They rolled up their sleeves and took to the task with such joy and creative spirt, and did so without ever doubting it was possible." 

Click the photos to enlarge:

Through the years, various campaigns touting other-abled sports competitions have earned high praise. Channel 4's "Superhumans" Paralympic Games spots from 2012 and 2016 stand out, as do efforts from the Canadian Paralympic Committee. 

The 2022 Special Olympics logo project, however, takes on added significance because of the athletes' contributions—and on a personal level, it's an experience that touched some Publicis staffers deeply.

"I have a new text buddy in Coby, one of our nine artist athletes," Campbell says. "He lives in Iowa, but he hits me up pretty much every day. We chat about art, our favorite video games, Netflix and all kinds of stuff. He starts a new job at a bakery in a week or two, now that he has graduated high school. I wish him the best of luck and have been warning him to stay away from the free pastries."

Along with Coby "The Cobra" Fineran, the other athlete contributors were Mariah Gilbert, Patrice Jetter, Marta Páramo, Aarushi Pratap, Lee Savage, Caroline Shin, Haley Waggoner and Andrew Weatherly.

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.