The Tokyo Olympics (and Paralympics) logo scandal, or what the Americans would probably call “Logogate,” coined after the infamous Watergate scandal involving then-President Richard Nixon in 1972, has been of great interest recently, probably having destroyed the professional life of an Art Director.
It’s interesting how an event that occurred such a long time ago can actually become a slang suffix to mean scandal even after so long with Ben Affleck’s Nannygate and Ariana Grande’s Donutgate among some of the famous “-gates” in the US recently.
Sano Kenjiro, the star of Logogate, had his submission for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games selected as the official logo for the much hyped-about event. Below’s Sano in happier times.
Some time later, the news reported that he is suspected to have plagiarised, stealing the design idea from Théâtre de Liège, a theatre in Belgium because they look too much alike. But he denied any accusation of copying.
When I heard about that, my first reaction was “unconscious plagiarism.” For the benefit of those who have never heard of this term, “unconscious plagiarism” was famously written about by Samuel Langhorne Clemens, more commonly known as Mark Twain, when he was thought to have stolen ideas from a Doctor Oliver Wendell Holmes in his book. What Twain didn’t realise was, he actually did “steal” Holmes’ work without realising. Twain was such a fan of Holmes’ poems, he read them again and again and again until it was so deeply entrenched in him, when the same words formed in his mind, he couldn’t tell if it was his original idea or if he read it somewhere else. So I gave Sano the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe he didn’t mean to copy.
The news decided to prove me wrong.
They showed the sample usage image he used for the submission and found that he stole the original image from a foreigner’s blog, which looks like this:
Sano admitted he used the image as it wasn’t supposed to be open to the public and only for private presentation use. But trouble happened when it was released to the public and he didn’t get the proper rights. Not so bad since he admitted his mistake. Then, like SMRT Ltd. (Feedback), they dug deeper and found his other work with an image take from another website.
The above is Sano’s design, and below shows the image of the pair of glasses which was taken from another site.
I still thought it wasn’t that bad. But then “JR (Feedback)” decided to play their trump card and give Sano the ultimatum. Someone went through all his works on his website and found that they are all copied. For example, in the image below, the image to the left is the design of a pamphlet in Kyoto using an uchiwa fan. On the right is Sano’s design, replacing the uchiwa with a sensu fan. This is carrying things a little too far.
Below is another of his copied ideas with the one to the left being Sano’s work, and the one to the right belonging to Josh Divine, a designer based in Colorado.
Of course there are a lot more, and with such a large-scale scandal comes a large-scale price. He has probably lost all respect in the creative industry and might never be hired to do any design work again. Also, with the issue of the new stadium with astronomical construction costs remaining unresolved, Sano’s scandal costing the country another 100 billion yen in re-design, re-printing of posters and materials, and re-marketing will not sit well with the taxpayers. Singaporeans’ favourite word.
The only good news that comes out of this is, the government is planning to openly source for a new logo. So if you’re interested, maybe you can try for it and become famous.
Just don’t copy. After a 100 billion yen loss in this poor Japanese economy, nobody will find your “unconscious plagiarism” shit funny.