History of Olympic Pictograms overcoming the language barrier

Pictograms for the 1968 Mexico Olympics, designed by Lance Wyman (image: Virtual Olympic Games Museum)

 

Of all the instances in which graphic communication is necessary to transcend language barriers, the Olympic Games are, if not the most important, probably the most visible. We take the little icons of swimmers and sprinters as a given aspect of Olympic design, but the pictograms were a mid-20th Century invention—first employed, in fact, the last time London hosted the games, in 1948 (some pictographic gestures were made at the 1936 Berlin games, though their mark on international memory has been permitted to fade because of their association with Third Reich ideology).

The 1948 London pictograms were not a system of communication so much as a series of illustrations depicting each of the competitive sports, as well as the arts competition, which existed from 1912 to 1952 and included architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. In 1964, the Tokyo games took pictogram design to the next level by creating a complete system of typography, colors and symbols that would be applied across Olympic communications platforms.

In a paper on the history of Olympic design and national history, Jilly Traganou, an associate professor at The New School, writes:

Since Japan had not adopted the principles of the International Traffic Signs, introduced at the United Nations Geneva conference in 1949 and accepted by most European countries, the Olympics were regarded by graphic designers as an opportunity to establish a more unified and internationally legible symbolic language across the country. It was along these lines, searching for universally understood visual languages, that pictograms (ekotoba, in Japanese, a word used prior to the design of pictograms) were for the first time designed for the Olympic Games, embodying at the same time [founder of the International Olympic Committee] Baron deCoubertinʼs aspirations of universalism.

 

Keep reading: Smithsonian – The History of the Olympic Pictograms: How Designers Hurdled the Language Barrier

The Millennium Development Goals – wiping out disease, famine, and poverty on Earth

By Bill Gates

People sometimes say that the United Nations doesn’t do enough to solve the big problems of the world. I’ve never really agreed with that point of view, but if anyone is looking for evidence of the UN’s impact, a good place to start is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

They were agreed to in 2000 by all 193 UN member countries and 23 international organizations. Creating that kind of consensus is—by itself—a significant achievement.

The great thing about the MDGs is that they provide clear targets and indicators of progress in key areas, including:

  • Ending poverty and hunger
  • Universal education
  • Gender equality
  • Child and maternal health
  • Combatting HIV/AIDS
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Global development

Although a number of countries won’t be able to achieve all of the goals by the target date of 2015, the MDGs have been helpful in getting everyone to really think about their part, the progress they’re making, and what they can learn from others. The goals have focused political attention in developing countries, encouraged UN groups to work together, and inspired wealthy and fast-growing donor countries to coordinate their efforts.

In February, the World Bank announced that the MDG goal of cutting extreme poverty by half had been achieved five years early. A week later, UNICEF and the World Health Organization announced that the goal of halving the number of people without access to safer drinking water was also reached five years early.
Source: The Gates Notes – A Report Card on Helping the World’s Poor

 

 

Continue reading The Millennium Development Goals – wiping out disease, famine, and poverty on Earth

Latest United Nations conference on sustainability takes a new approach – action not treaties

Government leaders, bankers and corporate CEOs took advantage of the gathering of 50,000 people at Rio+20 — the largest meeting in U.N. history — to announce new partnerships, programs and investments.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the $513 billion in commitments “a significant legacy of this conference — billions of dollars’ worth of actions and investments that will have the power to transform lives across the globe.”

To some of those present, the conference presented a new model, a global gathering to inspire government and corporate leaders and others to move ahead and build momentum — rather than waiting for world leaders to reach consensus on a treaty to address climate change or other environmental matters.

“We cannot be boxed in by the orthodoxies of the past,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a speech to delegates of more than 190 nations. “We need fresh, agile, action-oriented partnerships that can produce results year after year after year.”

 

More on this storyU.N. sustainability summit ends with $513 billion in pledges

Continue reading Latest United Nations conference on sustainability takes a new approach – action not treaties

Africa is experiencing the biggest falls in child mortality ever seen

Child mortality in Africa has plummeted, belying the continent’s “hopeless” reputation.

The chart below shows the change over the most recent five years in the number of deaths of children under five per 1,000 live births.

Sixteen of the 20 have seen falls, but the more impressive finding is the size of the decline in 12: more than the 4.4% annual fall needed for the world to achieve its millennium development goal of cutting by two-thirds the child-mortality rate between 1990 and 2015.

The top performers, Senegal and Rwanda, now have rates the same as India. It took India 25 years to reduce its rate from around 120 child deaths per 1,000 births to 72 now. It took Rwanda and Senegal only about five years.

Michael Clemens of the Centre for Global Development, a think-tank in Washington, DC, calls this “the biggest, best story in development”.

 

via Economist Daily Chart

"Everything is connected" – Ban Ki-moon urges the developed world to innovate sustainably

Speaking at Davos this year:

The Secretary General of the UN has told industrial leaders they have a social and moral duty to innovate, in the drive to turn around the global financial crisis.

Ban Ki-moon said that many countries were calling for the economy to be revitalised, social inequality to be addressed and the planet to be saved.

Mr Ban said that sustainable development would be a priority for the UN in addressing these issues.

via BBC

An earlier speech on sustainable development in September of 2011:

 

“Everything is connected” – Ban Ki-moon urges the developed world to innovate sustainably

Speaking at Davos this year:

The Secretary General of the UN has told industrial leaders they have a social and moral duty to innovate, in the drive to turn around the global financial crisis.

Ban Ki-moon said that many countries were calling for the economy to be revitalised, social inequality to be addressed and the planet to be saved.

Mr Ban said that sustainable development would be a priority for the UN in addressing these issues.

via BBC

An earlier speech on sustainable development in September of 2011: