Visual Analysis by Marc Douezi @HMKW for Design & Social Research conducted by Prof.Dr Jan-Henning Raff


1.Preattentive Perception

A survey on 21 subjects was establish using the tachistoscope in order to evaluate, categorise and understand how the elements of the poster are perceived. Using the Tachistoscope, the partcipants saw a 25ms flash of the sample graphic design and reported what they saw.

What did they saw ??

We sorted the elements that were perceived in 4 categories.


81 % as the colors perceived is red (57 %) and orange
( 24 % ) all the other colours represent 14 % of the observations.

80% of the subjects perceived colors, but which ones ?

57 % red

24% orange

7% green

7% blue

Objects -

71 % identified the Olympic Games logo , People tend to know the logo rather than describing the colours and shapes.

21 % identified circles 50 % of the observations described a shape and 9,5% identified as a human . 28% of the observation recognised a text and 19% could read Barcelona.

The text observations are associated with position and colours - People are drawn to recognition and assumptions of shapes and words.

Background -

50% of the people that saw the background considered it as white.

Format -

19 % assumed it was a poster for the Olympic games .

And then what ? Does that mean something ?

Our first observation is on the chromaticism, 81 % of the subjects noticed colors. Red is noticed by (57 %) and orange (24 %) all the other colours represent 14 % of the observations. The position and the representation of the red color in an horizontal shape, and the polychromatism of the poster by contrast with the white background, are key to their strong visual perception. The colours on the image are perceived by 50% of the subjects as part of several geometrical shapes. The anthropomorphic values of the shapes are noticed by 9,5%. The identification of the human body is entrusted to the receiver decoding action, using his imagination.

During the study a strong symbol is spotted by the subjects. Over 70% of them identified the Olympic Games logo and 20% were only able to observe circles. The visual perception of the pictogram is linked with our memory. The Olympism universality represented by the six  olympic colours on a white background is a widely exposed logo that represents a strong symbol and easy identification. The subjects are likely to first recognise the shapes, logos that are familiar with them using their memory and making assumptions rather than describing the colours and shapes. The use of memory and assumptions is perceived in the recognition of the typeface. 28% of the observation recognised a text and 19% were able to read Barcelona.
The text observations are associated with position and colours. People are drawn to recognition and assumptions of shapes and words. This observations are directly linked to the identification of the environment.
Over 50% of the subjects perceived the background as white. Finally, an assumption of the format was made. A ratio of 2:10 assumed that it was a poster for the olympic games, 90% of the people that made this assumption recognised the olympic logo identity.

In conclusion, the subjects are less interested in the background and positions than about making assumptions on shapes and logos. The chromaticism of the images is perceived as contrast rather than color identification. The use of memory in our perception of shapes and colours plays a key role. The identification process is driven by our souvenir and imaginary. Shapes are generally associated with universal pictograms, in order to validate our observation using a common language.

We used our results in order to create a simulation on what may be seen.

How does the poster looks like now ?

We can predict how the image will be perceived using the gestalt principles.

The simulation enhanced the clear figure ground of the poster. We identify shapes on a white background. The size of the shape, this disposition in space and the contrast white background, allows us to see a figure ground.

Is there a good gestalt ?

We can speculate on the shape that is represented. Some of the shapes represented can be perceived as unique primitives blocks. The circles and brushes will be identified as separate. Regarding the circles, the similarity in shape and size will make them be perceived as a group. A clear closure gestalt principle on the circles can be identified. Every line representing the logo will be perceived as a circle. The fact that every circle is interlaces with each other means that we will read one unit, meaning a proximity gestalt principle.

2.Emotional Effect and Expression

How do people feel about it  ?

Using the semantic differential experiment we were able to draw the emotional expression of the graphic image.

semantic diferential

Two main focus were studied. The first being the human figure and the olympic logo. Several adjectives representing different levels of the emotional expression were used. The pure visible is represented by the perception of the colours on the image by the usage of : colourful/pale. This is associated with friendly/dangerous. The sympathetic of the human figure is expressed by : static/animated and locked/free. Finally the embodied is illustrated by intended/accidental and honored/shamed. This last pairing pretends to reference the emotions and pride of the olympic games as an event.


The results showed a a clear ambiguity on the emotional perception of the colours. After looking at the image for 5 seconds, people feel neutral in relation to the chromaticism of the graphic, but clearly perceive it as friendly. The olympic logo is clearly perceived as an intended and honoured event. People feel proud of the Olympic Games. There is a clear feeling of happiness from the achievement of something. The subjects are left feeling proud and with a genuine feeling of happiness after looking at the image. The abstract figure even if being an anthropomorphic representation, is perceived as a neutral emotion by the subjects.


What about the composition of the image ?


The portrait format of the composition suggest a vertical stacking of the elements.  The elements on this composition are stacked one on top of each other on a vertical format.


The composition is balanced by the vertical arrangement of the elements and shapes. The symmetrical layout is contributing to enhance the feeling of balance in the composition.


Color Contrast:

In order to understand how is the color contrast in the composition we used the colour summarizer to produce descriptive colour statistics of the image.

Light dark contrast with the background.

The shapes of the poster are in contrast with the white background.

The human shape and the logo have a strong contrast of hue, blue red and yellow. We can then cluster the colors of the image in several groups: white, grey, red, yellow and blue.

Generative principles

The poster has a main compositional axis. The vertical arrangement enhanced the main compositional axis.

Meaning in composition

The spatial arrangement of the poster is driven by a vertical stacking of elements. On top of it, the human figure is represented as being the most relevant and on top of the olympic games. The man is the protagonist of the olympic games, in this case the Mediterranean athlete. The poster is a manifestation of the human, central protagonist of the games. The name of the city is represented in between the logo and the human figure. The city hosts the games and is in between the events and the sportsman. Finally in the lower part of the poster the olympic logo holds everything together with the silhouette of the city. It feels like the human figure is overlooking the olympic games that are happening in this city, the human is on top of the rest.

a. Study of an Evolution.

A study of the evolution over time of the pairing relationships between Logos and City Brand in the Summer Olympics posters.

We started by gathering together all the Summer olympic posters from 1896 until 2020. We looked at the construction, meaning how the poster is arranged in space and the elements that are displayed.

In order to run this observation, we established the elements that are present in the posters and then we highlighted them with a color code.

Here are the results:

If we only look at the elements that are displayed, we can identify a change. The first posters are based on a symbol of the city for example Eiffel tower for paris or the Big Ben for London. Starting from Tokyo/ Mexico posters we see a change of paradigm. The symbol representing the city is now a logo, a graphic representation of the values and culture. It's worth to mention that until 1960 the summer Olympic poster were used as a publicity tool, giving practical information about the event. Every country that was hosting that global event during that time, used the symbols of the city as a brand. That symbol is a Monument. If we look at the etymology of the word, it comes from the Greek mnemosynon and the Latin moneo, monere, which means 'to remind', 'to advise' or 'to warn', suggesting a monument allows us to see the past thus helping us visualize what is to come in the future. The word "monumental" is often used in reference to something of extraordinary size and power.
The poster is structured in a symbol of the city + practical information about the event (where /when is the event happening ). Until the introduction of the olympic logo, the posters were only showcasing the city brand.

After the 60', the city brand is encapsulated in a logo. We then start to see a new relationship between the olympic logo with the city brand. In this new era, the poster is part of a marketing strategy, influenced by the arrise of new technologies and techniques.

How is then the construction of the posters and the relationship between the elements ?

We observe and cluster the several constructions used in the summer olympics posters over the years. The same color code as for the previous observation, is being used for the construction analysis.

In this selection of posters we have a portrait composition. The poster is composed by a central symbol of the city and a text in the bottom of it to give meaning to the image. This symbol of the city is the main compositional element of the poster, and is guiding us to the information about the event.

This second set of posters, have the same main compositional element, but arranged differently. Here the symbol of the city is in between a "headline " announcing the event and the info in the bottom. We have a main vertical compositional axis in the composition. There is no Olympic logo, only some text mentioning it, the only brand represented is the city.

The introduction of new techniques and media, change the construction of the posters. A new logo, the Olympic meant a new relationship between the elements, specially around the city brand. That brand is represented by several types of symbols like monuments, flags, shape of the country or icons of ancient mythology.
Here we have an integration of both symbols in a single logo, including also text. The Olympic brand and the symbols/icons of the city are the 2 main components in the composition. Is some cases the Olympic logo is overlapping the symbol of the city, as a mark of higher importance.

The introduction of a graphic representation as part of the brand of the city, meant a disruption in the arrangement and compositions. Here we have the brand of the city represented as a shape, integrating as add-ons the Olympic logo and the city name. The city brand is integrating the Olympic brand, they work together as a single element.

Finally in some cases there is no integration of the Olympic logo in the brand of the city. Meaning that the elements are stacked vertically, having the city brand on top, as a main element. The city is then represented as bigger, more important than the Olympics.

After looking at the several compositions, we simulated posters of Barcelona for each construction category. The differences might be sometimes very subtle ;). The first image  is the simulation and the second one the original poster.

The new text is giving meaning to the imagery of the city.

Symbols of the city are stacked between the information of the event.

City symbols: (Monument of Barcelona La Sagrada Familia) is used and integrated with the Olympic logo.

Spanish symbols are used are part of the brand of the city

Full integration of the Olympic logo with the shape of the country as in the Australian Poster.

The human figure is integrating the Olympic logo and City name.

We can also add, that in terms of semiotics the representation of the city brand changes from being an icon to a symbol. In one hand the icons represented are an index for where it happens, for example the Eiffel tower = the event is happening in Paris. In the other hand the symbols stands for a general concept, a representation of a culture and not the place is happening. In our poster the city brand condensed in the shape of a human figure jumping is a symbol of it. This image represents that semiotic evolution.

Let's try this : Look at the images below taken from Olympic posters and try to guess the city/country hosting that edition of the games.

Little hint : one is an icon of the city and the other is a representation of the city brand with a symbol.

This excursion establishes the different relationships between the City brand and the Olympic brand. This snapshot is part of the analysis process whiteboard used to create and cluster the information.

We can then conclude that over the times, the brand of the city is being represented by several and different symbols. Starting from symbols to showcase the city itself in the shape of monuments until now where the citys/countries are using logos to create a brand. Two main choices and relationships appear then, either the logo is stacked on top of the Olympic branding logo or is combined creating a single piece.

4.What if ?

An excursion exercise on the image was established.

What if the elements of the image were redistributed in space? What if we use a landscape orientation format ?

How is the new composition then ?


The landscape format of the composition  is not suggesting a vertical stacking of the elements.  The elements on this new composition follow a card layout, a grid made of 2 columns.


The symmetry is balanced by the disposition and size of the elements. Having a 2 columns arrangement creates a symmetry axis in the middle of the canvas.

Generative principles

The poster does not have a main compositional axis anymore. Instead the arrangement creates double horizontal arrangement. On this new composition, the human figure is represented as not being the most relevant element. The figure is next to the olympic games logo, both are now equal in size and meaning.
The man is now equal to the city, both main protagonist of the olympic games.
The new composition is changing the relationship between the elements. We now read human equal city equals olympic games. The lower part of the poster holds the elements in the top. The representation of the city holds and enhance that the events is in Barcelona.

By moving the elements and changing the orientation of the poster, we are able the communicate another message. This excursion shows the importance of the composition and the disposition of the elements they talk to us. Certain dispositions are more suitable for certain messages than others.In this case the vertical arrangement was suitable for the message they wanted to communicate.

Another excursion idea based on the old compositions


Let’s try to understand the process of meaning with signs via semiosis.

How is the poster communicating to us ?

Let’s break it down:

Let’s start by looking at the background. It is there, and is not doing much rather than being a support to enhance the elements. By contrast, the olympic logo in the poster is an index that includes an icon. It's holding the figure and is placed on top of the city skyline. The Barcelona text complements the olympic logo. If we only see the text we are not able to understand the context, but when we look at both we understand, this is about the olympic games in the city of Barcelona.


The shape on top of the poster is completed by the olympic logo. The shape stand for human jumping by similarity.

The text and the dark shape in the bottom of the poster is there to anchor the meaning of the logo and human figure above. It is resolving the questions: what is it about? and where is it ?
The olympic logo acts as an anchorage for the meaning of the human shape. The logo and the text are a sort of label to anchor the meaning of the human shape jumping. If the olympic logo and text would not appear in the poster, we would only see an anthropomorphic shape in motion, and could not understand what the poster is about.


The study of the aesthetics will explore the reasons why we find pleasure in certain things and how. The study of aesthetic theory will help us understand our own aesthetics and the one of the poster.

But how do we study that ?

The study of aesthetics is often very subjective, answering questions like why do we like that ? or why not ? and it is often hard to know.
The graphic design is placed in the middle of the mood-board and an array of images based on the topic of the poster. Using this technique we can visually illustrate the style and find similar graphic designs. The mood board is composed with architectural elements from Antoni Gaudi, art from Pablo Picasso ; Joan Miro ; Salvador Dali and Miquel Barceló. Some furniture and graphic design from Javier Mariscal were also added. This Catalan Artist created  Olympic mascot of that year, named Cobi.

Once the elements were placed we started to cluster them and sort them into categories, then describing the visual elements with words.

We used a two axis graphic correlating the concepts of beauty and pleasure to guide us through the study.
In the axis of beauty we will measure if it's a dependant beauty or a free beauty. Meaning by that if I like it cause it touches on my imagination or it is because I use it. For the other axis, the pleasure , we will sort it by pleasure in distinction and pleasure in usefulness. Meaning if I experience pleasure on been seen like that or  on how I conform.

How does it look then ?

And then what ? What can we find out about it ?

Usually olympic posters are something serious and distinctive cause they are representing a country culture. In this case we found out that the style makes it distinctive but furthermore makes us ask ourself: what is that ? This aspects make that poster highly distinctive from previous olympic branding. We also discover that the elements are free beauty meaning that they spark our imagination once we are looking at them. In a way the style makes us dream and imagine. The style makes us evoque and touch on our past experiences and emotions.

We can now make a board of our own aesthetic preferences in order to discover and to see how the graphic design connects to ours.

The study of my aesthetics showed a clear set of preferences, we can cluster them in four categories.


By Monolithic we understand the objets that have a continuity in surfaces, it feels like we want to grab them. In a way these objects feel like they were sculpted. The monolithic appareance is often also definied as powerfull, as something superior to everyone.

Order in Chaos

Another of my preferred aesthetics is the so called order in the chaos. That means, that fine equilibrium that turns an apparent chaos into something appealing. This clumsiness that feels right and is pleasing to see.

Easy to see

Following that idea I tend to prefer complex objects but make them easy to see, complex and simple at the same time. That means complicated objects or visuals but that are structured, sorted and we don’t feel lost.


The last prefered aesthetihc is the weird, surreal , that feels and screams like it does not belong there but I’m here. The object selected is a beton piece ususally used for construction, but is now used as a coffee table in the living room. That sort of aesthetic make you wonder and dream, and ask yourself what is this ?

Then there is a clear relation between my preferred aesthetics and the graphic design poster. We discovered common preferences like the idea of chaos and the weird. The poster is then connected with my taste and personal preferred aesthetics.

6. Socio Cultural Background

For what purpose it was designed ?

The poster and elements that are contained were designed as the image of the Barcelona summer Olympics in 1992. It was designed to be used in several formats and supports in order to communicate information about the Olympic games. This being the official Olympic poster, it was designed to promote a specific edition and later on served as an image and symbol of that edition.

Who designed this for whom ?

After Barcelona had been nominated the host city for the XXVth Olympiad of the modern era, a decision was taken to create a new logo. On 1 December 1987, the official Barcelona’92 logo contest winner was Josep Maria Trias, whose design had been chosen by a jury. Instead of geometric shapes that were linear and technological, Trias’s proposal was a graphic image based on a free-hand drawing that evoked the Mediterranean character. The designer, designed that for the Olympic Spanish committee in charge of the image and communication of the summer olympics in that city.

Some of the proposals of the design contest.

What technique was used ?

The techniques used were models, sketches and notes. Most of the sketches were done on paper using pen or paint. The logo was designed in black shades and then the colors were applied. Concerning the medium used, a poster by definition, relies on being able to create multiple productions.This would be impossible without printing technology. There are numerous different printing methods. In general, early official posters were lithographs and more recent official posters are offset lithographs.The process involves copying the original image onto another surface (plate or cylinder), applying ink and then running it through a printing press, which transfers it to a sheet of paper. The introduction of the computer in the creation process for original designs is the most recent evolution in poster art.

To which style does this refer ?

The poster does not refer to a specifics style, instead it is a combination of the cultural legacy of the region: During many years several artist developed unique styles like Modernisme by Gaudi or Surrealism with Dali as well as modern art with Joan Miró. The graphic design here refers to a combination of all of them in one. We can find traces of surrealism, organic shapes as in the modernist buildings by Gaudi and the color palettes from Joan Miró. The style of the silhouette in the poster is alluding the friendly style from Javier Mariscal. Josep Maria Trias contained all the styles in the human figure of the poster.

Reference style moodboard

What is the socio-cultural precondition for this ?

After the restoration of democracy in the late 1970s, the changes in everyday Spanish life were as radical as the political transformation. In the beginning of the 80’ right after that restoration, Barcelona was immersed in several transformational infrastructure changes. The city doubled over the last 10 years and the services and infrastructures were not enough. The regional government of Catalunya developed an urban regeneration plan that pre-dated the bid to host the Olympic Games in 1992. The implementation of the plan became a central goal in hosting the Games. The Games was a catalyst for urban renewal. Renewal took place in a wider context of Spain’s entry to the European Community (1986) and the introduction of the European Union Single Market in 1992. These developments facilitated Barcelona’s role in connecting the markets of northern Europe to the Iberian peninsula, enabling the city to become an attractive location for inward investment, especially by those companies engaged in the expanding European services sector. The use of urban design to restructure the city and express local culture was intensified during the Olympics by three specific architectural strategies. First, the selective conservation of historic buildings in the city centre. Second, the development of flagship architecture, offering Spanish and international architects the chance to make an imprint on the city. During the preparation for the Games, culture was given a further vernacular role to galvanize local support, reflected in the promotion of a ‘Cultural Olympics’ in which Barcelona’s Olympic Committee committed itself to carry out a city-wide cultural programme.

Development plan of the Villa Olimpica

What is the discourse ?

An Olympic poster communicates information about the Olympic Games. Each edition of the Games results in the creation of a substantial number of posters for advertising or communication purposes. Posters may feature the Olympic torch, mascots or pictograms, specific Olympic sports, competition sites, the Olympic village, cultural festivals or may seek to recruit volunteer helpers. Very few events can be considered as “global events”as this one. The Olympic Games are an outstanding case of a phenomenon which has become more and more important to our society: sport and spectacle.


How is our poster interacting in  the wild ?

Here an example of a short story featuring the graphic design.

The taxi dropped her off at the Olympic press office, the casa de prensa. The building was splayed over three floors, the spaces were generous, warm and the walls were covered by a fascinating poster of the olympics. She took the main staircase up to a room on the second floor where she’d been instructed to pick up her accreditation. 
"Buenos dias , what is your name" said the volunteer in a decisive voice. She answered with a big smile on her face and an excited attitude. The person then greeted her with a bright smile, ticked her name off on the list  and handed her a press card, a programme of venues and events, and an information pack telling her all the needed information.
“What about that poster ? “ She asked pointing up to the walls, curious to know more about that abstract looking poster of the Olympics.
"The poster is representing a human figure in motion jumping over the city with the colours of Catalonia Spain and the Mediterranean” - She then looked up again to discover it with new eyes.

After Coffee, Lunch and a short stroll around the city, she finally started to believe it. She was ready to attend the event she had waited for: the summer olympics 92’.

We can't observe  our poster interacting in the wild, so we decided to look at the interaction with posters in cities. The chosen poster hung on a light post on the sidewalk of a harbour near Barcelona.

During our observation, we discovered a different interaction pattern with : the posters that we know and we have seen before Vs new posters. All our observations are condensed in a short poem.

Let's start with our interaction with a new poster:

-A fresh feeling-

I walk
and walk
I talk
and talk
I stop
and stand
I look ahead
clear insight
A poster.
I squeeze my eyes
I concentrate
what does it say ?
I step ahead
I see it now
the message is clear
the Olympics are here
I walk ahead
I see it again
and again
I don't know why
I can't stand by
I can't ignore
the message evoked

What happens then if we know the poster ?

-Part of a wave-

A sunny day
in quarantine
nowhere to go
nothing to see
I finish work
quite delayed
the sun is low
no one in sight
I walk outside
I'm just by my door
The world is there
for me to explore
People are sliding
stuck in their mind
I take a step
and walk right outside
in this mass
grey on grey
wrinkles on foreheads
and eyes not to pry
away from their screens
I walk among them
like a grey wave
technology consumes us
then suddenly
I set my sight
I falter
I step
I take a step
almost forgotten
no honor place
I see the rings
their promise inside
this lone portray
of olympic pride
I start to think
of dreams long
forgotten of
aspirations and stride.
I feel a fire
deep inside
but do I?
or is this
another poster
An empty
of what is
to be denied.

Let's summarize !

During this study we discovered that the  Olympic logo, the figure and the red colors are spotted  first when looking at the image. The iconography of the Olympic logo helps us recognise it. On top of that the construction of that poster  use an abstract representation of the city brand together with the Olympic brand, but not integrating them. The aesthetics of it encapsulates several cultural references from the country, as well as from that time. The relationship that the poster is establishing between the city brand and the Olympic logo is common in summer Olympic poster design. A strong and main city brand identity and a secondary Olympic logo are completing the meaning. Until when will we use it ? Maybe it's time to disrupt it and start a new path !