London 2012 Olympics branding film causes epileptic seizures

One thing to keep in mind when introducing any kind of flashing on the Web is the possibility of it causing seizures in people who have photosensitive epilepsy. It’s one of the basics of Web accessibility, and the fact that flashing or strobing can trigger epileptic seizures is widely known even among people who do not work in the field of accessibility.

I was first made aware of it back in the early nineties, when I used to do a bit of DJing. I loved using the strobes, but after a girl came up to the DJ booth one night to tell me she’d had an epileptic seizure caused by strobing lights I stopped using them. Strobes are cool, but not when you know they may trigger a seizure in someone on the dance floor.

But it seems that knowledge of the connection between strobing or flashing lights and epilepsy attacks is not as widespread as I thought. Recently a movie clip that was published on the official London 2012 Olympic Games website (Warning! Contains colour combinations that are painful to look at. Yes, really.) contained an animation that caused seizures in at least thirty people. And those are just the people who contacted the charity Epilepsy Action about it.

The same film, created to promote the London 2012 brand, was shown on television, where it also triggered seizures. This is a bit more surprising than the film being published on the website, since there are machine-testable regulations for television footage that make sure it does not trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy. The London 2012 ad was apparently not tested, and consequently did not comply with the Ofcom safety guidelines, as mentioned by BBC News in Epilepsy fears over 2012 footage.

The film has since been re-edited to remove the seizure-triggering segment. Accessibility issues aside, the logo for the London 2012 Olympic Games has been talked about in plenty of forums. I’ll settle for saying that I’ve seen many logos that are better, but Jack Pickard has a bit more to say about it in London Logo No Go. Hint – he is not overly enthusiastic about it ;-).

Posted on June 29, 2007 in Accessibility, Graphic Design


  1. Heh heh, Jack Pickard is far from the only one not to be enthusiastic about the London 2012 (or is that ‘ZOR’?) logo!

    There are far nicer logos from past Olympics I think, I wrote an overview of these recently Historical overview of Olympic logos

    Roger, I hope you’re managing to cope with your new role as Father!

  2. June 29, 2007 by docflo

    Everybody is bashing that poor logo… I really like it. That website you linked to looks pretty cool and the bold color combinations work great. 2012 - Rave Olympics!

  3. June 29, 2007 by Ryan

    I posted the logo and the movie on my company blog only minutes after the logo was revealed to the public. In the blog entry I jokingly warned anyone prone to seizures to stay well clear. I didn’t realize it could really cause seizures!

    They should have employed me :)

  4. June 29, 2007 by Darrell

    I think the logo causes headaches with everyone, let alone seizures!

  5. Are the people who made the video the same people who made the logo? Because if so, I’m not surprised. They really lack good ideas.

  6. Ouch! To the ire of some of the design professionals the succession of blog posts and news items about the far-off olympics is rapidly turning into a fiasco to some extent. Are they enjoying poking fun, or wish it were over? I don’t wish anyone any disrespect, but the community of London just keeps taking their lumps over this one.

  7. Yeah.. I personally do not know any people in London who like the logo, it’s totally crapped :(

  8. My eyes hurt more and more each time I look at that site. And now I just read Jack Pickard’s writeup describing the logo as “Lisa Simpson performing a sex act” and now I can never look at it the same again. Yes, look closely and you’ll see it.

    Of any organization, you’d think the Olympics would be sensitive to this after being sued in 2000 for an inaccessible web site -

  9. I have an irrational fear of getting a seizure. Ever since I heard about that episode of Pokemon. Now anything that flashes, especially from red to blue, scares the crap out of me.

  10. The part I don’t get is what’s wrong with the standard rings of the normal Olympic logo.

    It would have saved them getting all these hassle.

    Whoever had a seizure, I wish they would sue, to prevent that logo from being displayed anywhere.

  11. Hmm.. I’m not so sure about all this about the logo. It’s quite some time until the games begin, and fashion will change. What looks bad today might look good tomorrow.

    Making a video that causes epileptic seizures is just stupid though.

  12. Well, it’s not the easiest thing to create a fresh, appearing and outstanding logo for the Olympics, but this one is a total failure including the website.

  13. July 2, 2007 by BDoré

    I watched the original version of the video. It’s funny this thing happened because the flash player on the page had closed captioning available. The webpage had a link for the text transcription of the video. This indicates some concern with accessibility.

    I guess the person who manages the website is not the same who produced the video…maybe he should do that.


  14. I was prepared for the worst (thanks for the warning) but even then I jumped in my seat. Holy crap!

  15. I think the logo for London2012 is really ugly, but that is slightly off topic.

    I think it was stupid for them not to put the video through the usual tests, before showing it on TV.

  16. July 3, 2007 by Erik Töyrä

    The logo and website is horrible. Slightly off topic now. The only reason for it to look that way is if it’s meant to create some pr buzz around London OS 2012 before the acual logo/profile is released. I sure hope it is that way… otherwise I hope the persons responsible at Wolff Olins will be run out of Britain. :)

  17. I am lead to believe the logo is a new form of CAPTCHA.

  18. How was possible someone to come up with such a logo work?!… I am a [logo] designer and I think that the fact that London will be represented, during the Olympics, by this strange work is regrettable…

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