13 Inspiring Rio Olympics and Paralympics Art and Design Projects

Art and design related to the 2016 Rio Olympics has been as wonderful as the Games themselves – from smooth animation to giant murals, explorable maps to quirky Google Doodles.

Everyone is hyped over the Olympics. Most just sit there, smiling, watching other people run real marathons on TV. But artists and designers’ celebrations offer something a little more impressive – and here are our favourites.

To kick off – we love this sweeping, beautifully flowing homage to what really matters: incredible athletic talents set to be on show at Rio 2016. It is wonderfully stylish and, I must admit, ridiculously moving.

We love how the athletes seamlessly transform into one another and, before you know it, the Olympic rings form… how did I not see that coming? Find out more about the project.

You might not be lucky enough to actually be in Rio. But, fear not, you can experience the glories of the city, plus the controversy of the Games, in this handy online map. Glancing at its gorgeous, bright simplicity, you might think the map’s an idealised version of a the Games. 

But, no: among the flying parrots and giant palm trees, you can play games such as "hunt the fugitive" and "excavate the body parts". Scroll and click to discover some morbid facts too. This is a well-designed map with grit.

Find out more.

Brazilian Designer Leo Natsume’s proposed Google doodles are really special – with a clever transformation from Olympic athletes playing their sport into the Google logo. The animations and illustrations were also created as concepts for mobile games, as part of Rio 2016. Watch more of the animations and find out more about the project.

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Titled We’re The Superhumans, the 2016 Channel 4 Paralympics ad is in a similar vein to 2012’s Meet The Superhumans – which succeeded in being more memorable than anything from the Olympics that preceded it (along with the cheeky Thanks for Warm Up poster campaign). 

Where Meet The Superhumans focussed on the athletes, 2016’s We’re The Superhumans also includes scenes of everyday life – including showing how people have found different solutions to tasks that they’re not able to do in the same way that able-bodied people can, such as a woman holding a child or flying a plane with their feet. 

Watch the full video.

Find out more about the ad.  

Using the metaphor of a heart – a great choice, demonstrating both the strain and fitness required to compete and the excitement and passion in watching – Gordon Reid and Saatchi & Saatchi created a campaign of five images, created using 3D rendered illustrations and photography. Watch the campaign video and find out more about the campaign.

Counter Editions have collected the Olympians among artists – including Tracey Emin and David Shrigley, who produced our favourites among the posters. David’s clever poster that mixes the Olympic torch, ice cream and a thumbs-up is a bright, happy success. 

Image: by David Shrigley

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With Tracey’s quieter, more reflective sketch (shown below), Collective Edition’s posters have all emotions covered.

Image: by Tracey Emin

Depicting five indigenous faces from five continents – based on the Olympics Rings – this massive, 3000-square-metre mural is a fitting homage by artists Eduardo Kobra to the competition, celebrating diversity, talent and how we are all connected.

This epic animation for the BBC by Passion Animation Studios has to be included.

Ferocious jungle animals morph into athletes in this minute-and-a-half of dramatic interpretation of muscularity, strength and power. Talk about building excitement.

Watch the video.

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Charringo from Mexico City has produced this rather dark take on Water Polo as his interpretation of the sport.

Although the octopus' eyes are truly menacing, the colour and vibrancy of the illustration is captivating and striking. 

We like the extra touch of the octopus wearing a swimming cap – it almost went unnoticed.

This playful take on a triathlon by Aaron Martinez from Mexico uses pastel and happy colours, giving a slightly more cheeky tone to the Drawlympics campaign.

Irish-based illustrator and graphic designer Tomasz Usky featured in a four-page spread for The New York Times - Special Selection Rio2016.

His work illustrates the techniques used by four Olympians – Simone Biles, Christian Taylor, Derek Drouin, Ryan Lochte.

This wasn’t his first time though. Tomasz work spans a variety of sports, including TG4 Sport, NCAA Hoops, Wimbeldon 2012and the UEFA Euro 2016.

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Visual designer of Greek origin Charis Tsevis was commissioned by Citi to create three mosaic murals for the Rio 2016 USA House. 

He collaborated with Publicis One in NYC to decorate the roof gardens of the building home to Team USA Olympic athletes during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The mosaics pay tribute to the city of Rio public art, Portuguese and Brazilian ceramic art and modern street art of the US.