This summer, Tokyo was set to welcome the world’s best athletes for the 2020 Olympic Games. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak that disrupted life around the world, the International Olympic Committee announced in March that the event would be postponed until next year.
While the coronavirus pandemic has seen events in their traditional format cancelled the world over, for Olympic hopefuls – who spend their lifetime training to hit their peak in time for the Games – it was a momentous decision.
To document how women athletes are coping with, and responding to, the change of events, Butter Studio has created a celebratory project uncovering the challenges of staying motivated during a potentially life-changing period.
The project was prompted by the upheaval of day-to-day life experienced by athletes, namely disruptions to training, travel and mental preparation. The team at Butter Studio became curious as to what “top tier female athletes are thinking, feeling and doing during this moment,” explains Cari Sekendur, the studio’s principal and creative director. “How are they adjusting? What are they experiencing? More specifically, how is lockdown and the postponement of the Olympics impacting the daily lives of top tier female athletes? How can we document this through graphic design?”
Titled She’s Going to Tokyo, the project spotlights conversations with ten international athletes from different sports. The interviews take a closer look at the everyday rituals and routines that the athletes have adopted to keep themselves physically and emotionally engaged, and how they’re adapting to a summer far from the track, field, pool or gym.
The conversations are brought to life through a mixed-media aesthetic, blending photography, typography, video and 3D motion graphics to create an irreverent visual language that channels the uniqueness of each athlete.
While the Olympics have long had a close history with graphic design, the team at Butter Studio wanted to use design to amplify the experiences of women in sport in particular, as they found women’s sport – which still lacks brand investment at the best of times – to be the most vulnerable to budget cuts and loss of sponsorship.
The project takes a documentary style approach to sharing the athletes stories, ranging from Canadian skateboarder Annie Guglia’s adapted at-home training regime to Somalian taekwondo athlete Munirah Abdiwahid’s reflections on her sport. The visuals are being shared across Butter Studio’s social media throughout the two weeks when the Olympic Games were meant to take place, from July 24 until August 9.
“The hope is that this project will shed light on how the strongest, most disciplined women out there are living right now, so that perhaps the rest of us can learn some lessons from them,” says Sekendur. “How can they reflect our shared humanity and propensity towards joy and hope even during the most difficult times?”