Who is Asao Tokolo? | the designer behind Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Emblem


Tokyo’s 2020 Olumpic and Paralympic emblems designed by Asao Tokolo

On Monday this week it was announced that a committee of judges, after hearing feedback from the public, had decided on 1 out of 4 shortlisted designs. The winning design, which we previously knew as option A, was revealed to be designed by Asao Tokolo, a 47-year old artist based in Tokyo. The winning “harmonized chequered emblem” references Japan’s ichimatsu moyo, a checkered pattern that became popular in the Edo period. It was created in a deep indigo blue, a traditionally Japanese color that expresses elegance and sophistication.


It was composed of 3 varieties of rectangular shapes, representing diversity throughout the Olympic games. In an animated gif above (created by a twitter user whose spent quite a bit of time analyzing the logo) one can see how the Olympic and Paralympic versions inform each other.

Previously unknown, Tokolo has now been thrust into the spotlight. So with hopes that a fate similar to that of the previous designer does not befall Tokolo, we took a look the work of the artist whose logo will be appearing everywhere throughout the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.


In 2008 and then again in 2015 Tokolo collaborated with BAO BAO ISSEY MIYAKE to apply his patterns to handbags. Pictured above is the collab from 2015

Tokolo, by trade, is not a graphic designer. He’s a pattern-maker, obsessed with joining. His work revolves around the theme of “tsunageru,” meaning to connect. And connect it does. By using basic tools like a ruler and compass Tokolo creates individual parts that he then pieces together, creating patterns that can be repeated infinitely. The Tokolo Patterns, as they’ve been coined, merges art and math with Japan’s rich history of adopting patterns that arrived from the west via the Spice Route.

In terms of application, Tokolo’s work has similarly infinite possibilities. He’s created refrigerator magnets, patterns for Issey Miyake bags as well 3-dimensional facades for commercial and educational facilities. He’s even designed a carpet for a movie theater.


In 2008 Tokolo created a pattern for the facade of Ftown Building in Sendai created by Atelier Hitoshi Abe (photos by Daici Ano)

After graduating from Tokyo Zokei University, for 5 years Tokolo apprenticed under sculptor and artist Shin Egashira. He’s held teaching positions at the prestigious Musashino Arts University, as well as at his alma mater. He’s participated in several domestic exhibitions over the years, most recently the Measuring exhibition at 21_21 Design Sight and the Materializing exhibition at Tokyo University of the Arts. Next month he’ll be participating in a joint-exhibition at Aomori Contemporary Art Center.


tokolo-Kogakuin University

In 2012 Tokolo designed the façade pattern for Kogakuin University’s 125th Anniversary Education Center (architect: Chiba Manabu Architects)



a carpet design created by Tokolo in 2007 for United Cinemas in Maebashi



In 2005 Tokolo created some of the key visuals used in Toyota’s pavilion at the Aichi Expo



  1. “Previously unknown, Tokoro has now been thrust into the spotlight.”
    Tokolo or Tokoro, would be nice to make up your mind 🙂

  2. Kenichi Tatsuno

    May 3, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Asao Tokoro is my cousin, living in Tokyo, Japan.
    The only child to his father, Masaaki Tokoro and mother, Haruko Tokoro (Tatsuno).
    Father was an architect, president of M. Tokoro Architect & Associates, Tokyo.
    Some people already know Asao from his Tokolo Pattern Magnets.
    Above all, he’s a nice guy. Ken T

  3. I’ve known of his works before from the various Architectural facade projects such as F-town and Pachinko Tiger in collaboration with Hitoshi Abe, as well as his magnets. His works, upon first glance is refined yet relatively unassuming. Its when we start seeing the iterations and various transformations of his (seemingly)simple yet rigorous geometry system, do we truly see his ingenuity and the power of the work. Above all, seeing the various combinations and transformation is usually very fun. The Tokyo olympic project has been riddled with controversy, but I am so happy to see Tokolo design coming to represent the identity of Japan.

Comments are closed.

© 2024 Spoon & Tamago

Up ↑

Design by Bento Graphics