Leo Obstbaum | 26 October 1969 – 20 August 2009

Leo is everywhere you look, in every colour, every texture, in every little bit of Vancouver 2010 … Leo led and influenced the design of some of the most iconic pieces of the 2010 Winter Games. His spirit and daring inspiration has touched absolutely everything and because of him memories of the Games will live on for generations, a true enduring legacy of what went on here in Vancouver.

– VANOC CEO John Furlong

The 2010 Olympic torch is shown in this handout photo.


Design Director for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

John Furlong’s words ring true: Leo Obstbaum is everywhere you look these days: His west coast “Look of the Games” graphics are providing the background to the television coverage of the Olympics; his banners are flying proudly from the city’s bridges and ceremonial routes; huge expanses of hoardings bearing The Look of the Games cover cyclone fencing surrounding LiveCity and other Olympic and Cultural Olympiad venues. It’s on the tourist maps and a myriad other printed materials. It’s, well, ubiquitous.



Thankfully, it’s also beautiful.

Leo Obstbaums’s inspired visual identity program of flowing greens and blues (the palette includes colors named Mist, Winter Ocean, Moss and Coast Forest, among others) is the one outstanding success of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

These are arguably the most stylish games ever (I think they are), and we have Leo to thank for turning our beautiful city into an even more glamorous version of itself.

Born in Bueños Aires, Leo was raised in Barcelona but was destined to become a New Canadian success story.

He studied business communications and identity design at the Instituto de Comunicacion Integral (ICOMI) and, in 1990, founded a multidisciplinary design studio focusing on projects for fashion, music, and film.

Then came his life-changing honeymoon in Vancouver with his Vancouver-Island-raised wife, Monice.

I moved to Vancouver in December 2005 because I fell in love with the city when I first went there on my honeymoon with my Canadian wife. I went to the Vancouver 2010 website to find information on the Cultural Olympiad, and came across the job posting for the position of design director. I made a resume for the first time in my life, and sent it to the Organizing Committee. Two months later, a lifelong dream came true.

–  Leo Obstbaum in SHIFT | PEOPLE | LEO OBSTBAUM




According to his colleague, Mark Busse, Leo “saw endless possibilities in everything and everyone he encountered.” He would introduce himself at meetings by saying, “My name is Leo Obstbaum, and I am a dreamer.” His dream inspired his team at VANOC’s Brand and Creative Services to magnificent heights of design excellence.

Here are some more quotes from Mark’s tribute to Leo:

He instantly fell in love with the region, the country and its values, and as he said in his cover letter to Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee (VANOC) in 2006, ‘I wanted to give [my daughter Dakota] the chance to grow up in Canada.’

‘In his first VANOC interview,’ says Brand and Creative Services VP Ali Gardiner, ‘Leo’s passion and warmth were unmistakable. Beyond the undeniable experience and talent that he brought to the table, it was also clear that Leo brought an infectious enthusiasm and love of working with others that would make him the perfect fit within the Vancouver 2010 team and extended family.’

Against all odds, and beating all Canadian hopefuls, Leo’s lifelong dream of designing for an Olympic Games was coming true.

He took hundreds of pictures everywhere he went, from Saltspring Island to Beijing, and they were definitely the pictures of a born designer. From the wrapper of his sandwich to the pictogram on the bathroom door, to the title graphics of the airplane movie, he absorbed ideas — for the present or future — wherever he went.

In his first interview with VANOC, Leo described his mark of success in this endeavour. He said he would know our job was done if grandparents and grandchildren alike were wearing Vancouver 2010 T-shirts by the end of the Games. For those who knew Leo, this dream will undoubtedly come true, like so many of his wild and beautiful dreams.

Mark Busse

Leo Obstbaum died suddenly in his home of natural causes in the early hours of Friday, 21 August 2009. He left behind his wife Monice and daughter Dakota. He was 40 years old.

The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada awarded Leo with a posthumous Professional Membership into the GDC. They also renamed the Judges’ Award for Graphex 2010 to the “Leo Obstbaum Award of Excellence”.

Leo Obstbaum was well on his way to becoming an international design superstar. Thanks to the marvellous team he assembled, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games are a knockout in the annals of graphic arts history.

Photo from: Swiss Legacy




click on the screenshots below for more:

Examples of Leo’s work from his website >

Leo’s interview in Shift >

Leo and the Olympic mascots >

Mark Busse’s eloquent tribute to his friend >

Video tributes >




Dreams don’t come with road maps.

– Leo Obstbaum


Robert L. Peters


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