The man behind the Olympic torch

  • The Olympic Torch is a powerful symbol of any Olympic Games, and former Oxford Brookes student Jay Osgerby is the man behind the design for 2012.

    Along with fellow designer Edward Barber, Jay set up the eponymous studio Barber Osgerby in 1996 working on architectural and industrial design projects.

    Jay Osgerby with the Olympic Torch

    Jay Osgerby with the Olympic Torch

    Inspired in Oxford

    Jay grew up in Oxfordshire and, with a passion for making things ever since he was a child, he decided to come to Oxford Polytechnic in 1988 to study Foundation Art.

    "When I was at school I knew I wanted to do something in the creative industries," Jay explains. "I wasn't sure if that was sculpture, architecture, fine art or 3-D design but through studying here at Foundation I came to appreciate that I was particularly interested in making - so creating 3-D objects."

    Jay and Edward's business is split into a furniture and industrial design studio called Barber Osgerby and architecture company the Universal Design Studio.

    They have worked with clients such as Damien Hirst, Stella McCartney and Paul Smith as well as working with institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Library and the Museum of London.

    "I knew I loved making things and I saw an opportunity to do something which was making for production," he explains. "I just always saw it as a really fascinating and exciting thing to do."

    His time at Brookes provided the foundations for everything that came after. He then went onto study at Ravensbourne College of Design and Royal College of Art in London.

    That education laid the groundwork for his successful career: "My university education taught me the basic skills of what I do today: communicating, drawing, making, talking about ideas and working collaboratively."

    Winning the 'Olympics of Design'

    In 2010, he won the commission to design the Olympic torch for the London 2012 Olympics in the face of competition from more than 1,000 companies.

    "We won the Olympics of design," he says. "To be in a position of representing Great Britain in design terms is just fantastic."

    I've always loved the Olympics. I remember, when it was announced in 2005 that London would host the games, saying: 'we're going to do the torch'.

    Jay Osgerby

    The torch will become a familiar sight as it tours the UK when 8,000 runners participate in a 70-day nationwide relay.

    "I am really, really proud and I hope it lives up to everyone's expectations and the relay's a tremendous success and it heralds the beginnings of the Games in a really positive way."

    As soon as he heard that London won the bid, Jay was determined to take on the dream commission.

    "I've always loved the Olympics. I remember, when it was announced in 2005 that London would host the games, saying: 'we're going to do the torch'."

    After the pitch, they faced a nervy wait until hearing the news: "After the presentation they said 'we'll let you know in two weeks'. When they came back to tell us, they did the X-Factor on us - a kind of slow let down - 'it was a really tough competition', 'you're the youngest guys in the competition', 'we're looking for a safe pair of hands'. At this point I was almost crying I was so gutted. Then they eventually said, 'I've just come here to tell you that you're designing the Olympic torch' and we literally all jumped in the air."

    They then spent six months perfecting their designs for the Olympic Torch itself and are also refining a design for the Paralympics.