A better logo for Canada

Canada’s Federal Government has released proposed designs for a new logo to mark the country’s 150th anniversary. Outraged by the quality of those put forward, a team of Canadian creatives have launched a website showcasing some alternatives…

Canada’s Federal Government has released proposed designs for a new logo to mark the country’s 150th anniversary. Outraged by the quality of those put forward, a team of Canadian creatives have launched a website showcasing some alternatives…

On December 3, news organisation CBC published an article showcasing five logos (top) in development to mark the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. Developed by Canadian Heritage, the designs had been tested on focus groups in Montreal, Ontario and British Columbia.

The article claimed they had received mixed reviews: one was considered to look too much like a hockey puck, another was too aggressive, two were too bland and one reminded focus groups of Disneyland.

There was no clear winner, according to the report – but this is hardly surprising considering the standard of designs put forward. One Canadian designer said, “it looks like someone threw a hockey puck and a maple leaf into an automatic logo generator”.

The designs have been met with an understandably negative response from Canada’s design community. When designer and illustrator Ibraheem Youssef heard about it, he decided to take action and contacted 15 Canadian designers and art directors, inviting them to create something better.

In a week and a half, Youssef and his fellow creatives put together a website, the150logo.ca, showcasing 17 alternative designs. Many of the proposals still feature red and white and maple leaves but are considerably more imaginative than those being tested.

“Good design is about experimentation – sketching and thinking. You don’t see that in any of the logos put forward [by the government], and it reflects badly on Canada and how the world sees us,” says Youssef.

Since launching the site three days ago, Youssef says it has had more than 300,000 hits. He’s also been contacted by hundreds of Canadian designers who have submitted designs and is releasing a second wave of logos on the site on Monday.

“The response to this has been overwhelming,” says Youssef. “I’ve had emails from people all around Canada whom I’ve never met saying they want to be a part of it. Of course, I can’t show all of their designs – we have to select the best – but the spirit overall has been amazing,” he says.

Youssef isn’t expecting the government to opt for one of his alternative suggestions, but he is hoping the site will provoke a public debate around the subject and perhaps encourage the government to consult with creative on future design projects. “The point is to create a dialogue about what is acceptable – the number of hits we’ve had so far proves that Canadians care about good design, and there’s a wealth of domestic talent out there,” he adds.

RGD, Canada’s graphic design association, is also opposing the proposals but has taken a more formal route, drawing up a letter of complaint that designers can sign and send to local MPs to voice their concerns. “It’s nice that they’re taking the official route, but we’re designers – our voice is visual, and the power of social media is much more immediate than sending a letter,” he says.

Designs above by Andrew Passes, Melissa Agostino, John Mutch, Andy Slater, Dominic Ayre and Ibraheem Youssef.

  • I’m not entirely sure the response is any better than the original proposal. The aesthetic quality is definitely an improvement but as an exercise simply reinforces the public perception of brand identity design being logo-centric, surely the designers behind these new ideas and website know this and should be more explicit in their suggestions? Even if this was just within descriptions that accompany each idea it would help to open up the debate.

  • Ed

    Something building on Bruce Mau Design’s excellent ‘know Canada’ campaign would be a great idea.


  • Such a wasted opportunity, especially when the olympic team branding was so successful ( http://benhulse.com/Canadian-Olympic-Team-Rebrand )

    Maybe there’s hope yet :)

  • Richard, if you visit http://www.the150logo.ca you’ll see an in-depth description from each Designer providing a rationale that led to them coming up with their respective logos.

  • The new marks are no doubt an improvement on the original ones, but I still feel like they’re missing a trick here – check out my version http://bit.ly/IJlz3F

  • Have to agree with Ed on this one, too

  • Dominic Ayre

    Matt and Ed, I think your comments are bang on. BMD’s Know Canada ID was really smart and the Olympic Team brand is very stately but the idea of celebrating this country includes a bigger conversation than just repurposing the flag. It is an immediate reaction to look at the maple leaf due to the ownership we have over it and its international recognition as a symbol but Canada, as the UK, is representative of a huge mix of heritages and cultures. We even have a province who’s population casts off the flag and threatens separation because the government doesn’t recognize the differences in their culture. It is a project full of possibilities and pitfalls. Wether it comes back to the maple leaf or not it is important that the conversation involves professional designers and http://www.the150logo.ca is really showing that we want to be at the table.

  • newman

    keep going.

  • Harmien

    Whichever design is chosen, will Canadians really care that a little 150 logo will ‘grace’ all manner of items, goods and bureaucratic documents in and around 2017? Not really.
    And aside from a little maple leaf, will (those in) foreign countries care or even recognise what it stands for, Not really.
    Other than affecting the designing population, this is much ado about very little.

  • Chris

    I’ve the bottom logo!

  • Wow. There is nothing good about the government ones. All the ones from Youssef’s group are good. I like the fireworks one the best.

  • Jay Rutherford

    When I check the link I get an error. What’s up?

    The whole thing is of course embarrassing for Canada. Who actually did the original versions? — not “the government”, whoever that might be (in-house designers somewhere in Ottawa?). There should have been a competition, with every step paid properly, as competitions in general should be run. The GDC, Canada’s graphic design association (not the RGD, as mentioned above) has competition guidelines which should be followed.

    A Canadian observing from far away Germany.

  • Jean

    I work for the GoC and unfortunately, I know now that the people approving the logos are not designers at all and are not close to being creative and understand the communications aspect to logos!
    I wasn’t even aware that this was being designed! I wish they would’ve called out all GoC’s designers for this! Some of them previously work in the private sectors and are up to speed with the trends! This is sad…

  • Liz

    The exercise is flawed from the get-go and the results are forgettable. Asking students to provide spec work? Who’s idea was that? This contest and its medium-grade result clearly demonstrates that the Canadian Government gives ZERO value to Canadians who do design–their processes, their labour, their training.

    This logo represents Canada 150 years into it. Shamey shame shame.