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Canada 150 Logo Revealed to Subdued Response from Graphic Designers

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 01, 2015

Canada 150 logoAfter a controversial logo contest bitterly criticized by national design organizations, the Canadian government revealed its chosen 150 anniversary logo. The logo, a maple leaf created from a mosaic of multi-colored diamonds, is the creation of University of Waterloo design student Ariana Cuvin. According to the Department of Canadian Heritage website, Cuvin designed the logo to represent Canada’s 13 provinces, with colors and placement chosen to reflect the country’s history and diversity. The logo is reminiscent of the hugely popular centennial logo, created by designer Stuart Ash.

Response to the logo design has been muted; the Ottawa Citizen reported that most designers declined to critique the logo. There is a general consensus that the logo is an improvement over the original proposed designs, an assemblage of tired, overused imagery created in 2013 by Canada Heritage in-house designers and tested in focus groups for the astronomical fee of $40,000 CN. That earlier attempt drew the criticism of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD), who drafted a letter to complain that “Design is a process involving research, creativity, strategy and client participation. Without going through this process… any designs that are developed will fall short of what is possible.”

Unfortunately Canada Heritage’s response to the proposed designs was the announcement of the logo design contest, targeted to Canadian design students. As we reported in January, Canadian design organizations were outraged, and launched a “My Time Has Value” campaign to point out the hypocrisy of asking for spec work from students. While the campaign did not persuade Canada Heritage from continuing with the logo contest, the small selection of logo submissions – only 300 total – indicates that the protest resonated with students.

Cuvin herself has little to say about the controversy, other than she knew what she was agreeing to, and didn’t feel exploited. However, remarks she made to the Toronto Star — “It does kind of suck for a professional, this big project being given to a student… There’s a client, they chose what they liked, and it happened to be my design.” — indicate that she may not fully comprehend the concerns voiced by protestors. The design organizations are using the outcome as an opportunity to educate. Both RGD and the Graphic Designers of Canada have issued an open letters inviting designers to writer their local representatives about the value of design.

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