canada-150th-design-contest-winner-logo

After almost two years, internet dust-ups, petitions, caterwauling and general gnashing of teeth, Canada finally has a logo for its 150th birthday. Despite all the pearl-clutching, it ain’t half bad.

So You Think You Know LogosWe first started writing about this story back in January of 2014. If you want to read the entire episodic adventure, I’ll wait while you click on the link or, I can summarize as quickly as humanly possible.

The short version.

Lessee – Spring of 2013, the Canadian Feds decided they wanted a commemorative logo for Canada’s 150th birthday and had a series of lackluster concepts designed in-house. They then spent about forty grand of taxpayer money to host focus groups only to be told that yes, the designs were lackluster. Canadian graphic design organizations freaked out. 99designs had a ridiculous “community design contest” in which a whole bunch of designers from Indonesia, South East Asia and Europe pitched free concepts to an Australian company for an officially Canadian logo. Like so:
99designs canada 150 logoPeople freaked about that. Some designers launched a website that offered some alternatives. Graphic design orgs flipped over that. Finally, the government decided – a year and a half in and with the clock ticking – to open the process to a design contest and naturally, everyone lost their shit about that too. Petitions were launched, people yelled at each other on Twitter and dire predictions were the order of the day. There was even a Twitter hash tag campaign, #MyTimeHasValue, that circulated for a few weeks and still pops up periodically:
canada 150 logo hastag campaignFast forward to this week, when after all the fuss, the winning design was unveiled at an oddly low-key official ceremony a few days back. The winning designer, Ariana Mari Cuvin, a second year Global Business and Digital Arts student at the University of Waterloo picked up the title and $5000 (she also got herself an official biography page on the Government of Canada website.) The logo isn’t half bad:
canada 150th logo winning designer
Here’s the various permutations and variants:
canada 150th logo winnter variations
Ariana’s rationale behind the logo design (an essay that was part of the contest):

“The maple leaf is the nation’s most iconic symbol, and I used subtle design choices to represent Canada and its Confederation. The base of the leaf is made up of four diamonds (diamonds are celebratory gems), with nine more expanding outwards from them, meant to represent the four provinces that formed Confederation in 1867 eventually growing to the 13 provinces and territories. The repeated shape is meant to create a sense of unity and the 13 shapes forming the leaf represents our togetherness as a country. In the coloured iterations, the center four diamonds are similar in colour. From left to right, similar colours are used in a row to show the provinces and territories that joined Canada in the same year. The multi-coloured iteration gives a feeling of diversity while the red one shows pride and unity.”

Overall, I think we can agree that it’s much better than the original logos presented at the beginning of this fiasco:
canada 150th logo original versions
The logo is vaguely derivative of the famous & celebrated 1967 centennial logo (designed by Hamilton-born Stuart Ash while at the firm Cooper & Beatty Ltd) and pictured below left. Whether that’s a good thing or not is open to discussion:
canada centennial logo comparison
That aside, the winning logo is much better outcome than anyone could have predicted and despite my general opposition to design contests (I was always willing to give this one some wiggle room) hearty congrats to Ariana for creating an icon that (hopefully) will become part of Canada’s rich design heritage. Here’s another picture of her, the logo and some officials that I nicked off the government Twitter:
canada 150th winning logo ceremony
After the announcement was made, there was some mild grousing on the internet from Canadian graphic organizations & designer types, and whether that will die down or ramp up as the news gets out is anyone’s guess. I certainly hope any criticism is leveled at the procurement scheme, rather than Ariana personally or even the logo itself (which if we’re being honest, is decent.)

Takeaways

In the grand scheme of things, and overall, the Canada 150 logo project was an unmitigated disaster and only by by sheer happenstance did it turn out favorably. This fact remains too – logo design contests are still an awful idea, regardless of the outcome and even then, many don’t turn out like this. Design organizations and critics can also console themselves about the results of their efforts – while they didn’t stop the design contest entirely through their petitions, hashtags and whatnot, Ariana’s logo was picked out of only 300 entrants. In a country the size of Canada, and with the amount of hoopla surrounding the Government call for entries, that counts as a modest victory.

Update:

There’s a little bit more to the story it would seem. According to this report, the design rationale on the Government of Canada website is a load of reverse-engineered bafflegab:

“Ariana Cuvin, a second-year student in the University of Waterloo’s global business and digital arts program, said the diamonds and colours in her design are not representative of anything in particular. “I just wanted to go with something very simple,” she told the Citizen.”

Oh dear. There’s this too:

“Cuvin, who received $5,000 for her winning design, said she didn’t have much time to come up with it because she only learned of the contest two or three days before the submission deadline.”

Huh.