Snooty Canadian Designers Are Pissed Off At Their Government

Snooty Canadian Designers Are Pissed Off at Their Government

Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday in 2017 and all sorts of preparations are being made for the big shebang. But the sesquicentennial has been sullied by news that the government is being real cheap when it comes to the graphic design.

Snooty Canadian Designers Are Pissed Off at Their Government

In-house designs which were tested with audiences in 2013

Back in 2013, the Canadian government first incurred the wrath of designers by releasing five god-awful logos supposedly created for focus group testing. These logos, which looked more like jerseys for future hockey teams, were roundly criticised by the country's top designers, many of whom banded together to propose their own branding for the 150th birthday celebration.

Snooty Canadian Designers Are Pissed Off at Their Government

Alternate ideas by Michael L'Ecuyer & Ruth Ann Pearce and Megan Hunt

Then insult was added to injury when the government announced it was actually holding a student contest to find the real logo. You see, many professional designers don't believe in the idea of working on spec -- the Graphic Designers of Canada crafted a vicious petition calling the contest "exploitative". Design student Ariana Cuvin won the contest and the $US3500 prize, but her technicolour take on the maple leaf has its share of detractors, including Stuart Ash, who designed the maple leaf seen on Canada's flag. Maybe because it looks like something made for the Winter Olympics?

Snooty Canadian Designers Are Pissed Off at Their Government

Cuvin's logo on the Canada 150 website. The design was criticised by Ash as "confusing"

Now the government is in trouble again after typographers discovered Canada is also skimping on the type design for its big 150. Instead of commissioning a custom typeface, Canada has opted to use a free font. The Canadian designer Raymond Larabie had created a free typeface called Mesmerize which includes all the characters for the country's many Aboriginal languages. At the request of the government, he adapted it for free, and renamed it Canada 150.

Snooty Canadian Designers Are Pissed Off at Their Government

Larabie's Canada 150 includes characters for languages like Inuktitut

Of course, you might argue that Canada is simply being fiscally responsible. Free fonts and logo contests save money that might be better spent providing citizens with benefits like universal healthcare. Maybe, however, it has to do with the fact that the country apparently has about $US38,500 in the budget for graphic design. The GDC's Adrian Jean says it's not too late to put that $US38,500 to work by hiring a professional designer and typographer to create something from scratch: "It breaks my patriotic heart, it really does," he told The Star. "I love this country, and I hate what's being done with respect to its birthday."

Snooty Canadian Designers Are Pissed Off at Their Government

The Canada 125 logo by Peter Gough

If Canadians really want to be outraged, they should compare that figure to what designer Peter Gough was paid for his 125th anniversary logo and branding (wow, Canadians sure do like to celebrate all these milestones; can't wait for the 155th anniversary logo). Gough issued a statement with this #humblebrag to the GDC last year:

In 1992 I created the logo for Canada's 125th birthday. The company I worked for at time billed in excess of $100,000 [Canadian, about $70,000 USD] for that logo and as well picked up the lucrative PR work for the Atlantic region as well as production and media work in addition.

So yeah, I see the problems with the crowdsourcing, but I also imagine that there might be some outrage if the government shelled out that kind of cash today?

[The Star]



    Ummm Victoria spent a hell of a lot more for the V triangle design. Millions!

      Thats not really true is it? That would seem like highly excessive and wasteful spending...

        $20 million in fact


    I dont see a problem with a fiscally responsible government.

    The work that student did is FAR better than that 125 year logo. These guys should pull their heads out of their arses, Ariana Cuvin has done a far better job of that logo than most likely 80% of them could ever have done from over $100,000. I do this for a living and I've seen way more than my fair share of absolute shit produced by high paid artists, a significant portion of my job is spent fixing the mistakes of other artists.

      You claim to do this for a living, yet you say "artists" instead of "Designers". OK then.

        It's interchangeable. It's not like a military rank you know.

      Absolutely agree. I also do this for living and actually couldn't fathom how that amount of money is spent to achieve something so average. I also don't see much value in a logo being viewed as separate from the rest of the branding

      I'm sorry but the winning design is fundamentally flawed, in that it depicts a four-lobe maple leaf, when a real maple leaf and every iconic Canadian maple leaf has only three. It would probably work OK if it was all one colour but, as is, it fails.

      OTOH, the 125 year design cleverly creates celebrating people from the traditional design, without changing it very much. It is way more clever and more in tune with Canadians celebrating their country than the new one, which you wouldn't even get "Canada" from if it wasn't spelled out below the icon/device/thingie. It looks far too corporate, like a brochure cover for a new apartment complex or a diversified investment fund or something, where the 125 year one is playful and more inviting.

      Choosing a Ray Larabie font is a stroke of genius. He is an absolute legend of typography and deserving of recognition like this.

        I don't think it does depict a four lobed leaf. There are 9 apexes, similar to the leaf on the flag.

    The more I look at the student logo, the less it makes sense and the more I dislike it.

    But then again, for some stupid reason, the beaver logo is my favourite, why is it wearing a hat though?

      Is that what it is? i was wavering between a polar bear or a seal. I couldn't work out what the hump at the back was, but it makes sense as a tail.

      I think it's a party hat, because it's a celebration!

      the beaver is wearing a party hat ;)

    15oh ;(

    this issue is right up there with, um, terrorism, poverty, domestic violence isn't it?

    the student design is fine: perhaps a little artistic kerning on the text. it's bright, it's celebratory, it's clear what it is about. what more should a logo do than that? it's a logo for goodness sake that runs for a year. perhaps the designers are more worried that computers and software have now leveled the playing field a bit too much and threatened their incomes. marketing is about great ideas not endless budgets. the 80's are over guys.

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