What do you think of the Canada 150 logo?

Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations now have an official logo—and, of course, it comes with controversy. Vive le Canada.

Canada 150 logo. (Department of Canadian Heritage)

Canada 150 logo. (Department of Canadian Heritage)

Perhaps the process for arriving at an official logo for the 150th anniversary of this country’s founding is best understood as a tribute, even if unintentional, to the agonized-over selection of our official flag.

The great logo debate began a year and a half ago, when it emerged that the Department of Heritage had been testing five potential logos with focus groups. That drew an expression of concern from the president of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers, and inspired a series of submissions to a website created to display alternative designs. A public relations company offered to put up $25,000 as a prize for the winning design.

The government then announced a contest for post-secondary students, with a $5,000 prize going to the design selected by a jury. But that relatively paltry prize sparked calls for a boycott from young designers who felt their efforts would be effectively exploited.

Now comes a logo designed by Ariana Cuvin, a global business and digital art student at the University of Waterloo. And the reviews are unenthusiastic.

Designers consulted by the Ottawa Citizen offered varying takes on Cuvin’s design, one calling it “student work,” another saying it “meets the minimum criteria of a usable logo.” The stylized maple leaf, which Cuvin pulled together in a matter of days, is officially described as “a series of diamonds arranged in the shape of a maple leaf, [which] evokes a sense of pride, unity and celebration and reflects Canada as a diverse nation with a rich past and a promising future.”

The Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), the national certification body for graphic and communication designers, is more generally unimpressed with the process. “As a professional designer, I am deeply disheartened that our government would choose to exploit students in this manner, despite our efforts to educate the government that contests like these are unethical, detrimental to students, to professional graphic designers, and to Canada in general,” GDC president Adrian Jean said in an open letter. “The GDC had hoped that Canada’s 150 anniversary, and the corresponding visual identity, would be the cause of great pride and celebration. Unfortunately, it represents a glaring reminder of this government’s significant lack of understanding of the value of design, the creative process and the design profession.”

For her part, Cuvin told the Citizen she does not feel exploited.

This is possibly perfect. That the logo for Canada’s 150th anniversary should be the subject of concern about governance, process, inclusion, appreciation and expression is an entirely fitting tribute to the ever-unfinished work of Canada. And, inevitably, there will be a half-dozen other controversies concerning the sesquicentennial celebrations between now and 2017. But as long as Canada is up for debate, as perhaps it always should be, that is probably to be expected. Vive le Canada. Vive les plaintes.

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What do you think of the Canada 150 logo?

  1. Banal. This is the best we can come up with?

  2. OMG there isn’t enough pink. Are you sure it has every colour of the rainbow? Did we offend someone?

  3. “As a professional designer, I am deeply disheartened that our government would choose to exploit students in this manner, despite our efforts to educate the government that contests like these are unethical, detrimental to students, to professional graphic designers, and to Canada in general,”

    Awww… now you’ve got Harper all puffed up with pride…

  4. I am not a graphic Designer but I very definitely am a proud Canadian. I like the logo, the symbolism and that our government both rewarded a promising student and controlled expenditures at the same time. If the opinion of a Canadian without his shorts in a knot counts, I suggest Adriana has been well rewarded with both financial compensation and recognition that will look awesome on her resume. Well done and thank you Adrian.

    As for the anonymous, snooty bunch quoted by the Citizen – SHAME! Attitudes of entitlement are unbecoming.

  5. Okay: 13 diamonds representing 10 provinces and 3 territories all formed into a maple leaf. Not a bad idea, but the final execution is tooooooo pastel. Are the judges wearing 1950’s bobby sox and poodle skirts. C’mon Canada. Where’s the colour palette to match strong, proud, free?????

  6. Too much rainbow for my taste. Looks like something that Optimus Prime would wear on a visit to a Toronto pride parade.

  7. The bumbling that surrounded the process is a trademark of Harper’s stewardship over Canada from Parliament Shrill. With all due respect to the art student, the resulting design is well-intentioned but lacks professionalism and practicality. Frankly, it’s embarrassing.
    I was in charge of the corporate design programs for three major companies during my career — this design fails each of a long list of criteria for good corporate design. Mercifully, the 150th anniversary will come and go fairly quickly, and Harper much sooner, hopefully.

  8. Compared to the 1967 Centennial logo, this one is fine. It looks like all the complainers forgot how awful the 67 logo and songs were.

  9. The logo is being incorrectly reported as costing $5000. That is not true. The government has revealed $45,000 in spending to date, and there are likely other expenses in administering the program. $45,000 is an outlandishly high figure for a student quality logo, but a sufficient amount for a logo designed by some of Canada’ best and brightest designers. Even worse, the contest yielded approximately 300 entries, which means the average cost per logo was $150, an offensively low amount, even for student work. The government now owns the copyright to each of those 300 logos, the student designers lose all rights (including moral rights) of their work. 299 students could have been volunteering in any number of charities or other activities for the public good. Instead over 99% of the hours invested will be discarded from the economy and society. Everyone loses.

    This is an embarrassment to the design industry and design students of Canada. This logo isn’t even kerned properly, among a myriad of other technical and communication issues I would expect my own design students would address. Our best and brightest designers and design students are a valued resource around the world. It is shameful that our own federal government treats Canadian design and designers as a commodity, while companies like Facebook & Google come up north to meet our students and hire them before they even graduate. In contrast, our federal government thinks so little of our designers that there was not a single professional designer or design educators on the selection jury.

    I mean no disrespect to the “global business and digital art” student who designed this, but at the same time, designing the 150th anniversary logo for Canada is a job for designers who can handle national scrutiny.

    Some have gone on the record to say they “like” it. “Like” isn’t good enough. This was an opportunity to create something meaningful and memorable that would resonate with all Canadians. As a nation, we should be celebrating and promoting our excellence whenever the opportunity presents itself. This was one such opportunity, for international attention and investment in our design industry. Is a logo that has been decried as mediocre by professional designers, design educators, and design students across the country really a sound investment?

  10. Awful. Neither meaningful nor beautiful, and certainly not memorable.
    Surprised though that it is not all Con Blue they obviously tried so hard to avoid Liberal Red.

  11. What the heck…
    How are these unethical, detrimental or any thing else along these lines?

    I can assume these lines are people pissed off thinking they could design better because they have paid some dues to an association.

    Concept is good, appealing to the eyes, and at least it didn’t cost 2 million to consultants, review boards and steering committees.

    Good job Ariana Cuvin, congratulations !!

  12. First off, congratulations Ariana! Your logo is fantastic; very recognizable as Canadian, pleasing to the eye, and simple enough to be easily reproduced in monotone.

    I can’t believe the outcry over this “situation”. Quite frankly the protectivist attitudes permeating this highly subjective field disgust me.

    These self-entitled career graphic designers need to get over themselves.
    Just because your elitist little club has self designated a ‘proper’ system of graphic development (centered around your own needs, of course) doesn’t mean it’s the only way to skin a cat, nor does it mean that other people’s designs are ‘improper’.

    If private companies want to pay a grossly inflated price tag to hire a ‘professional’ design firm with a ‘good’ reputation that’s fine and dandy. As a tax payer however, I’m very happy public dollars were not wasted in this way.

    Isn’t it great the government invited ALL Canadians to be part of this national logo design instead of further inflating the egos of a single exclusionary circle jerk?

    Congrats again Ariana, you’re the one this article should be about.

  13. Bleah. What a boring, uninspired sad excuse for a logo. Does everything look like it had to be designed and painted by a chimpanzee nowadays?

    Reminiscent of the centennial logo? It looks nothing like it, except for a bunch of different colours. And maybe that stuff was new, fresh, and psychedelic then; now it just looks .. hackneyed and cliched.

    Doesn’t make me think of unity, either. It looks like a shattered mess.

    Diversity? Just because it’s supposed to suggest the modern sacred cow, doesn’t make it automatically good.

    What would I have designed? This:

    Iconic Canadian animals doing iconic (positive) Canadian things (a hockey player, a mountie in red serge and Stetson, a lumberjack, etc) interspersed with symbols representing the French, English, Irish, Scots, Welsh, French, Indians, Inuit and Metis, perhaps bordered by the provincial flowers.

    Say what you want, at least you’d have to put some effort into it to draw it.

  14. Love the logo…a lot like 1967 Expo! Love the concept of letting a student design it. The naysayers sound a mite pretentious. I don’t hear people complaining about student science fairs, not to mention competitive, government-sponsored scholarships. How is this exploitive and those aren’t? As for the banality of the work….how about we purchase some more splatter art or a canvas with a red line down the centre for a few million dollars and hang it in one of our national galleries? Just so long as it is done by a deceased alcoholic and taxpayers shell out multi-millions, then we can all lend our approval because it ensures that Canada is aspiring to be a centre of culture wannabe instead of the country that is forever known as having a crack-mayor as head of its largest city.

  15. I like the stylized feather right out in front.

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