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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