Vancouver recently unveiled their new logo, after retiring the previous decade-old design. The familiar old design features a bright green and blue colour palette, complete with a serif font. The new one reportedly cost $8,000 and uses Gotham, a san-serif font with darker blue and green colours.
It’s also very simplistic and uniform: it doesn’t use more than one font face and style, without obvious kerning (if any). Unfortunately, it misses the mark when it comes to representing the city.
The reveal that such a large sum of money had been paid towards such a basic re-branding job sparked frustration amongst locals. An open letter from Vancouver’s digital design community had the following to say: “This is not our Vancouver.”
Vancouver is filled with skilled artists and graphic designers, and this logo is a sad and inaccurate reflection of our city’s actual talent. Many local designers could’ve undoubtedly put more research and care into rebranding the city, for way less than $8,000.
They could be avoiding a common case of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” but the fact that the logo was finalized without consulting the citizens that it represents is quite sad. It feels like a small echo-chamber of people just gave up and settled on a new logo.
As of February 28, CBC reports that the city is responding to local feedback and has decided to put the new design on hold, though how much of the public’s critiques will be incorporated is unclear. There are plenty of concepts that should be implemented in the finalized logo.
Simple design doesn’t necessarily mean “bad design.” In fact, Vancouver is arguably known for its minimalist clean aesthetic, often seen downtown on local businesses’ branding, such as Oak + Fort or Aritzia (both founded in Vancouver). But something that takes five minutes to make on Adobe Illustrator is certainly not worth $8,000.
CKNW stated that the branding firm tried to create a design that is “easily recognizable to those whose first language isn’t English,” which is amazing. But the old design, with its signature floral image, was actually much more memorable.
Unlike the new logo, it provided more visual cues for onlookers than just typography. Incorporating abstract imagery isn’t essential, but if the logo relies on typography, we should make it more unique. A font-only design needs to play with more than just size to become iconic.
Like much of the internet, I was angry and frustrated that Vancouver had spent $8,000 on a visually disappointing logo. I speculated that I could very potentially not be part of the demographic that it was meant to appeal to.
Many graphic designers actively working within the city are typically younger (usually 20–30 years old), and Vancouver is more than just a sample size of young individuals. It’s legible, which means it’s easy to see from far away, making it ideal for city signs. Maybe it doesn’t need to be mind-blowingly beautiful to communicate to an audience, although it wouldn’t hurt if it was.
If you ask any designer, they would agree that the final product is often just the tip of the iceberg compared to how many decisions and ideations the product underwent. However, this logo still has much room for improvement.
In the future, if the city would be creating more design work, it would be nice to see them put more effort into their research and push for more input from locals. It is essential that creative decisions are not rushed, especially when the final result will represent a community. Hopefully, the rebranding will be better the second time around.