Letter to the Editor: RGD responds to Port Hope logo fiasco

In a letter to the Editor of the Toronto Star, RGD distinguishes the skills of professional graphic designers from communications, PR and marketing professionals and calls on Port Hope, and the public sector at large, to act responsibly when tenuring graphic design work.


The recent Port Hope logo fiasco, as discussed in an article by Carola Vyhnak dated February 20, highlights the need to identify the distinction and standards of a graphic design professional.

In today’s marketplace, strategy and design play an important role in the branding of a person, product, company, association or place. Branding initiatives do, however, require planning, a clearly defined process and an open dialogue with key stakeholders.

Nowadays technology allows for anyone to experiment with graphic design. Yet the expertise required to create an effective visual representation of an organization’s identity has long been an integral component of the skills taught to professional graphic designers, distinguishing them from communications, PR and marketing professionals.

The controversy caused by the proposed Port Hope logo reinforces the importance of creating a strong visual identity and highlights the value of working with a professional graphic designer. Registered Graphic Designers go through a stringent certification process involving a portfolio interview and written exam.

It has been suggested that the municipality hold a design competition to remedy the poor logo designs. As much as residents may love where they live, hosting a local contest is not an appropriate solution. Funds would be required to promote, market and host a competition, in addition to the costs of reviewing, selecting and implementing the result across all media.

The lessons to be learned are: the importance of utilizing a fair and informed process to identify the needs of the client; the need to mitigate risk and ensure quality by working with a qualified graphic design firm with documented, relevant experience; and the involvement of community stakeholder groups throughout the process. Doing so will result in an identity that provides real value to the community and its taxpayers. When a rebrand is successful the benefits far outweigh the costs – which are offset by increases in investment and tourism.

Clearly, as an Association, we need to do more to educate government and business on how to effectively and efficiently work with professional designers so that we can avoid situations like the one in Port Hope.

RGD has contacted the Municipality of Port Hope in the hopes that we can provide examples of other cities that have gone through the process of working with a graphic design firm to produce an effective identity and offer advice on how to select an appropriate firm.

Lionel Gadoury RGD
President, Association of Registered Graphic Designers

To read the Toronto Star's article, Chirpy logos rejected en masse by Port Hope, click here.