Design In The News: City of Vancouver Logo Design


Certified RGDs offer their thoughts on a graphic design-related issue in the Canadian media. This week, the City of Vancouver's logo made headlines.



CTV News Vancouver published an article outlining the ongoing City of Vancouver logo controversy. Nearly one year after a new logo was created and criticized by the public, Vancouver has decided to put the project on the backboard indefinitely. Read the full article here.



Matthew Clark RGD, Founder & Creative Director, Subplot Design Inc.

Paddy Harrington RGD, Founder, Frontier

Robin Honey RGD, Chief Creative Officer, ARCANE

Barry Quinn, Chief Design Officer at DDB North America



"If there is not the perceived worth, shelve the project"

Matthew Clark RGD

“Every designer in Vancouver watched this one closely. And shared the same horror when the new logo was “leaked” to the public and drew criticism from every angle. Fingers were pointed and the designers who worked on this logo – whom we know well – tried to stay out of the fray. But the question was the same from everyone: how did this happen?


An existing logo and identity system was in place for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The symbol was all over the city, from wayfinding to trash containers. Etched into signage, embossed out of structures. And throughout the web and print collateral. With this level of presence, ANY change to the logo – big or small – would be expensive. Massive fees to roll out the new mark.


So what budget and time was put toward this project? Reportedly, $8,000 and a few months.


True a logo is not the be-all-and-end-all of an identity. Sometimes it is quite a small part. But the average cost of a logomark for this level of client for us at Subplot would be $30,000 - $40,000. And the entire project from research to strategy, consultation, design and the implementation across an identity system would be in the neighbourhood of $200,000. Compared to similar projects in large, creative cities like Melbourne and Montreal, this is a very cost-effective project.


The question is the same for any client: Is this project WORTH $200,000, plus all the costs to manufacure all the elements, signage, etc?


If so – then the city will enjoy a robust process that includes public consultation, workshops, amazing creative concepts and a breakthrough system that befits the world-class city that Vancouver is. It will be something that the public loves and that uniquely tells the story of Vancouver. Our hopes, dreams and reality. And a mark that really stands for something. In this respect, it would be “worth it” in every way.


If there is not the perceived worth – then shelve the project. Don’t rush it with $8,000 and a default typeface that looks like a plainer sibling to the City of Chilliwack logo.The current logo and system is not fundamentally “broken” and nothing is on fire.


So breathe, and when the time is right, put aside the time, money and will to create a world-class identity for the City of Vancouver. We deserve it.”

"Good design should engender discussion and interpretation."
- Robin Honey RGD

"This case is an example of going a low-cost route and not using the right branding partner. $8,000 is not a sufficient budget for a branding or logo project. People don’t understand the amount of time it takes to do the research, including a competitive review through to a number of alternatives, and in my experience at least 50-60 hours of work to create concepts through to the Guidelines for Use.


This smacks of a logo design, rather than a branding initiative where strategy would have been undertaken and been evident in the outcome, either through the ability to defend the solution with reasoning, illustrate with a tag line or present a more differentiating design. Having said that, sometimes not-for-profit organizations can create a camel out of a perfectly good horse – making decisions that they feel will create less objections. Good design should engender discussion and interpretation. There is not much to interpret here." 


"Great cities like Vancouver won't have great identities unless the level of engagement changes."

- Barry Quinn RGD

"The moral of this story should have been that great cities deserve great design, and that you need to have the right vision, stakeholders, budget and teams in place to create an identity that is worthy of a city like Vancouver. But instead, I fear it will be, don’t spend money on design, and if you do, don’t do something contemporary.


The reality is few of the world's great brands were conceived through this type of process, would survive this kind of scrutiny or make it through the vetting process proposed. That’s a shame, because great cities like Vancouver deserve great identities, and that will never happen unless the level of engagement changes."


"Good identity design is the product of careful research and analysis of a client’s business and ambitions."

- Paddy Harrington RGD

"It should come as no surprise that the new visual identity for Vancouver has been put aside for the time being. It’s not uncommon for visual identity projects to be seen as more art than science and as great opportunities to engage students or friends or family to come up with a new design.


I should say that there are no illusions here. This is not rocket science. And if you’re a good designer you know that good ideas can come from anywhere. We should encourage and challenge young designers or friends or family to come up with great design solutions.


But we shouldn’t kid ourselves either. Good identity design is the product of careful research and analysis by trained professionals of a client’s business and ambitions. A good identity design must demonstrate an understanding of the technical considerations at play in digital and print contexts. It must understand what’s happening in every area of design and visual identity around the world to ensure that it fits in but also stands out and does not copy. On top of all this, it must be inspirational.


It’s easy to get excited about design. It’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities when trying to create or refresh a visual identity. That’s all good stuff. This is not about blame. What this is about is understanding the factors at play in the process of creating a lasting, technically sound, and inspirational visual identity as well as a more comprehensive communications approach. It’s not rocket science, but if these things are not fully considered, the ambitions for a new design project often fall disappointingly back to earth."