Graphic Design Professionals offer perspectives on logo redesign in advance of new Ontario logo unveiling
The Ontario Government will unveil a new logo today as part of its provincial budget. This is a complex issue with varying perspectives and opinions, so we asked 11 Certified RGD Members to weigh in on the $89,000 redesign budget and offer best practices for a logo redesign.
On a day when almost everyone will have an opinion on the new Ontario logo design, these senior Canadian graphic design professionals shed light on the corporate identity/logo design process and the context for the criticism RGD anticipates today.


Is it appropriate for the government to be spending money on rebranding at this time?

Lionel Gadoury RGDPrincipal, Director of Strategy & Creative Services at Context Creative: Given the cost-cutting mandate and reduction of services underway in Ontario, the debate about spending priorities is understandable. However communications and design must evolve to remain relevant and effective. With so much change underway, now may be as appropriate a time as ever for an update. 
Udo Schliemann RGD, Principal Creative Director at Entro: The current logo has been around for about 13 years. Good logos can last far longer. Unfortunately, the current logo is a very weak solution. Therefore I am happy that the government is changing it.
Wendy Gray RGD, Creative Director & President at Gravity Inc.: The current Ontario logo is unpopular with the design community and public alike for good reason. If done properly and through a responsible consultation process, a rebrand (or perhaps a revisit of the classic 1964 logo) is within reason. The government must, however, provide full transparency of how the $89K is being spent and why they felt rebranding was necessary at this time in order to foster any good will with the public.
Glenda Rissman RGD, Principal, q30 design inc.: Rebranding is a risky proposition these days, even in the best circumstances. With Ontario’s deficit of $13.5 B, and Premier Ford’s cuts to education, the timing feels off. Redesigning the logo is only a small part of the overall expense – what will it cost to deploy it? 
Ryan Booth RGD, Creative Director, Design at Zulu Alpha Kilo Inc: The idea that makes me nervous is that a new logo will fix things. A rebrand won't subsidize daycare, repair infrastructure or build roads. A great brand is only as strong as its products and services. A great governmental brand means nothing if it’s only decoration to cover up real challenges.
Robin Honey RGD, Brand Consultant: It is not the right time to be spending this with so many cuts to foundational programs like education. No improvement on a logo will turn the tide on the popularity. But can the Ontario logo be improved? Most designers would say a return to the original 1964 trillium would be much better. At least it wouldn't look like a hot tub party.

Is it appropriate for designers to criticize other designers' work?

Diti Katona RGD, Chief Creative Officer & Founding Partner at Concrete: Criticism is rampant, and trying to hide from it is impossible. In the end, we live in a free society and people are free to say whatever they want, and professional designers should be able to stand up to that criticism.
Lionel Gadoury RGD: Public commentary is to be expected. Professional designers can bring relevant insights that help balance and inform the debate.
Timothy Jones RGD, President & Creative Director at Banfield: I think it’s really important for designers to be able to have open and honest public dialogue when it’s done with the right intentions and without subjectivity or personal bias. As long as it’s productive and aimed at the improvement of our craft and community, I think only good things can come out of it. In the end, our work exists to be interacted with by others, so it only makes sense that it sparks discussion about its quality, purpose and effectiveness.
Yes, but...
Jenn Taback RGDPartner at Design de Plume IncA designer should be allowed to criticize a rebrand within the context of the process and organizations involved. But a review should never be a knee-jerk reaction. Can work be bad? Definitely, but the criticism should be thoughtful, and informed and contextual.  
Dzung Tran RGD, Designer + Branding Consultant: Criticism based on of personal biases is destructive and harmful and does not move the conversation forward. Judgments informed by facts, support, background information, and presented rationally and thoughtfully should be welcomed and heard. If designers are concerned about the work and how it was created, they should speak up.
John Furneaux RGD, Founder & Principal at Projektor: We can and always should criticize the high-profile branding and design process if we have clear knowledge that the approach to development and approval was flawed and by its very nature produce a poor result. However to criticize the actual designer, their abilities and their final product without having a full understanding of what happened in the project is just petty and unprofessional.

Is $89,000 an appropriate cost for a government rebranding project?

Probably not?
Glenda Rissman RGDWithout knowing what the full scope is, this is a tough question to answer. Is this amount just for a logo or does it include how the logo will be applied to various communications? To develop a new brand identity for a province requires extensive research, meetings and presentations to ensure the character of the province is being captured and the stakeholders are being heard. Although it looks like a lot of money, the time it takes to get something on this scale right is significant.
Jenn Taback RGDHaving recently worked with the Ontario government on a provincial-wide campaign, I would say that this sounds like a very tight budget for the scope of work. These projects involve many people, a huge amount of research, revisions and engagement to get it right. One also has to consider that it is not just the mark that needs to be created, but guides on how it will be used on all of the materials it will appear on. The 2006 cost of $219,000 sounds like the government understood the amount of work that would be involved in the project.
Dzung Tran RGD: $89,000 feels on the very low-end of the spectrum. Many consultants, advisors, strategists, writers, designers, developers, program managers, marketing consultants, administrators, etc. work for months or years on a rebrand project. What is worrying is the cost for implementation. How much will it cost to change all the signs, websites, print materials, advertising, etc.
Udo Schliemann RGD: $89,000 does not seem like a large enough number for a development of a logo of this importance (not knowing exactly what the budget entails). If done right, this logo will potentially be around for years to come without needing to change it after another 13 years. So, time and effort spent now can save millions down the road. I cannot stress enough that the “ value” of this identity as a symbol of trust, confidence and reliance in this province is so important, because Canada is a country of immigrants that start their lives anew.
Robin Honey RGD, Brand Consultant: Logo budgets are based on complexity, the number of decision makers and the process, application (how it will be used and where) and the guidelines needed to outline this use - all very complex given the reach of a government logo. $89K would be a fraction of what a corporation would spend. There is also the cost of making those changes to all of those applications that can’t possibly be part of this stated budget.
John Furneaux RGDWithout knowing what scope of work the $89,000 covered for it is impossible to say. When working on high-profile rebranding projects that have potential 1,000’s of different touchpoints, this initial identity development cost is only a fraction of what will be required to successfully implement it. In the end, whether this money was well spent will not be judged on what the identity looks like in a press release but on how it comes to life across the province.
Ryan Booth RGDTo the general public, the $89,000 number will seem astronomically high, but it really does feel on the low end. It also doesn’t tell the whole story. Ontario has a $100+ billion dollar yearly operating budget that covers 23 ministries, serving over 14 million people. This is no small identity system—it is truly a massive undertaking that requires careful thought and consideration not just on the design of the identity system, but in the implementation as well. The true, full cost of this rebrand will be realized in the rollout. This is much, much more than an $89,000 rebrand.
Lionel Gadoury RGDAs a visceral reaction, some will see $89k as excessive, others will be shocked by how little the investment is for such a significant change. Although I have yet to see it, the logo itself is only one factor –  research, insights, process and scope of deliverables are a better gauge for debating value.
Thank you to our contributors:
Ryan Booth RGD, Creative Director, Design at Zulu Alpha Kilo Inc in Toronto in Toronto
John Furneaux RGD, Founder & Principal at Projektor
Lionel Gadoury RGD, Principal, Director of Strategy & Creative Services at Context Creative in Toronto
Wendy Gray RGD, Creative Director & President at Gravity Inc.
Robin Honey RGD, Brand Consultant in London
Timothy Jones RGD, President & Creative Director at Banfield in Ottawa
Diti Katona RGD, Chief Creative Officer & Founding Partner at Concrete in Toronto
Glenda Rissman RGD, Principal, q30 design inc in Toronto
Udo Schliemann RGD, Principal Creative Director at Entro in Toronto
Jenn Taback RGD, Partner at Design de Plume Inc in Sudbury
Dzung Tran RGD, Designer + Branding Consultant in Toronto
With over 4,000 Members across Canada, RGD is a place where professional designers share information, support and adhere to ethical best practices and advocate for a greater understanding of the value of design and effective processes for selecting and working with professional designers. 
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