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Branding a Nation

Davis-Canada-150-Blog

Consider a country's accoutrement in parallel to branding. There's a flag instead of a logo, an anthem instead of a slogan, and a country does have positioning - we call it national identity. 

In light of celebrations about to take place in North America (the Fourth of July and Canada Day), we want to look at what shapes a country's brand. You could say history is the biggest contributor: policy decisions, international events, and even sports influence a country's character; for example, US is baseball and Canada is hockey. But is there more? Does design play a role in a nation's understanding of itself? 

If you ask Greg Durrel, the answer is a resounding yes - his new movie about the Canadian design industry touches on some of the most iconic design moments of Canada’s history: creation of logos for Crown Corporations and Expo 67, which fall under what he calls the “Golden era” of design in Canada.

One of the most identifiable pieces of a country’s branding is the flag. In Canada, the maple leaf has evolved to hold as much symbolism as a brand’s logo might. It’s no surprise that this symbol is the focus of the country’s flag. In fact, George F.G. Stanley took the leaf’s meaning into account when he designed the flag in 1964.

When proposing his design via a written memo, Stanley claimed that the flag should be simple, recognizable, use traditional colors and symbols and be a “unifying force” for the country. Stanley examined Canada’s key emblems before settling on the leaf, which had already been used by citizens as a signifier for the country.

Stanley proposed two options for the flag, one with a single leaf and one with three maple leaves joined by the stem. Ultimately, Stanley argued for the single leaf design, claiming that the single leaf would have the "virtue of simplicity," being recognizable as "distinctly Canadian," and enabling it to become an iconic symbol.