Canada: A Pile of Rocks? - Radiant

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Vancouver 2010 Olympic Logo

Four years ago, VANOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee) held a competition to design the logo for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Designers from all over the world submitted potential logos from which Ilanaaq, the logo at right, was chosen.

I remember reading the project brief when the competition was launched. It was a long and specific document. I can recall one theme above all others that was prevalent in the multi-paged PDF file, and that was the desire for a mark that embodies the Canadian spirit and environment.

Now in case you’re not aware, the selected logo is a graphical interpretation of an Inukshuk. Although it’s not the only way that Inukshuk’s are set up, the most easily recognized way is basically a group of stacked rocks that take the shape of a man and it comes to us from the culture of the Inuit people of Canada’s far north and parts of Alaska.

And while Native people and their culture are a foundational element of Canada’s history, I do still feel that this logo misses the mark as a solid logo for the games. I can’t understand how, out of what was likely hundreds of submissions, that this was the best solution to fulfill the request for a logo that embodies the Canadian spirit and environment. As Canadians, we bear many stereotypes about our culture. Some people in other countries figure we all carpool on dog sleds to our high rise igloo offices. Reinforcing that stereotype doesn’t reflect well upon Canada at all.

But that’s just my opinion and opinions are subjective. What isn’t subjective was the project brief and that’s where this logo really fails. As I outlined above, the project brief indicated that they needed a mark which would embody the Canadian spirit and environment. And that’s the critical element of this, or any design project.

The subjectivity of design will almost always lead to people on both sides of the fence claiming the design to be good or bad. It’s for that reason that project briefs are written – to combat subjectivity with a set of standards that define a “win”. So did this logo “win”? I believe the project brief tells us no and sadly, a great branding opportunity for us as a nation was missed.