The Swiss get a lot of credit for their graphic design. And New York gave the design world the likes of Saul Bass, Paul Rand, and Milton Glaser, to name just a few. But Canada’s legions of graphic designers seem to go somewhat uncelebrated, which is a shame: A scroll through this new online register of the country’s logos reveals that our northern neighbors have long had a capacity for tasteful and minimal branding.
The Northern Army Preservation Society of Canada, as it’s called, is an online dossier of Canada’s best logos, curated by Ottawa-based design studio Northern Army. Rene Antunes, cofounder of Northern Army, says it started as a personal pet project: "We wanted to collect the logos we grew up with and are still inspired by in one place," he says. The "preservation" part refers to what Antunes calls the "retro and vintage slant to many of these logos," since many have been outmoded and replaced by design updates.
So far, they’ve collected 186 (and counting) logos. There are some of Canada's most famous designs, like the globally recognized Air Canada maple leaf, the outwardly radiating Canadian Broadcasting Corporation symbol, and the ultra-clean Olympic logo for 1976. Mixed in with those are far more obscure designs, like old grocery store emblems.
Looking at these, it’s clear the Northern Army team has an affinity for the more restrained, flat graphics from the 1960s through the '80s. "There’s a degree of coldness to our design, which I suppose is fitting," Antunes tells Co.Design. Going forward, they plan to keep amassing favorite and forgotten logos, and think that the process might help reassert Canadian design identity at a time when the Internet makes that kind of geographic uniqueness harder to come by: "I think to some degree we’re losing some of the characteristics that set us apart. The Internet has globalized design in a way where regional styles are less pronounced," Anderson says. Next up for the Preservation Society: stories and background on some of the logos and designers featured on the site.
A few of Northern Army's favorites are in the slide show above. See all the logos here.
*A previous version of this story said we had 20 logos. In fact, there are 18 of Northern Army's favorites.