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Symbols and Trademarks of Canada, 1997
Introductory texts to the 1997 book on Canadian trademarks
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The following are four introductory texts to the book Symbols and Trademarks of Canada published in 1997 and written by Raymond Bellemare, Kosta Tsetsekas, Laurent Marquart and Brian Smith. If you enjoy articles like this, and would like to support the project, subscribe to Logo Histories.
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The Logo, a Distinctive Corporate Element by Raymond Bellemare
Throughout time, identification of an individual, a firm, a community or a country has always been in the form of an image, such as a drawing, a signature or a sign, thereby confirming its distinctive character.
Whether a flag, an emblem, an heraldic figure, a sign or a symbol, these elements serve to characterize both the public and private organizations of a society.
In an increasingly complex environment, it is imperative for a corporation, a firm or an institution to identify itself clearly in order to position itself within its sector of activity and be able to meet the competition, particularly fierce at the international level.
Consequently, the logo is a firm's single most important, and most visible, visual element. It should be characterized by the originality of its design, and if possible, by a clear representation of the company's activity. Apart from the logo, the use of colour and typography complete the graphic image. All of these elements reflect and enhance a firm's identity.
In the midst of a profusion of graphic representations, a firm must set itself apart in time and space and assign utmost importance to its visual identity. Its graphic image must be effective, innovative and of impeccable quality.
The power of a metaphor
by Kosta Tsetsekas
In the course of my practice, I'm often asked to explain the concept of graphic symbols to others. Occasionally, an example from outside the visual realm provides an especially strong metaphor. Take the following example from The Independent Senior.
"If we could shrink the Earth's population to the equivalent of a village of 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look like this:
57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from North and South America, eight Africans.
70 non-whites, 30 whites.
50 percent of the wealth would be in the hands of six people - all of these would be citizens of the US.
50 would suffer from malnutrition.
80 would live in substandard housing.
70 would be unable to read.
One would have a university education
This example creates a powerful image or "snapshot" of the world in which we live. A graphic symbol also works to encapsulate a message by reducing or distilling it to a few essential elements. The most successful symbols go further to amplify key messages through this process of eliminating secondary or conflicting information.
We also know that in a media savvy society, cluttered with a barrage of information, only the most memorable symbols survive. Successful designers not only create new imagery, but adapt familiar forms in ways that compel us to look at them in a new light or with a fresh eye.
[The outstanding design in this book] offer a cogent statement, employing an elegant technical solution that doesn't waste a line. This, coupled with a novel visual approach, most frequently results in easily understood and memorable communication.
Beyond appearances… a sign of our times by Laurent Marquart
Getting right to the point, without concessions, being truly authentic and effective, in a word communicating with a sign, is this not one of the primary goaks of any activity leading to the creation of a symbol or a logotype?
And as anyone who has ever worked in the field, buyers of creations and creators, recognizes–or sometimes refuses to recognize–this world of ideation mirrors who they are, their genius or their lack of talent. And is also equal to what they are able to achieve or to their limitations, to their integrity, their compromises or their duplicity, their power or their weakness!
Successful combinations are rare. Recipes for failure, many! A brilliant creator for an uneducated client. A landmark project entrusted to a creator without talent. A committee without leadership or a rebellious creator whose sole aim is to glorify his ego. Not to mention the quasi-impossibility of distancing oneself, the creative act being so much of the instant.
The surprise and the revelation, is that, with a little hindsight, in the end the individuals, and consequently the entities they represent, always reveal much more about themselves than we believe at first glance. Even more surprising is the fact that they do not necessarily reveal what they were supposed to communicate in the first place!
In so doing, they become unwitting witnesses of their era and thus express a dimension of themselves that is totally beyond them.
What, then, is the real challenge facing creators? To be acutely aware that the creative act is part of the economic and cultural context that motivates its existence. To acknowledge that the fundamental objective of a creation is to bring an optimal visual solution to a given communication problem, and to do so within the specific reality of a particular customer.
This is where, whether we like it or not, the sense of the respective and inseparable responsibilities of the creator and the giver of work comes in.
The challenge to Adapt
by Brian Smith
In society today we are surrounded by symbols that profoundly influence us and shape our actions. We react to the image of a stop sign long before we can read the words; we automatically look for an identifiable male or female icon before entering a public washroom; we quickly scan down the block to see if we can spot a gas station though we rarely see a sign that spells out the word "GAS"; we wave to a relative flying out of an airport, identifying their commercial aircraft only by the symbol on the tail; we have learned to look at the entrance window of a store or business to confirm that the symbol on our credit card is represented on the glass.
Since the time the first potter pressed a stick into the base of a vessel identifying it as his creation, the design and application of symbols, monograms and logotypes has been the purest and, therefore, the most fulfilling of all design forms for the graphic artist. The challenge to communicate a predetermined message in the simplest and clearest manner, by means of the fewest possible strokes, is a highly cerebral and, in many cases, serendipitous puzzle. As the artist wrestles with the choices of form, balance, size, juxtaposition, font, and colour, an image that has never before existed, is born... an image that may influence millions of people
Just as "Kleenex" and "Coke" have become integral parts of our spoken language, so Manfred Gotthans' symbol for Canada Trust, or Allan Flemming's CN logo have become integral parts of our visual language. Within a very short time we accept symbols and logotypes (when applied with forethought and consistency) as being representative of a business or a product or a service, and visually search a busy mall for the appropriate signage that says, without words, "This is a branch of the particular service that you are looking for".
And the rules of this purest form of graphic design are changing rapidly, adapting to, and in many cases, leading a world of innovation. Several years ago with the advent of the fax machine, we had to concern ourselves with whether or not our creations would stand up to reproduction over a telephone line. Today's icon must also work as a bitmapped image on the Internet. Tomorrow...?
Canadian graphic artists have for many years been in the forefront of symbol design in the world. While Canadian designers are consistently represented in international collections and juried award shows, the highest praise still is to be recognized by one's peers. This publication of Canadian symbols, monograms and logotypes honours these designers.
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