News / Canada

Graphic designers dissect new Ontario PC logo

Use of three colours in new look unveiled Saturday comes under particular scrutiny.

The new logo for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, unveiled Saturday, is part of a rebranding exercise as the party reaches out to groups that don't traditionally support the party.

Ontario Conservative party

The new logo for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, unveiled Saturday, is part of a rebranding exercise as the party reaches out to groups that don't traditionally support the party.

Torstar News Service spoke three graphic design experts about the Ontario Progressive Conservative party’s new logo.

Colours

Sheila Sampath is an assistant professor at OCAD University and creative director at The Public, an activist design studio.

Sampath formerly worked in the communications department for the provincial and federal NDP, and notes the colouring of brand items is a “big deal . . . These kinds of affiliations have such deep-rooted values and meanings.”

“I don’t think you can separate esthetic from values,” Sampath said, “But the use of red, especially, is odd given that that colour is associated with another major political party” — meaning the federal and provincial Liberals.

Derwyn Goodall is a graphic design and typography professor at OCAD and owner and creative director of Goodall Integrated Design, a brand and marketing firm. He also said the using red and green as well as the classic conservative blue invokes other parties.

“It suggests a mash-up of each of the three parties, Progressive Conservative, Liberal and Green Party, which to me is not a great message . . . It’s sending a mixed message on that level.”

Letters

When she looks at the way the P and C merge in the centre, Sampath said she interprets it as the Conservative party attempting to move closer to the Liberals. “It’s a weird thing to communicate in a logo.”

Chris Lee is a designer and assistant professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he teaches graphic design.

He agrees that the colours communicate stronger than the shapes in this logo because of the “Venn-diagramming” of both letters, referring to the overlap of shapes, as seen in logic diagrams.

“The geometric construction of the logo is also consistent with current trends in graphic design that are already becoming cliché and outdated,” he explained. Lee said the rebrand is catching up with “the turn to flat design in iOS 7, Windows 8 and Google’s ‘Material Design.’ ”

Goodall, however, said he liked the “modern aspect” of combining the P and C.

“That’s OK. I guess that suggests being inclusive, together.”

Design philosophy

But a logo is more than meets the eye. “It’s actually a really great exercise to rebrand an organization or brand an organization for the first time, because you’ll often get them to define or think about their own work and vision in new ways,” Sampath said.

She is curious what conversations lead to this logo, and what this means about the party’s identity.

Lee is hesitant about what the use of red, green, and blue mean in this logo in relation to the party’s mission, especially given that each of the colours has a specific set of values associated to it. For him, the tricolour logo is something of a red flag.

“I think it suggests a confused response to some kind of crisis around the party’s relevance,” he said. “The rebrand thus comes off as truly cosmetic.”

Goodall said the Ontario PCs really needed to change from their old logo but he, too, isn’t so sure about the new one. “Just overall, it’s graphically too busy, in my opinion,” he said.

And finally, what’s up with the green symbol?

The former Ontario PC logo featured a red trillium with a white border, and the new one has made the switch to green.

“Trilliums are white, or at least the way we know them iconically,” Sampath said. “It’s either that, or a weird pot leaf.”

Goodall is not a fan of “the thing in the middle.”

“That is, to me, in my opinion, the most problematic because I’m wondering what the heck that really is,” he said. “It’s green — does that mean it’s a mint? Is it a Green Party something or another? I mean, is it marijuana? . . . To me it creates some confusion in my mind. Is it about growth? Maybe?”

The confusion over the green symbol and the use of colours, Goodall said, is “sort of shooting (the brand identity) in the foot.”