Adventures in Branding

Mike in shades, 2016

Our small city of 135,000 has over 7,000 businesses, 5200 of which have between 10 and 100 employees. I can vouch for the friendliness of the people: hardworking, affable and unpretentious.

Is it a paradise for a business-friendly branding company like Graphic Design in Barrie?

I started this blog a few years back, mainly to comment on design issues and little else. Once my lovely wife and I began thinking about our move from Aurora – further north to Barrie – with the attendant risks and opportunities, more just came tumbling out.

As my Twitter profile says: One brand conscious gentleman takes on weighty issues like modern design, local / social marketing and boomers on the brink. I couldn’t have said it better myself.


I’m a fan I admit for the new Starbuck’s logo. It’s a natural evolution of the old one, although I’m not sure what the mermaid is all about. In Starbuck’s eyes it’s a ‘siren’. Also understood is that we all recognize the siren for what it is. In McDonald’s terms, it’s the double arches seen up the street, recognizable by most of the planet even from a distance and without necessarily reading the restaurant’s name, therefore we turn in. Kids know it too. The golden arches are the perfect substitute for the name of the chain. The siren, perhaps not so much. Starbuck fans will surely respond to the image of the siren, but when only fans recognize the logo, you have reduced the relevancy of the brand.

Big changes coming this year from the brand after a disastrous few years which saw hundreds of stores er, swallowed whole.

“Throughout the last four decades, the Siren has been there through it all,” Howard Shultz, Starbucks’ president and CEO, said in a post on the company’s website Wednesday.

“Now, we’ve given her a small but meaningful update to ensure that the Starbucks brand continues to embrace our heritage and also ensure we remain relevant and poised for future growth,” he said. The new logo will rollout beginning in March.

Read more at CNNMoney: January 5, 2011

Distinctive Branding Boosts Business: National Post, October 10, 2010,


AS I GAZE OUT MY FRONT WINDOW TONIGHT, I realize Aurora has everything. It’s the ultimate sleepytime community (I was going to write ‘sleepytown’ but that old Cream song brought this word).
Sometimes we stand outside on the back deck on a Saturday night and hush for a moment straining to hear any sound of life. So quiet. Really nothing on most nights. The odd party or two… maybe. This is the peace we find after what? 40 to 90 minutes on one of the 400 series highways north from Toronto – but worth every second most nights.

IT’S FEBRUARY, SO OF COURSE WE’RE SNOWBOUND. This is real Canada, past 3 or 4 of those weather zones you find drawn so carefully on seed growth maps. Way north of balmy Toronto.
I’ve done the rounds recently, up and down the street, collecting for the Heart & Stroke people, so I can relax not only because I have done my thing for the number 1 cause of death… but I now have the rather smug assurance that even though some houses have newer, more seamless wood floors and yes, many are bigger, but my front porch is no more neglected than others.

MINE IS THE LUXURY OF BENIGN NEGLECT, the haphazard detrius of living that gets a little messy & my not caring for every little thing brings a carefree relaxation I can’t help but value. More upscale dwellings in more tony neighborhoods may invite a certitude of correctness which demands a tidiness and proper presentation that is the foundation of displaying real dough. And now that I’m thinking about it, there’s not a BMW on the street. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… but you know of what I’m thinking.

MY SISTER FROM AZ COMMENTED ON THE BRICK. You don’t see that in the states anymore, anywhere she told me. The brick is protection from the perceived chill, the fireplace, the hearth of home. An indication perhaps that we, yes we in Canada, are so coddled – perhaps like lfe was in the 1950’s – bellybutton life – hibernation in the march of time. but now with the world at the edge of vortex, either blissfully unaware or or blissfully unconcerned are we.

OUR COUNCILLORS ARE SUING EACH OTHER FOR GOD’S SAKE! So passion in our small part of the universe is not in short supply, at least not here in Aurora. Thank God someone is fighting the good fight, I think, as we cuddle up for yet another long winter’s night.


A GAP IN LOGIC, ILLUSTRATED The Gap’s infamous go at a logo change screamed ‘why?’ and that cry went unanswered… for about a minute and a half. Best described in this article by Julie Weiner in Vanity Fair, the logo floated up and came down with a thump in less than a week and pretty well said everything about the infallibility of expensive design studios, and laughable but still expensive missteps in branding.

Remember the fabulously ill-considered NEW COKE? Would you buy your jeans in a store corporately labeled ‘Annual Report’? Then this would be the logo for you. This fiasco is well documented. Here are some links.

Vanity Fair: In Memoriam, actually listed the Gap logo as among the dead… however they must have reconsidered. This link still goes to the article tho.
New Gap Logo, Despised Symbol of Corporate Banality, Dead at One Week

A follow up on ‘Gapgate’ the logo controversy that pretty well summed up the consternation of modernizing, genericizing… and ‘helvetica-izing’ a storied brand. The blogosphere just getting used to its own growing traction. Off to Underconsideration: a fabulous design site and their baby: BRAND NEW, which tracks these things, well worth the trip.

At CNN/Money, Gap reverts to classic logo after outcry.

Do your own crap logo, I did.


Your Logo Makes Me Barf

Trying to collect the worst logos of all time in one convenient location. A lot of bad logos seem to involve eagles. Or for Canadians, maple leaves and the industrious beaver.

ASTRAL MEDIA goes ‘au naturel’

Topographical? Indigenous? Canadian? Do you see the natural spirit of the revised Astral Media logo being revealed here? The softer side of digital media giantism? Perhaps this new look captures the aspirations of the company now and displays their progress away from former, more stilted ideals whose representation (see below) it replaces.

Gone now are the hard edges (so 90’s), the ‘eclipse’ of the ‘A’ (that meant… universal?) and even the proper caps. To my eye this smooth hand crafted styling brings back images of last year’s Vancouver Games with their intent (at least) of native, spirit-driven focus. Love the blatant, multicolor aspect. There’s no need today to be limited to a one or two color palette, since black and white, or three-color printing has gone the way of well… old spirits. Nearly everything is digital, and the online world is all color, all the time. Still if this was their intent, perhaps something really hand-drawn would have served the concept better.



Newspaper chain Canwest’s evolution into Postmedia Network now sprouts a new identity, whose logo underwhelms even the most forgiving viewer. “We wanted something that was bold and dynamic. Something that exemplifies a first to the future view,” said Paul Godfrey, President and Chief Executive of Postmedia Network. “It had to jump off the page, whether that’s a web page or a printed page, and this really does.”
Jeff Harrison, spokesperson for Vancouver agency ReThink claims, “The forward slash cursor in the logo represents the posting of information and the movement towards a digital future.”

See what readers think at designedge canada.

PHARMATRUST: real world benefits for patients, pharmacists and doctors.

Pharmatrust AdvertisingI wrote and designed this straightforward, no-nonsense ad for Pharmatrust, the maker of the ingenious medicine dispensing kiosk ( coming soon to a convenient location near you) to placement in ‘The Pharmacist’ magazine in the UK. It carefully explains the mantra, ‘healthcare everywhere’ with compelling, easy to understand benefits for patients, pharamcists and doctors.

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