Only the keenest of eyes noticed the change, but the Liberal Party of Canada unveiled a "refreshed" logo at its biennial policy convention in Montreal last weekend.
To understand what the logo change means – both typographically and politically – The Globe spoke to Grant Gordon, whose firm Key Gordon Communications has done work for political parties, environmental groups and arts festivals.
What changed about the Liberal Party of Canada logo?
It's a subtle change, but it says something bigger about how the Liberal Party is evolving. The old logo had that dry, government taste to it. The leaf was spikier – sort of unfriendly – and the type was very plain. I mean, it was utilitarian and safe and it did its job, but not very gracefully. And that's a good metaphor for how people saw the Liberal Party, and its leadership: uncharismatic.
The new leaf breaks up that stagnation. It's softer and curvier, and the type is, too – there are soft-wedged serifs (the little marks at the end of each letter) and what looks like custom ligature (how the letters join one another). These new elements evoke a sense of being flexible, engaging and more human. And if the poll numbers are anything to go by, that's where people now see the Liberal Party going. And that's how people see Justin.
Designers obsess over stuff like this – trying to preserve the integrity of a brand while dropping little hints about its strengths and its future. This new design is a good sign.
Why do you think they made these changes?
Brands change like bodies do. What fit perfectly and looked fashionable and elegant 20 years ago doesn't necessarily work now. You can't pull off striped suspenders now – and you can't pull off an outdated logo, either.
This redesign essentially puts Justin's stamp on a party that is becoming very much his. The updated logo fits in with Trudeau's narrative: given his famous father, there's an element of nostalgia to the typography of the 1960s. But Justin is also his own man – more modern, more connected, arguably nicer hair. So he needed a change.
Incidentally, I loved his leadership campaign logo: having Justin supersized such that it dwarfed Trudeau was a smart way to say: this guy is more than his last name.
So this redesign gets my nod – but my team didn't do this logo. So I'd really rather not like it, ya know?
Your firm redesigned the Ontario Liberal logo last year. What were you trying to achieve in that redesign?
Kathleen Wynne represented a pretty positive change for the provincial party. She rode in with a new team, full of creativity and drive, but she inherited a ton of baggage. So they decided to scrap the McGuinty-era logo and make a break from the past.
The McGuinty logo was a photograb of a bunch of people. It was like a university calendar – look, we represent everyone. At first the logo felt too obvious and pandering to me – way too literal – but over time it somehow grew on me. But that thing was difficult. It didn't scale well, and didn't reproduce well, especially in black and white. Political campaigns might seem glamorous from the outside, but inside they're running on some truly mediocre office equipment. People in grungy campaign offices need logos to look good on crappy photocopies.
As with any identity work, we developed a bunch of options for the new Ontario logo. This one was chosen because it is strong and confident and uncomplicated. We designed it to work well on everything from lawn signs to Twitter. We also had to plan for the unexpected – party logos get slapped into all kinds of cluttered settings with competing visual elements. Too often, the logo feels like an intruder. So the new Ontario Liberal logo looks and works best when viewed as part of a larger creative product.
What do you think of the new Alberta Liberal logo?
I think I know what they were trying to do. The Public Theatre in NYC has a classic logo that was created by Pentagram. The type changes from bold letters to lightweight letters. It's very, very cool. In this case it just doesn't work at all. And the rendering? A flag? Mountains? On a positive note, they spelled Liberal perfectly.
Finally, you were the Liberal candidate in the 2012 Toronto Danforth by-election. Are you planning to run again?
Is my wife reading this?
Chris Hannay is The Globe's digital politics editor.