Branding Vancouver…A Letter from Interesting Vancouver

As Interesting Vancouver 2016 approaches, I’ve been reflecting on some design work we did this year. It made me reflect on Vancouver itself and what its brand is.

A great brand distills into words, symbols, and meaning for an otherwise “impossible to define” thing. In a way that captures the equally rational and emotional essence of the thing or idea the brand represents. A great brand, I believe, is also founded in truth.

As a brand, Vancouver’s position on the world’s stage is largely through association, whether through Expo ‘86, the 2010 Olympics, or TED. The events provide Vancouver with great exposure and a platform to showcase our city, but through someone else’s brand. It makes Vancouver a component of the story but never the story itself.

Sure, there’s a logo for city hall and for tourism boards with pretty colour schemes. However, the real purpose, vision, and ambition of Vancouver is lacking. Where’s the statement that distills what makes Vancouver unique and great in its own right?

Some great cities are formed by proxy of its champions: what Chanel and Louis Vuitton have done for Paris, or Aston Martin and James Bond for London. Each provide a rich, textured, and perpetually evolving symbols and ideas of identities.

Given a lack of deeper values and identity of Vancouver, it makes sense the likes of Lululemon, Herschel or arc’teryx, despite being highly desirable and quality products, don’t use “Brand Vancouver”. It’s also very Canadian to not rely on its national or regional identities as a prominent business value.

That brings us back to how can we create a brand for Interesting Vancouver that reflects its greatest truth—but what is that truth or essence?

Earlier this year, the team at The Notice Group led by Johnathon Vaughn Strebly, carried forward the design work of Jason Landry and Industrial Brand and set our design language for the next 5 years. Strebly’s rationale was the distillation of Vancouver I’ve been seeking for ten years since the idea of Interesting Vancouver was conceived:

Interesting Vancouver is created by the convergence of two unique and crucial elements: the diverse community of people who reside in Vancouver, and the city itself. The objective of Interesting Vancouver is to showcase the unique city to the world, as well as foster and celebrate the vibrant individuals who call this city home.

To represent Vancouver, two main colour groups were chosen to reflect the city’s major elements. Blue was chosen in order to express the abundance of water that this rainy coastal city endures, and green was chosen with the objective of reflecting the vast amounts of nature throughout and surrounding the city (Stanley Park, Endowment Lands, etc.). A tertiary colour to expand and complement this two-tone palette is gray, as this colour reflects both the buildings, roads, and highways that make up the city. And let’s not forget those (occasionally) gray skies synonymous with Vancouver.

In order to represent the second element of Interesting Vancouver, the people, the following colours have been carefully selected and chosen with the intention of representing the diverse spectrum of Vancouverites. The colours were chosen with three words in mind: energy, inspire, action.

We certainly aren’t so arrogant to think we can create a “Brand Vancouver”. However, if the truth of Vancouver is in its people and unity through diversity, surely that is the purest distillation of “Brand Vancouver”?

So, join Interesting Vancouver this Thursday, November 10 for a night of interesting stories, inspiration, and the reveal of the IV Prize winner. Grab your tickets here before they’re all sold out.

Brett MacFarlane
Founder, Interesting Vancouver

The Evolution of the Interesting Vancouver brand: