The Story of How Victory Gardens Got Its Cool Brand

Victory Gardens’ Lisa Giroday and Sam Phillips | Photo: Britney Gill

Branding Vancouver looks at some of the more interesting logos and icons that appear in Vancouver’s food and beverage scene. Some of the explanations will be long and others short, but the goal of deeper understanding will be constant. If you want the backstory of a particularly compelling local brand revealed, let us know via @scoutmagazine and we’ll try to figure it out.

The Brand: This week we’re featuring the design we’ve come to love as representing local urban grower cooperative, Victory Gardens. Unless you’re a bit of history buff, the words “strength” and “resistance” are probably not the first ones that come to mind when you think of gardening, but it’s this tough mentality that was the inspiration for the company’s name and logo. Recently, Victory Gardens’ co-founder (and occasional Scout contributor) Sam Philips schooled us on the movements and images that epitomize the spirit of the brand:

“Actually, Victory Gardens was our only business name idea; it started and ended with it! The inspiration for our name plays off of the WWI and WWII era campaigns that encouraged the public to utilize residential space around them for food production because of food shortages. People unified around a common goal to work together as a community to become more self-sustained. Victory Gardens were as important then as they are today, but for different reasons!

“The logo was inspired by the bold and colourful war era posters encouraging people to grow their own food with slogans like, “Dig on For Victory”. It was also an effort mainly carried out by women, as men were off fighting in the war. We wanted something strong and triumphant, and Elise absolutely nailed it with the hand holding up the beet. We look at the logo as a hand triumphantly holding up the food we have grown ourselves, like, “we can do it”! “

The Designer: Elise Beneteau began her connection with Victory Gardens as an Emily Carr graphic design student, years before designing the Victory Gardens’ logo in 2012. Philips and the other VG co-founders, Sandra Lupoch and Lisa Giroday, were also students at Emily Carr. Giroday was running The LES Gallery when Beneteau was seeking “real-world design experience” outside of school. Beneteau honed her skills by helping to design the promotional and communication materials for the gallery, and the professional relationship grew from there.

Beneteau extrapolates on the steps that went into the final victorious design:

“When I was approached to design the VG logo, the working relationship had been well established. I remember meeting with Lisa in a coffee shop on Main street to talk about the cooperative. She explained the concept for Victory Gardens and that they already had the name in mind. The brief went something like this: During WWII, the public at home was encouraged to create and harvest their own properties because of low resources were available on the home-front – these were referred to as Victory Gardens. It was a way to keep people fed, alleviate some hardship as well as a way to raise general moral. It was pretty genius and beneficial for so many reasons and felt like a harrowing movement.”

“Lisa has always been an environmental and social conscious person. What I’ve always admired about her and her businesses is her commitment to her local community and her wanting to contribute to the city of Vancouver in a meaningful way through her work. She explained to me that she wanted to capture of the grass-roots spirit of the original Victory Gardens in the logo. From my understanding, Victory Gardens as a business concept is a reaction and rejection to the food industry and the quality of food we have been facing in recent years. It is a business that says we can do better for ourselves, eat better and lead a better quality of life and health by growing our own organic food. So in rejecting norms, the logo was intended to capture the rebellious nature of business model and the values that inspired its invention.”

“We looked into the propaganda posters of the era for our initial inspiration. Thinking in grander schemes, we looked at this logo as symbol for a movement for social and economic change. We wanted it to be inspiring, powerful and memorable. We wanted it to standout from the design aesthetic usually associated with gardening and make it cool. We wanted it to spark an emotional response and for it to get people to feel like they needed to get involved. As this business was founded by a group of women, coupled with the name and inspiration of the business, I wanted to reference the most impactful, recognizable symbol of freedom we all know – the Statue of Liberty. So we landed on the raised hand, vegetable in palm. I chose a stamped illustration aesthetic to bring it down to a grass-roots feel. The muted colour and hand-drawn feeling typeface to make it feel more vintage and of the original era of the war-effort era. The typeface is Block Berthold.”

“There was another iteration of the logo that we were considering – a hand with an artichoke in stead of the beet. It looked more like a torch and really did work great for the metaphor but it was more limiting in terms of colour and perhaps recognizability. It’s always been on the back burner in case VG wants to break it out for a special occasion. I do like how the logo landed on looks like the hand could be throwing it – like throwing tomatoes at a bad act.”

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