Talking Iconic Canadian Logos and Brand Campaigns With the Master, Greg Durrell

Photo: Stuart Ash

As one half of Hulse & Durrell, Greg Durrell is a seasoned designer with nearly two decades of experience to his name. It was his passion for design that led to a recent foray into film and the new title of Director to his professional name. The result is the documentary Design Canada, which is playing to Vancouver audiences at The Cinematheque from July 5 – 11 (get your tickets here). The film is an in-depth and often astounding history lesson on the story behind some of Canada’s most synonymous logos, brands and design campaigns, from post-war to the ’90s. Design Canada is equal parts stylish and informative, and is sure to be an important entry into Canada’s archives.

Before you get to know Durrell in person during one of his screenings at The Cinematheque, watch the trailer below and get to know a bit more about him, his introduction to filmmaking and inevitable induction into Canadian history by reading our interview that follows…

What compelled you to dissect the designs of Canadian identity? It was a film I wanted to see. I’ve always felt that I’ve been surrounded by beautiful symbols and logos that have somehow played a part in how I identify as a Canadian, so I set out to find out why.

What is your personal background in design? How about film? I’ve been working in design for 19 years. In fact I’ve never had another job! Design Canada is my first film. When I started the project I didn’t even know anyone who had made a feature-length film before. I didn’t know how to shoot video or record audio, but step by step, interview by interview, edit by edit, I built the film.

Describe your own design aesthetic in ten words or less. A blend of art and science.

Describe 1960s “Canadian Design” in ten words or less. Optimistic and forward-thinking.

Your documentary briefly addresses the argument/issue about rebranding – where do you stand on it? If it improves a brand, I’m all for it, but typically I think rebrands happen for the wrong reason. Companies are trying to show they are “progressive” or “moving in new directions” and changing their logos is a misguided way to demonstrate that.

Does Canada need a rebranding? No, but I think design can be a tool to help us shape the conversation and direction around the future of our country.

What was your biggest challenge making this documentary? Everything! Beyond the financial hurdles, editing all the stories into a cohesive flow took years of effort.

Entering into the filmmaking process, what did you hope to reveal and/or to be revealed to you? I didn’t have any set out expectations; I wanted to let the stories lead to the end result.

What was something that you discovered during the process that surprised you? The entire story of the design of the Team Canada 1972 Summit Series. To hear first-hand accounts of how and why those iconic jerseys were made was fascinating.

Why do you think it’s taken so long for a documentary of this nature to be made? As Canadians we are sometimes too humble and do not support our heroes enough.

What brands/designs in Canada are currently exciting you? What about global brands/designs? Reigning Champ and OVO seems to be resonating with Canadians and the world.

What design project do you think most exemplifies yourself, so far? Rebranding the Canadian Olympic Team was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The recent rebrand we did for Canada Snowboard I’m quite proud of too.

In our current cultural state of restlessness and supersaturation of images, how much consideration do you put into the lasting effect of your own designs? It all depends on the objective. If you’re designing a poster for a theatre or concert around a specific date and time, that has different set of considerations compared to designing a brand for national organization that will hopefully remain relevant for decades.

What has been your proudest moment as a designer? Creating this film, Design Canada, without a question.

What issue around design do you currently find the most pertinent? No more logo competitions! No great logo has ever come out of a competition, they are always comprised results. Hire a professional to do a professional job.

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There are 3 comments

  1. Allan Fleming designed the CN logo, not Greg Durrell. Fleming a young and highly regarded Canadian graphic designer he hit on a particularly inspired design while sitting on a New York-bound airplane. He quickly sketched the idea on a cocktail napkin — and CN’s logo was conceived.

  2. Hey, Stuart,

    Thanks for the info but, for the record, at no point in the interview or during the documentary is Greg Durrell credited for designing the CN logo… He is a designer in his own right, as half of the firm Hulse & Durrell, as well as the directory of the Design Canada documentary.


  3. Hi Stuart,

    While you are not wrong, there are a few bits of info missing from the logodesignlove article. Come see the film if you are interested to learn more.

    Greg Durrell

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