Sternwheeler Getting Some Yukoners Steamed

A well designed and executed logo should say a lot about a community, and residents have every right to take it personally. The design that was chosen to “re-brand” Whitehorse recently has a lot of people upset, both because it’s a very poor design (in my opinion), and because many of us didn’t even know such a thing was being considered.

This is the current logo used by the City of Whitehorse. It’s simple and it’s distinctive. Sternwheelers were significant in the history of the Yukon and of Whitehorse in particular, and the restored sternwheeler SS Klondike is an iconic attraction for visitors.

The city’s coat of arms re-affirms the significance of the sternwheeler.

The sternwheeler logo has been used extensively around the city for decades (since the 1970s, I believe). It’s used on street signs…

… on community signs – the Mary Lake sign has the logo sandblasted into the wood …

… while the Spruce Hill sign just has a decal of the logo…

It’s also used on all manner of city vehicles and other signs. It is, however, noticeable by its absence on the City’s very bland web site.

On the city’s tourism web site (now dead – the department was closed in about 2012), only a tiny version of it can be seen.

Six days ago, I was made aware of the fact that City Council wants to scrap the sternwheeler in favour of a modernistic horse head designed by a company in Ontario. This newspaper article in The Whitehorse Star describes the efforts of Vanessa Brault to halt the process until residents have been given a proper chance to have input.

A Facebook page has been set up to support the opposition to the change (the page is now gone).

Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway stated on the radio a couple of days ago that she’s tired of people not objecting until the last minute when the City decides to do things. The objections about this issue, though, are largely based on the fact that many of us who care about the issue didn’t know about it.

The logo decision aside, when is the City responsible for ensuring that residents know when certain things are in progress, and when are residents responsible for finding out details of the City’s operations on their own? A survey was done as part of the re-branding study – the survey was advertised on radio and in newspapers, but many residents, including me, don’t listen to local stations (if you listened for 10 minutes you’d know why) nor do I buy newspapers very often. Using 1950s technology to advertise a process intended to (among other things) show what a modern city Whitehorse is seems odd. The point of the survey itself was unclear and far more complicated than I tihink it needed to be – nowhere was the question “do you want to change to City’s current sternwheeler logo?” asked, and I don’t see how the results of the survey tell anything useful.

eSolutions, the Ontario company that was paid $60,000 to come up with the new brand, had this to say about what a brand is:

At the centre of a brand is the core concept of what makes something — in this case, Whitehorse — unique and valuable. What is it that separates Whitehorse from other cities? What’s special about this place that instills pride among our residents? And what differentiates it from other communities with which we compete for residents, investors, businesses and tourists?

And they came up with A HORSE?!?! What on earth does a horse have to do with the community’s past, present or future other than being part of our name – and what is distinctive about it? All that tells me is that eSolutions made no attempt at all to find out anything about Whitehorse before cashing the check.

Here is the proposed new design.

Update: In an article in the National Post on April 11th, Saj Jamal, the creative director of eSolutions, is quoted: “I know we have a really, really good brand, and a lot of people in the community feel that it is. There’s still a portion of it that don’t, and my job is … to make sure that we get them on board.” I’m willing to bet that they’re not coming on board. The City has agreed to re-do the survey, with a direct question in it about whether the sternwheeler should remain. I think that this misguided project will soon be killed.


Sternwheeler Getting Some Yukoners Steamed — 2 Comments

  1. The sternwheeler has all to do with Yukon history so tell Ontario and their elite crowd of idiots to go pound salt. Keep the the traditions of the Yukon all Yukon.