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National Gallery of Canada reveals new, Indigenous-inspired logo

“It was crucial for us to develop a new brand rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing and being.”

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The National Gallery of Canada has a new logo, the first since the Sussex Drive building opened its doors more than 30 years ago. 

Instead of representing the silhouette of the building’s Great Hall in a square, the new logo is based on a circle, inspired by looking up to the Great Hall’s glass ceiling from the centre of the circular floor inside.

It’s latest initiative is brought forth by gallery director and CEO Sasha Suda in her quest to modernize and decolonize the 141-year-old institution, which is home to the largest contemporary Indigenous art collection in the world. 

“It was crucial for us to develop a new brand rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing and being,” Suda said. “Our new visual identity is inspired by the Anishinaabemowin word, Ankosé, which means everything is connected.” 

New brand design on the windows of the National Gallery of Canada.
New brand design on the windows of the National Gallery of Canada. Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia

The word was gifted to the institution during recent consultations with elders from the unceded Algonquin territory. The four elders – Annie Smith St. Georges, Albert Dumont, Gracie Ratt and Simon Brascoupé – also acted as an advisory committee in guiding the gallery to the development of its first strategic plan, launched last month. 

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In a poem marking the occasion, Dumont, who is Ottawa’s English-language poet laureate, explores the meaning of the word, Ankosé, observing that all people are linked by a need for water, air and the beauty of Mother Earth. 

“Whenever we see a sunrise, we see the greatest of masterpieces,” he writes. “And in the mountains and trees, we see … grand sculptures that inspire our artists.” 

Arriving at the new look was a four-month process that involved consultations with more than 300 people, including the elders, as well as staff, artists, tourism partners, members of the public and more. In charge of the project was Rosemary Thompson, the gallery’s vice president of corporate/public affairs and marketing. An international branding agency, AREA 17, founded by a Canadian, Kemp Attwood, was also contracted. 

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From left: Indigenous artist Simon Brascoupé takes a selfie with gallery educator Jaime Morse, elder Annie Smith St. John, gallery curator Alexandra Kahsenni:io Nahwegahbow, Robert St. George and gallery communications writer Karen Joyner.
From left: Indigenous artist Simon Brascoupé takes a selfie with gallery educator Jaime Morse, elder Annie Smith St. John, gallery curator Alexandra Kahsenni:io Nahwegahbow, Robert St. George and gallery communications writer Karen Joyner. Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia

“We wanted a new visual identity that would ground the institution forever to the land, water and sky, to the beauty of the visual arts, and to each other,” Thompson said, noting the importance of the circle as a symbol for the interconnectedness of life for Indigenous peoples. 

The digital rendition of the logo is animated to reflect the notion that art is always evolving. The colours are reminiscent of the palette of the Northern lights, and can be varied to match the artwork, while the typeface used for the text is the circular Founders Grotesk, described by gallery staff as “light and assertive.” 

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