There’s been a considerable amount of public outcry over the new Ontario Cannabis Store logo. Most of the discussion has circled two main talking points: the cost of the logo, and how boring or “bad” it is.
First off, it’s important to know that the intent seems clear here to make a boring logo, one where the public isn’t excited by the brand or idea. It’s something that needs to be carefully considered when launching this type of product, and we’re sure a lot of thought went into it.
What people can’t get over is the cost to produce this “bad” logo. But what does it mean to create a bad logo? For many, creativity is viewed as a stormy process of inspiration, innovation and iteration, but what you’re initially taught as a creative professional are some basic rules for the particular medium you’re working in. Once you master the fundamentals you can then explore the creative process by pushing on the rules a little bit or combining rules.
Computers love rules, so we developed an online logo maker that specializes in trying to understand logo designs from a foundational set of rules. The tools and algorithms we’ve developed have helped us break down why so many people may be taking issue with the Ontario Cannabis Store logo design.
When analyzing the aesthetics of this logo, it helps to consider the main properties and how they work together, namely the feature positions, typeface and monogram.
The logo features a wordmark and a monogram represented in two variations: one that contains both elements together, and one with just the monogram. In the first variation, the monogram is left-aligned to the wordmark, a position format we’ve aptly named “symbol with stacked text” (and one of the most common layouts for logo design).
The need for the monogram here is because the wordmark is too long — “Ontario Cannabis Store” — and would have legibility problems when scaled down. Typically, you add a monogram or symbol to strengthen a logo. Here, it’s added because there will be an obvious need to add this logo to signage, letterheads, business cards and more, and at a small size, the wordmark may be hard to read.
The outstanding problem is that the monogram doesn’t make you think “Ontario Cannabis Store.” It lacks that branding connection, and it might even make you think of what other companies the OCS initials could stand for. The typeface and color further impact its ability to stand out as a uniquely identifiable symbol for the brand because of how generic these two choices are.
That’s not the monogram’s fault — it’s carrying over an issue of a poor typeface selection from the main wordmark. Light or thin typefaces tend to work better with shorter wordmarks (typically two to seven characters) where legibility is less of a concern.
With a company name that’s 20 characters long, you have to worry about how legible the text will be when it’s scaled down (which is, again, why the monogram was created). Still, a bolder typeface would have been a better choice in this case.
The last thing the two logo elements do to fight each other is to force the wordmark to be stacked as three separate words. The length of the wordmark and the monogram would look very unbalanced if written on one line, not to (again) mention the issue of legibility that would be introduced to the monogram if scaled down.
Instead, the words are stacked to help create balance with the monogram. But since each word is a different length, you get “rags” in the wordmark (also called “empty trailing spaces”) that don’t look appealing when the wordmark is used on its own. This means the wordmark alone is not a strong option for logo usage.
For the intent and the message the OSC wants to communicate, the design absolutely achieves it. The issue remains the cost to produce this design. If you want boring, make it boring. But you don’t need to recruit one of the best design agencies in Toronto and spend over half a million dollars.
It’s important to remind readers that the logo is just one part of the cost and that the cost represents a full branding initiative. Again, if boring and unassuming is what you’re going after, it begs the question: how much branding and marketing strategy do you need to achieve this?
Just for fun, one of our designers jumped onto our app to create a few inspiration pieces and after about 30 minutes came up with the above design. What do you think?