Although I've done my fair share of paddling over the years, I've never thought of canoeing as a particularly Canadian activity. But Canoe Kayak Canada, which was founded in 1900 as the Canadian Canoe Association, has launched a rebrand of the organization that's working hard to convince me otherwise. For example:
Paddling is a part of our history. Paddling teaches us how to be alive in the world. It cultivates the skills for life success. It embodies the values we believe in. Everything that our country stands for is brought to life in the act of paddling. Paddling makes us who we are.
Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was a
serious canoeist. Photo Credit: The National Post
But given how long our winters are, and how much snow we have to deal with, maybe we're more a nation of shovelers? Swap out the word paddling for shoveling in the blurb above — it works for me.
But back to Canoe Kayak Canada. CEO Casey Wade is firm in his resolve: “There’s nothing more Canadian than paddling.” No less than that! I think it might take a bit more than paddling to "make us who we are" (whatever that might be). However, on reflection there's certainly the historical aspect of indigenous peoples relying on canoes and kayaks for transport and hunting. European explorers such as Jacques Cartier were big fans of birchbark canoes, which were quickly adopted by settlers and fur traders. These light but fragile craft were replaced only in the 19th century by cedar and elm construction, followed by the wood and canvas models most of us used as kids.
But perhaps the thing to focus on is the canoeing craze of the 1880s that saw clubs formed across the country, leading to the popularization of canoeing as a pastime. And it would seem Canadians have fared well at the Olympic level, with our first medal dating back to 1936, the year canoeing was accepted as an Olympic event.
So are we still a nation of fervent paddlers? Not so much, it would seem. The rebranding of Canoe Kayak Canada has come in the months prior to the Summer Olympics, with part of the initiative an attempt to counter declining participation and bring younger people into the sport/pastime. Toronto studio Dot Dot Dash was tapped for the rebrand and went for the historical approach by employing a single red leaf based on the one used back when Canada won its first medal, as shown below. This is reminiscent of the retro leaf treatment of the Toronto Maple Leaf logo released earlier this year. On top of the leaf DDD dropped a paddle and refreshed the type treatment with Cubano and a popular free font, Oxygen.
Simple but effective. Not that the earlier logo was that bad. In fact the way the paddle and its wake is rendered is quite effective. But the decorative, lyrical approach is out these days. Of course, the process of simplification can go too far, as we saw with the recently redesigned Swimming Canada logo.
Will the rebrand get the youth of Canada to drop their mobile devices and pick up a paddle? Unlikely. But you can't blame Canoe Kayak Canada for trying.