Memories of early logos

I was looking through some old photos recently and came across some shots I’d almost forgotten about. I’d gone to school in Kamloops, and started my freelance design career there as my work started getting seen and known throughout the community. I’d been fortunate enough to create for a number of nightclubs, a tanning studio, an auto body shop, restaurants, a ski and snowboard company and many others – with no idea of where it was all going.

It was always a thrill to see a poster or sign that I’d created for another business up around the city. Eventually I was asked to help create logos for new startups, and it immediately became clear to me what an incredible honour and responsibility this was.

One of my existing clients had decided to open a new business at the local ski resort, Sun Peaks. It was to be a “soup bar”, that would serve up to 9 different gourmet soups daily, and appeal to the upscale, on-the-go crowd of the resort. We had several meetings, I did my research and went through my processes, eventually creating the approved logo. The owner was happy, I sent over the files, and carried on.

Spoon Soup BarA few weeks went by and I needed to go up to Sun Peaks to meet with another client. As I walked through the resort, I chanced upon the logo I’d created, now made real, physically right in front of me with freshly fallen snow resting upon it. It stopped me dead in my tracks, and I stared at it for a long while. I watched resort visitors walk past, some glancing at the sign I’d made, some even looking, pointing and going in. I’d created the icon that would represent this business and everyone that worked for it, and here it was, collecting snow and looking right in place alongside the multi million dollar hotels and other trendy shops. Suddenly, I was infatuated with the art and science of logos. 

Spoon Soup Bar is long since gone, but it will always stick with me as one of the first logos I created. No matter how many I am fortunate enough to create, it will always be an honour and an incredible responsibility.  A logo is never just another paycheque – it’s about helping bring someone’s dream to life, and that? That should always stop you in your tracks with wonder.

Toronto Raptors unveil new logo

The Toronto Raptors announced their new logo for next year’s season this week. Almost immediately, the Brooklyn Nets (who eliminated the Raptors from the playoffs last season), tweeted their thoughts about the logo:
“.@Raptors Looks familiar”

Now why would they say that? Let’s take a look:

Now, granted, there’s only so many different ways you can draw a basketball… but maybe Brooklyn has a point.

What do you think? Is the Raptors’ new logo too similar, or is this a coincidence resulting form each team using a long-standing formula for circular logos? Or, is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Post your thoughts below!

What’s in a slogan?

I suppose that like a lot of people, for a long time I didn’t really think too much of company slogans. For sure, I bought them up like crazy for brands I thought were cool, but that was about as far as my thought process went.

My first real exposure to slogans (or tag lines, if you prefer) came in the mid 2000s when I was working with a music and dvd retailer called play. We had three retail locations and were very well known to the devoted music or home entertainment audiences in the two cities we were in. However, if you had no idea who we were… well, you had no idea who we were. Our logo was a rectangle with rounded corners, the word play in lowercase letters and a green triangle to the right, like the play button on most electronics. Our slogan (which had been developed before my time) was “See it. Hear it. Play it.” It sounded cool, but for a brand trying to gain a bigger footing, it didn’t work. Why not? Well – does that tell you in the slightest what the company was about, or what we sold? On more than one occasion we had customers enter our store asking if we were an arcade, an appliance dealer (I still don’t know how that made sense), or part of an unrelated company from Eastern Canada. Eventually it was decided that we should create something new, beginning my interest in slogans.

The slogan I created was “The music store as independent as you are.” – and my goals for it were this:

  1. Clearly define what we sold. Music store. Check.
  2. Separate ourselves from big box stores, identifying our independent nature, which as a music retailer allowed for greater flexibility in bringing in unknown or underground artists, and not just the big superstars.
  3. In identifying ourselves as independent, we also associated ourselves with our customers. Who wouldn’t want to be thought of as cool and independent?

Okay, so, a little cheeky, a little precious, perhaps.. but it worked. Our customers liked the new slogan, and people seeing our store bags or other materials for the first time away from our stores were able to identify who we were. This slogan also had the great benefit of being an excellent radio tag – I closed all of our radio commercials with it. We knew it was working when we were signing up new customers to our customer loyalty program and they would comment “So you guys are really independent?”

Since that time, I’ve been honoured to have worked on many logos and slogans for both new businesses and those going through a rebrand. Sometimes the owners haven’t even considered a slogan, sometimes they don’t even know where to start… which ironically enough, was where I was when I started Ambition.


Too close to the forest? Perhaps. I was taking a number of business courses to help get my grounding, and we were discussing elevator pitches, slogans and branding. I ground my teeth. I had ideas for everyone else in the room – classmates and instructors – but for my business? Oh no.

Eventually I created “Connecting businesses to their

target markets and reconnecting people to their passion”. Say THAT three times fast. Yes, it said what we do – from marketing to creative coaching.. but.. let’s be honest: Ugh.

The instructors said that it was fine (in their defence they couldn’t really linger on me for too long – there was the rest of the class waiting), but I wasn’t happy at all.

I held off putting that slogan on anything. I knew what the rules were; I knew what a slogan SHOULD do.. and I broke the rules. Entrepreneurs, dreamers, business people.. they all have something in common: Passion. Drive. Ambition. How do you find out what moves someone? Ask them.

What’s Your Ambition?

I tossed that old clunky slogan so fast it didn’t even have time to hit the bottom of the digital trash can. Forgot about my elevator pitch. THIS is it… and it works because people love to talk about what excites them, and I love to hear about it. I frequently get stopped when wearing my company shirt with this logo across the back by complete strangers who want to tell me what their ambition is – or to ask me what the shirt is about. It’s awesome. Whether someone’s passion is making the fanciest doodadwhatzit gadget on the planet, or they’re in business because they love business (read: money) – we can help.

What’s in a slogan? Whatever, as a business owner, you want to put into it. It can be an integral part of your brand and marketing materials, or it can be ignored as an afterthought. It’s your brand, your dream. Now, tell me… What’s Your Ambition?

– Jason