The National Gallery of Canada’s rebrand marks a step towards decolonisation

The most obvious change is in the logo, which has transformed from a square to a shape-shifting circle that animates through various iterations. It has become what Centeno Milton describes as “a permeable circle, inviting people in and radiating outward”. She goes on: “We had to show that we are constantly changing and that the connections that exist outside of the frame are limitless. Almost as if a kaleidoscope is letting light in as it turns, shapes connect, morph, recreate to become something bigger than the individual part.”
Elsewhere, the Ankosé has shaped a new colour palette. “Red was too monolithic a colour, so we added in bright and vibrant colours that connected two different shades into one through a gradient, further reinforcing the idea of connection,” says Benoit Lemoine, lead designer on the project at Area 17. There was also another inspiration behind the palette, according to Centeno Milton: “We wanted to have a more inclusive palette influenced by the Northern Lights – as if we are all under the night sky connected to each other.”
Meanwhile, typographically, Founders Grotesk was chosen as the main typeface across the identity. This was because, as Benoit explains, it “inherently holds contradictions in it. It is at once timeless and contemporary, iconic and accessible, and geometric and human.”
But it wasn’t until some early brand concepts were shared with an Elders committee that a breakthrough came. The word “Ankosé” came up, an Anishinaabemowin word meaning “everything is connected”. Immediately, says Centeno Milton, “we knew the trajectory of the project had shifted. The word encompassed the ideas we were trying to get across – the idea of connection and limitlessness.” From that point on, Ankosé became the central idea that can now be seen running throughout the visual identity.
The dynamic logo also symbolises a shift in the museum’s focus. “It moves us from a Western worldview of rigid geometry to a circle that draws on Indigenous teachings,” writes Sasha Suda, the National Gallery of Canada’s director and CEO, in a statement. (Announcing the rebrand, the statement also explains how the Canadian system of governance is based upon the British parliamentary system, which is built around square rooms and hard lines of opposition. Indigenous governance, by comparison, takes place in circles, with communities gathering and making decisions in “talking circles” and “healing circles”.)

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