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Looking at Bell Canada | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

Looking at Bell Canada

bell new ads

bell canada old and new

design maven quote

It’s been quite a while since I’ve talked about any corporate identity work here on designNotes. I’m always slightly uncomfortable mentioning that a logo is great or that it sucks b/c I have no idea what went into the design. Maybe the time line was insanely stupid or way too many hands had to be in it. Maybe the brief was to make something simple b/c it’s going to be updated in a year – I just don’t know. Plus a logo never lives on it’s own – there’s the management of how it will be implemented which is the less sexy side of corporate identity but probably the more important aspect – how is it going to relate to the tone and voice of the company.

It wasn’t until I visited Toronto a couple weeks ago that I noticed some fairly blank billboards that were emphasizing the word “er.” What the hell is up with that I asked a friend? He mentioned that Bell was going to be bought up and the marketing people inside wanted to show that they still were needed within the company and decided to change things up. While there’s no possibly way to confirm if that was the actual case – what’s more interesting is to hear what a regular Canadian thought about the reasoning for the update. So much for my theory of managing the corporate identity – Bell Canada’s logo had been reduced to a simple word from the character it once had and the first touch points didn’t even mention who it was from. Sure the argument could be made that I would eventually find out that it was from Bell – but coming to it with fresh eyes I was pretty confused and not the least inspired which I think is a bigger issue w/ the overall relaunch.

It wasn’t until yesterday when I was floated a couple emails that I thought it might be interesting to re look at my first observations and the reaction that I got from the billboards and to a less extent the new logo. If there’s one biggie about Canadian design it’s probably that it relies too heavily on white space and a whisper of text – as though the words are so powerful that it doesn’t need to be image intensive. In theory that’s a great idea, in practice at least w/ what I saw above it felt really cold and uncommunicative. What doesn’t help is that there’s some serious anger from the public w/ all the telecom companies in Canada. The service and rates are expensive for what is given, the tech. is behind the rest of the world and there’s a sense that there’s a couple monopolies that are wanting to keep it that way. Until companies like Bell listen to why people hate their company campaigns and identity revamps aren’t really going to help.

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Bonous Sites w/ more info…

+ Identityworks: Bell Canada
+ Brand New: Putting the er in After
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  • derekkinsman

    Hi Michael, being a designer from Toronto I thought I may add some Canadian feedback. I'm not a fan of the individual components, but the entire rebrand I find quite well done. The “er” didn't make sense, but it definitely had people talking. Or looking rather. And the follow through with the full ads kept the concept going. The new logo is alright. Needs some spacing around the “e”. I fully enjoy the website, it's probably the most usable Canadian telecom website—I know, not many, but try getting around the Rogers & Fido sites. I think the Apple look works well for corporate websites. Less stock images makes the design cleaner.

    And, I think we should all look at the previous Bell marketing and advertising campaign. Yes, the two beavers. Those characters were so annoying and stupid that every time I saw them on TV I wanted to run into a wall.

  • Mix

    See now I didn't mind the beavers and I freaking hate animal characters promoting a product. It wasn't my favorite campaign in the world but I think it gave the company some relatable personality. That's my major beef with this campaign. No personality, it's just another big corporation and with the current phone company struggle I think that's going to be a negative thing when it comes down to consumer attitude.

  • http://www.noun.ca oliveroike

    To me, the opportunity for a repetitive type/word treatment is not 'er' but the first two letters of Bell: 'Be.'

  • http://www.randytroppmann.com Randy Troppmann

    No idea about eastern Canada but Bell is getting trounced in the west, despite their campaign with the (much loved) beavers, Frank and Gordon. Still don't really know what “er” is … maybe Bell customers are “doers” ?

    Canadian designs … white space … whisper of text? That's a broad stroke Michael. Maybe you are referring to the Telus ad campaign which they bought with the Clearnet who started this campaign circa 1997. That's 11 years ago! Maybe they should hire Frank and Gordon.

  • Randy Hergott

    I kind of like the logo. Really enjoyed Tony Spaeth's “Don Draper-esque” comment: “Such simplicity takes guts, and shows guts. I don't see this as a new mark of beauty, simply one of confident presence…” Nice!

    I like the look of the ads (including the big logo “Bell-ements”) but I was scratching my head over the “er” concept too. oo's idea of “Be” being the repeated text element would have made much, much more sense…