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InspirationDec 12, 2023

Canada Modern: Retail

From what we now know as the Beer Store to the Fair Trade Movement to Canada Post and more, Canada Modern gives us a glimpse of what retail looked like from the 1960s to 1980s.

Brewers Retail Logo

Hans Kleefeld, 1964

Archive: TM75

In 1927, the government of Ontario succumbed to public op­position and revoked anti-alcohol laws which had been in place for nearly a decade. The province permitted a new organization to be organized by a consortium of Ontario-based brewers and thus the Brewers Warehousing Company Limited came to be, using ‘Brewers Retail’ (now known as "The Beer Store") as a consumer-facing brand name.

In 1964, a new logo for Brewers Retail was designed by Hans Kleefeld when he was at Stewart & Morrison. The symbol itself is a pure example of modernism, one of reductive, minimal qualities. Whereas, the fuller logo (with wordmark) is a more traditional form of mid-century modern, with its use of the typeface Clarendon and shield-shaped container. The symbol depicts an abstracted form of the Trillium, the floral emblem of Ontario, while simultaneously evoking the connection to crates and boxes (of beer) — also the view from above, of a bottle itself (the cap represented by the central circle). A further concept of distribution of goods is articulated through the arrow-like elements radiating from the centre. The brand colours: red orange, brown and yellow, provide a distinctive palette for the brand that connect directly to the product itself (beer and coloured glass), yet epitomize the era of modernity and the visual sensibilities of the time.

Canada Post Retail Pictograms

Glenn Fretz, 1985

Archive: TM27

Canada Post / Postes Canada became an independent Crown corporation in 1981 as the successor to Royal Mail Canada. The identity program was created by Newton Frank Arthur (William Newton, Robert Frank, Paul Arthur) in Toronto. As part of the program, they commissioned Fretz to develop a suite of pictographs representing key services, namely postage stamps, letter drops, parcels and fax/electronic media. Part of the business strategy for Canada Post was to locate facilities inside retail businesses (such as grocery stores or pharmacies) for the purpose of providing postal retail sales and services to the public. The pictographs were used on signage and marketing displays to identify the services available in these locations.

Danesco Booklet

Margrit Kapler, 1974

Archive: CM221

Montréal-based Danesco was founded in 1963 offering distribution of leading iconic brand names to Canadian retailers. This small, simple, booklet was designed by Margrit Kapler when she was employed by Frank Davies and Gloria Collinson at Bowring Innovator. Bowring operated retail stores, focused on gifts and home decor, across Canada. Bowring Innovator produced marketing, advertising and communication materials for the group. It must be assumed that Danesco had their products distributed through Bowring and this piece was produced to support promotional purposes with their product lines.

The design of the booklet takes its form from the Danesco logo, the pages die-cut to perfectly offset its shape. Internal pages are laid out with simple black and white text pages on the left, and colour product photography on the right. The images and tone, so evocative of the era. The photographer was Michel Proulx.

SelfHelp Crafts Leaflet

Glenn Fretz, 1981

Archive: CM241

The roots of SELFHELP Crafts stem to 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler, a volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), visited a sewing class in Puerto Rico where she discovered women — living in poverty — who produced beautiful lace. She returned to her home in the US and sold their handicrafts to friends and neighbours. The money was then sent back to the women who produced the work. As these pieces became more popular, cross-stitch needlework from Palestinian refugees and hand-carved Haitian wooden crafts were added to her inventory. The project continued to grow from Edna’s basement, as she worked with more and more communities worldwide and in 1958, the first retail shop opened. With the help of thousands of customers and volunteers, this program evolved into an alternative trading organization which ultimately became the roots of the global movement now known as ‘Fair Trade’.

To coincide with the launch of the opening of the new headquarters and store in New Hamburg, Glenn Fretz designed a suite of marketing materials including this simple 6-page promotional leaflet. Printed in black and green (the organization’s corporate colours), this piece introduces SELFHELP Craft’s mission and features black and white imagery of skilled artisans at work. As well as this collateral, Fretz created the SELFHELP wordmark, a monospace geometric design that utilizes the repetition of the letter ‘E’ to create a ladder — a visual metaphor for climbing out of poverty. The wordmark was adopted by the wider organization and was used across North America until 1996 when the name was changed to Ten Thousand Villages. Fellow Mennonite designer Kenneth Hiebert developed the MCC ‘dove and cross’ symbol in 1965.

The Store That Timothy Built Book Cover

Theo Dimson, 1969

Archive: CM240

The T. Eaton Company Limited, or Eaton’s, was Canada’s largest department store chain. Founded in 1869 in Toronto by Timothy Eaton, Eaton’s grew to become a retail and social institution throughout Canada. 1969 marked the company's centenary and a commemorative book was produced to coincide with the celebrations.

Like Eaton’s, the book is composed of varied departments. Author William Stephenson conveys the lively story of Eaton’s growth from a tiny general store just off the main business street of early Toronto to one of the world’s great mercantile empires. The jacket of the book, designed by Theo Dimson, employs a combination of abstracted vertical and horizontal lines of perspective connected to the Eaton’s corporate identity, but perhaps also hinting at the interior space of a building or the phases of time past. These elements are coloured in Eaton’s official blue and red colours and inset with the title of the book in a version of Clarendon (which is believed to have been a staple in-house type choice). Displayed in the lower right hand corner of this composition is an embossed and gold-foiled graphic element, like a tile, which derives from the logo created to celebrate the company’s 100 years.

List curated by Blair Thomson, Founder and Creative Director, Canada Modern

About Canada Modern

Canada Modern is a physical archive of modernist Canadian graphic design focused on the period 1960-1985. It exists to preserve, document, educate, inspire and build a richer understanding of a seminal point in Canada’s development as a nation. The collection is primarily interested in identity design, typography and graphic communication and is shared online via its own website. We cannot find the way forward without clear knowledge of where we began — perhaps through fostering a greater understanding of Canada’s first golden era of design we can begin the process of heralding a new one.

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