Oh Canada, Who Designed You?


 Apparently, there has been some controversy about who designed the impressive Canadian flag. Here’s the recent quote in an obituary about Canadian brand designer Don Watt on thestar.com (Toronto) who passed away on December 23 at 73:
“Watt’s sterling resumé contained one questionable item. He told his
family, colleagues and clients he had designed the Canadian flag in his
late 20s but had never received credit – having kept quiet for years at
the request of Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who personally approved
the design after a well-connected colleague of Watt’s had it shown to
him. The only major alteration Pearson made, Watt said, was changing
Watt’s blue bands to red because he was a Liberal. . .
. . . But John Ross Matheson, the
former MP who is widely credited as one of the central figures behind
the flag, said he had never heard of Watt; so did Rick Archbold, who
wrote a book on the flag, and three expert professors.”
In 1964 the PM, Mr. Pearson, appointed a committee that selected the design based on the flag of the Royal Military College of Canada designed by George Fancis Gillman Stanley. 
scholars agreed that Watt’s story contradicted known facts,” continues the obiturary. “Pearson did
not personally choose the final design. His publicly expressed
preference, moreover, was “Pearson’s Pennant,” a flag with blue bands
and three maple leaves. . .  Pearson biographer John English
said he was “astonished” by Watt’s claim. “Pearson would never make the
remark about the Liberals.”
And such, in a nutshell, is the problem with who gets and can claim credit for something as collaborative as graphic design. 
Daily Heller, Imprint: Print Magazine's Design Blog

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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