Six Cinquième Helps Bring Montreal’s Historic Black Cultural Institution Back to Life

Posted inBranding & Identity Design

In the early ‘90s, the Negro Community Centre (NCC) in Montreal’s historic Little Burgundy neighborhood shuttered its doors. The once critical cultural institution and resource for Montreal’s Black community had faded into inactivity after attracting luminaries like Nelson Mandela and Oscar Peterson. Just over 20 years after closing shop, the NCC’s historic building was demolished in 2014, and all hope appeared to be lost.

In 2020, the racial and cultural reckoning that rippled across the globe snapped the importance of NCC’s mission back into focus. With renewed vigor and urgency, the organization reimagined itself as The Centre for Canadians of African Descent (CCAD). “We can no longer wait,” reads the CCAD website. “Canada can no longer wait, Quebec can no longer wait, Montreal can no longer wait, Little Burgundy can no longer wait for Montreal to have a Black historical site.”

In order to rise and meet the moment, CCAD needed a brand identity that honored the legacy of NCC while elevating it to new heights. Finding the right people for the task was a no-brainer— they tapped local Strategic Brand Consultancy Six Cinquième, helmed by Montreal natives Ash Phillips and Miro Laflaga.

“Working with the CCAD is an honor,” Laflaga told me. “To see an institution that you’ve been aware of since childhood and to have the opportunity to collaborate with them as an adult makes me feel extremely proud.” With creative director Phillips leading the way, Six Cinquième first helped define and align the CCAD’s vision for the future, then designed a new brand identity to bring those aspirations to life.

“Our team gets to become a part of and impact Montreal’s cultural history, which holds immense significance for our community and the creative ecosystem within our city,” Laflaga said of the experience working on a project so near and dear to him and his team. “Collaborating with an institution that stands for something gives the impression that our work carries a significant impact. In reality, we are contributing to the development of society.”

With this appreciation for CCAD fueling their fire, Phillips, Laflaga, and their team dug deep into the history of the organization to ensure they tackled the project with a greater respect and understanding. “There was so much rich history that we were unaware of,” said Laflaga. “It was crucial for us to uncover it if we truly aimed to bring this project to life. We wanted to ensure that the legacy they had built over the years would be reflected in the brand identity we were developing.”

In doing so, Six Cinquième interacted closely with those who held strong connections with the institution, such as the Vice President of the CCAD Andrea Este (the niece of NCC founder Rev. Charles H. Este). They also held workshops with members of CCAD so that the communities the organization serves directly had a voice in the process. “In these sessions, we collaborated with them and challenged their perspectives on the new vision of what the CCAD represents,” said Laflaga. “The outcome of this process allowed us to fully understand what the CCAD was and where it is going.”

The cornerstone of the new brand identity is a carefully crafted logo that highlights the unique and layered experience of Black Canadians, achieved primarily through the outlined patterns of the “C” and “A.” The logo also creates a pattern that serves as a modern-day twist on African prints. 

“I genuinely believe that we have constructed something of which the organization and the people can be proud and will support with pride. To me, that is extremely important in a project,” said Laflaga on the finished product. “We constantly strive to build brands that are reflective of the people behind it, and CCAD is no different. Our team was able to strike a balance between a classic yet modern design, which can be very challenging.”

Due in no small part to the power of Six Cinquième’s rebrand, CCAD has recently rallied around regaining the plot of land where the original NCC had once stood. Despite private developers’ plans to turn the area into condos, progress has been made to restore it to its former glory and put it back in the hands of CCAD.