Agency Cossette creates a visual identity for public exhibition under a Toronto expressway encouraging play in the city

The brand agency is celebrating Toronto’s Year of Public Art with a visual identity for a Covid-safe exhibition.

2 September 2021


As we all become a little more used to the idea of outdoor exhibitions as a result of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, Toronto is hosting its Year of Public Art with a contribution from Canadian creative agency Cossette. Their design studio has partnered with The Bentway for an exhibition, Playing in Public.

The Bentway is essentially the underneath of a huge expressway or motorway called the Gardiner – like the M25 but much more complex. In 2015, the space which was previously going to waste was transformed into a public space for art, skating and exercise.

Playing in Public promises to be an interactive exhibition for members of the public to explore. “The pandemic highlighted the strong relationship between play, physical and mental wellbeing, and public space,” says Cossette’s design team. Therefore, the need for outdoor public space in dense, high-rise communities, like the ones near The Bentway became more desirable.

The exhibit opened earlier this summer and also includes online programming and a series of art installations by artists including Daily tous les jours, Esmaa Mohamoud, Assemble, Studio F-Minus, Thomas Mailaender and Erik Kessels, Pierre Poussin, The Street Society, and Nelson Wu and biosphere. Also, there are pop-ups littered around and a connected wayfinding “play path” designed by Cossette.


Cossette: Playing in Public (Copyright © The Bentway, 2021)

The pandemic has been a time “marked by physical distancing and social isolation,” says Ilana Altman, co-executive director of The Bentway, so the nature of how we engage with public space had changed. Altman hopes that “as we move towards pandemic recovery, the Playing in Public exhibition will help awaken a sense of play amongst local residents, and have them think about how play can help shape an even more vibrant post-pandemic Toronto.”

Cossette had the challenge of creating a wayfinding system and visual identity for the exhibition which not only encouraged locals to “see their city through the eyes of play” but also reinforce social distancing. “The vibrant three-zone colour palette contrasts with outdoor surroundings to make it easier for visitors to move safely along the play path,” says the design team.

Play and design are synonymous. They both “rely on imagination and a sense of discovery,” Chelito Rubio, Director, Branding & Design Strategy at Cossette, puts forward, “and we used this connection as a jumping off point for this project.” Hence the tagline, “We All Speak Play”, which alludes to the universal nature of play. The visual branding hopes to reflect this with doodles, icons, kinetic type, and typographic installations. “We’re hoping to encourage people of all ages to leave their day-to-day behind and engage with some great public art,” says Rubio. “We could all use a bit of play!”

GalleryCossette: Playing in Public (Copyright © The Bentway, 2021)

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Cossette: Playing in Public (Copyright © The Bentway, 2021)

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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