DixonBaxi’s rebranding of Canada Water is a nod to its incredible history and exciting future
Finding inspiration in diverse communities and a rich local ecosystem, DixonBaxi created a brand that embodies the dynamism of Canada Water.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 14 July 2021
Design consultancy DixonBaxi has partnered with British Land to rebrand the area of Canada Water, London in what it describes as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity”. Its ambitious new vision for the south-east London neighbourhood stretches across 53 acres and over 12 years.
The team at DixonBaxi looked to the exciting future of Canada Water to inspire its present, as well as revisiting some of the area’s rich history to inform a branding project that effectively captures its dynamic profile. “The brief was to create a strong, progressive brand that still feels warm, human and friendly,” says Astrid D'Hondt, design director at DixonBaxi. “Helping people reimagine Canada Water by building on the unique natural landscape, its connection to the city, and developing a brand system that is able to grow alongside the evolution of Canada Water.”
One of the highlights of the branding is a series of hand-made gestures evolved from “understanding the history, heritage and layered stories of the area.” This is a reference to the ever-changing nature of Canada Water as it is built and rebuilt over many years. It is also a visual nod to the people that call this area home – the pioneering spirit of local thinkers and creators and the many different communities that “overlap and combine to create a beautifully rich landscape.” These gestures were created by days out spent near the water, woods, and parks, using the green surroundings as inspiration for a handmade aesthetic. “In static applications there is a sense of movement and energy. We were keen to keep hold of that spontaneous, expressionistic feel,” explains Astrid. “When cropped, they become a dynamically flexible design language to be used discreetly or with bold impact. In motion the gestures come to life in a stop-motion, analogue way – changing intensity to reflect times of day from morning, afternoon and evening. They are created to feel sensory, tactile, painterly and poetic.”
A vibrant mix of colours and illustrations also stand out within the branding. Blues and greens reflect nature and water – an integral part of the local topography – while others are references to Canada Water’s historical landmarks and icons and have been given names such as Harmsworth Blue, Brunel Clay, Mayflower Yellow, and Stave Hill Green. These are coupled with warm, simple drawings by artist Jay Cover that “reveal mini stories of life at Canada Water and the contrast between the buzzing urban center with the natural landscape of the woodlands.” Speaking on DixonBaxi’s collaboration with Jay, Astrid says: “We loved Jay’s hand-drawn style and the way his characters have a playful, quirky quality as well as how they effortlessly blend with the colourful brand gestures. It was essential to really reflect the multidimensional richness and diversity of the neighbourhood. His ability to capture those nuances and bring some fun to it was a big part of why we chose him.”
The brand system is topped off with suitably distinctive typography. Karelia was selected as the primary typeface “for its organic curvature and contrasting geometric forms”. It has an equally handmade feel, but also incorporates more structured forms “as a nod to the industrial past of the area”. The Canada Water wordmark speaks to the spirit, landscape, and connectivity of the area and is strongly influenced by its ecosystem. The A’ and ‘W’ are joined by an upward line that captures the symbiotic relationship between nature and the local working and living environments. “The Canada Water wordmark celebrates the spirit, landscape and connectivity,” says Astrid. “It has to live on so many applications for many years while allowing the rest of the brand to be expressive and adaptive.”
DixonBaxi: Canada Water (Copyright © DixonBaxi, 2021)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.