The Story Behind the NWTRPA Logo

 April 18, 2019
Posted by smiklosovic

In 2019, we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of the NWT Recreation and Parks Association by looking back at the people, events, programs, and projects that have made the NWTRPA what it is today. In our last post, we visited the organization’s first AGM to see what inspired the establishment of the NWTRPA. In this post, we learn the story behind the NWTRPA’s distinctive logo.

As the NWTRPA’s first AGM in March 1989 wound to a close, Vern Sinnott, the Interim Recreation Coordinator for Lac La Martre (now known as Whatì) took the stage to outline the next steps for the new organization. At the top of the list was incorporation as a society, a sensible choice. Not only would incorporation lend legitimacy to the new organization, but it would also allow the NWTRPA to do things like open a bank account, hold property, or be eligible for funding.


Number two on the “to do” list, however, was arranging for a logo. Vern and others in the room understood the importance of a logo to establishing a “true identity” for the new organization, so much so that the search for a logo had begun months before the first AGM. In the summer of 1988, steering committee member, Jim Gabriel (Recreation Coordinator, Town of Fort Smith), agreed to organize a logo contest for the “NWT Recreation Association.” The winner was promised prizes “from several northern sports stores as well as a Team NWT Arctic Winter Games bomber jacket from Sport North.” With a submission deadline of December 1, the committee hoped the logo would be ready before the NWT Recreation Conference in March 1989.


In the end, arranging for a logo proved harder than anyone anticipated. The search in the fall of 1988 was unsuccessful. A second attempt at organizing a contest took place in the months after the AGM. Advertisements were placed on CBC Radio and in MACA’s Energizer newsletter announcing the contest. Letters were also sent to schools around the territory inviting students to submit a “creative” design that represented the association’s relationship to the north and to recreation.


At the October 21 meeting of the NWTRPA Board, Jim Gabriel reported, likely with some exasperation, that there had been zero submissions. It was back to the drawing board, so to speak.


In the end, it was a Yellowknife-based architect, Darrell Vikse, who was responsible for designing the NWTRPA’s logo. At the time, Darrell was a Program Architect with MACA. Amongst other things, he worked on some of the new gymnasiums and rec centres that were popping up around the territory in the late 1980s. This meant he crossed paths with people in the Sport and Recreation Division who were part of the new NWTRPA, like Dan Schofield and Ian Legaree.


Darrell’s rough sketches played with “images that would be recognizable to northerners: spruce, pine, tamarack, big suns.” Ultimately, he settled on a midnight sun with two evergreen trees in the foreground. “On those dark winter days when it’s minus forty, I thought people would appreciate something bright and punchy that reminded them of summer time when they could easily spend 18 hours a day outside,” Darrell explained during a recent phone call.


The other person who deserves mention in the story of the NWTRPA logo is Dot Vanvliet, at the time a freelance graphic artist also based in Yellowknife. According to the board meeting minutes, Dot was responsible for giving Darrell’s design “a professional, polished look.”


In 1990, two years after discussions of a logo were begun, the NWTRPA finally had a design in hand that could be used on business cards, letterhead, and other promotional materials. Today, the NWTRPA logo appears on hats, hoodies, fishhooks, and water bottles in communities around the territory and beyond. This is a testament to the success of the NWTRPA, but it also reflects the fact that we have a good lookin’ logo.

Lisa Smith sporting an NWTRPA toque during our annual Walk to Tuk!

In future posts, we will meet some of the people that have led the association over the last thirty years. If you have a story to share from the NWTRPA’s past, contact Jess Dunkin ([email protected] | 867.669.8376).