Iconic city

Workshops seek to symbolize ‘Winnipegisms’

Icons created at the Iconnipeg workshop.


From Portage and Main to Salisbury House and Guy Maddin, Winnipeg has many iconic people and places - and Iconnipeg aims to capture that essence.

The Iconnipeg workshop was put on by Matt Carreau in collaboration with Winnipeg Design Fest on Saturday, September 26. Inspired by The Noun Project – which aims to create a lexicon of symbols that can be universally understood – with the goal being to create classic “Winnipegisms”; symbols capturing the essence of the city.

The event took place in the headquarters of Manitoba Start, a not-for-profit which provides a variety of programs for newcomers to help them settle.

The day started with guest presentations from Colin Neufeld, designer at 5468796 Architecture (the company that designed the icon-heavy Manitoba START building) and Robert L. Peters, Principal of Circle Design.

Presentations were followed by brainstorming, then symbol prototyping. The workshop finished off with design production where Martha Street Studio lead a stamp making workshop.

“What is the symbol for corruption at city hall? There’s a tradition in the city for having campfires by the river, what’s that symbol?”, asks Matt Carreau, coordinator of the workshop.

The challenge was capturing all the things that make Winnipeg really special, and turning them into icons.

Thomas Murphy, a third year graphic design student at Red River College has always been interested in iconography. When he heard about the conference in one of his classes, he was interested because it combines two things he loves: icons and his hometown.

“There’s something about a simple image that can express so much information to everyone. I think it’s really cool.”

Some of the icons Murphy sketched were symbols for brainfreeze and fallings icicles.

He finds it a challenge to strike a balance between the positive and negative aspects of Winnipeg.

“It’s a lot easier to find icons for negative things than positive things. We were looking at mosquitos, potholes, construction, busses being late and all that stuff. It was hard to shift that mind set and see what you like about Winnipeg.”

Murphy says his favourite Winnipegisms are “slurpees, the art and music scene, and socials”, while Carreau believes that there many uses for the icons and would love to see them have a life beyond the workshop.

“There’s a lot of applications that our symbols can have. I’m also working to see if we can have an exhibition.”

Hinting that the workshop was merely the beginning of the project, he hopes to one day turn the icons into a “Winnipeg-centric font kit” that can be downloaded as an app and be available to everybody.

“A workshop like this will bring a broader understanding to the role that design plays in our lives and its ability to make a positive impact in our communities.”

For more information or to get involved, go to http://iconnipeg.tumblr.com

Published in Volume 68, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 2, 2013)

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