A centre dedicated to history and progress.

In 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) initiated a multi-year process to listen to those affected by Canada’s residential school system. The process resulted in the collection of statements, documents and other materials, which the TRC sought to make available to all Canadians to learn from.

The TRC chose Winnipeg, Manitoba as the site for this new centre. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is located on the campus of the University of Manitoba, which itself is recognized as a leader in Indigenous education, and was the first Canadian university to formally apologize for its role in the residential school system. Today, the Centre carries forward the work initiated by the TRC.

What they told us: Acknowledge the past, look to the future.

The Centre is dedicated to sharing knowledge as a way of informing Canada’s future. By learning about, and acknowledging the failings of the residential school system, Canadians can better understand many of the systemic challenges facing Indigenous peoples today, and ensure that past mistakes are never repeated.

The visual identity for the Centre therefore needed to draw inspiration from past learning, and future application.

In addition to the inspiration, the identity needed to feel compatible with – but distinct from – the TRC’s identity. And, as a Centre located on the University of Manitoba campus, the identity needed to balance the host site’s visual identity as well as these two entities would frequently appear together in applications.

What we saw: A flame that burns bright.

The TRC logo prominently features a flame graphic, which strongly influenced the initial exploration of the visual identity. We used the organic forms of the flame to evoke the images of two birds – which are evocative of the TRC’s mandate, and which references ‘setting our spirits free’. There is an interdependency between these birds that conjure intergenerational relationships between residential school survivors and their children; between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and within families.

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

We maintained a circle to contain the flame graphic, breaking the circle into four quadrants to infer the four directions of reconciliation and leaving a gap between each quadrant to welcome all Canadians on that critical journey. To encourage buy in from both stakeholders, the typefaces and colour palette were also deliberately chosen to ensure a visual tether to the TRC and the University of Manitoba.

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

In applications, the balance of past and future and the reference to intergenerational relationships once again played a role. Demonstrating the relationship between generations who have survived the era of residential schools, and those who live with and beyond that systems legacy, was a key inspiration for photography. The tone of the graphic approach strived for positive, forward-facing and determined – with an appropriate amount of gravitas for the subject matter and the challenge at hand.