The Walrus Talks Identity by Rethink


February 15, 2017


Canadian conversation gets toothy


Late last year, Rethink released a cheeky promo video (below) for The Walrus Talks, a conversation series developed by The Walrus magazine and its parent organization, The Walrus Foundation, to coincide with The Walrus Talks national tour kicking off March 1 in Whitehorse, Yukon.


Hans Thiessen, Rethink's creative director, design, recently sent us the accompanying brand identity and answered a few questions about the speech bubbles-meets-tusks concept.


Beyond creating an identity for the talks, did The Walrus give you any specifications or direction in terms of the brief? 


The Walrus is a non-profit Canadian foundation dedicated to supporting writers, artists, and thought-provoking conversation. They tasked us with creating an identity for The Walrus Talks. The new identity would help mark the launch of The Walrus Talks Canada 150 national tour, but the solution needed to be timeless and work alongside future talks.


Since The Walrus Talks cover a wide range of themes—including youth leadership, the environment, mental health, the arts, public policy, the Arctic, and human rights—the solution needed a complimentary naming/titling/typographic system. In terms of tone, The Walrus wanted something that was fearless, witty, thoughtful and Canadian.



How did you arrive at the walrus tusk solution? Was it an early idea and were there any notable concepts you rejected in favour of it?


With every new project at Rethink, we follow the “1 or 100 Rule”: Your best idea is either your first or your 100th, but you won’t know until you’ve done 100. The Walrus Talks was no exception—we threw down lots and lots of ideas. At one point there was even a walrus performing stand-up comedy. Or maybe it was karaoke? Needless to say, it was quantity over quality at this stage!


After reaching 100+ ideas, we stood back and looked ones that had potential. In this case we selected six ideas to push a little further, one of which was the speech bubble/walrus tusks idea.


To be completely honest though, I didn’t really like the tusk idea at first. Maybe it’s my unhealthy attachment to things that boil down nicely to a single purely geometric shape, but this one made me uncomfortable. Thankfully though, far smarter people than I—including the client—took notice of it and helped me see its potential. It’s true what they say: it takes a village to raise a logo!


Can you talk about some of the design considerations you made in developing the logo?


Black-and-white is sophisticated, understated, timeless, and lets the content/speakers steal the spotlight. The accent of grey is Walrus-y without being overly literal (eg. a brown walrus, or blue for water, etc.). In the full toolkit, there’s a dollop of Canada’s finest hue—RGB red—as an accent.


As for typography, the logotype is a customized cut of Belwe. Its deliberately unusual proportions evoke the bulky beauty of Walruses everywhere. The supporting typeface is Founders Grotesque. Simply put, it’s a hardworking sans that still has a warmth to it. Sort of like a toque! Do Walruses wear those?




How is the identity being rolled out?


The identity was first used in a video online (below) to help launch the 2017 national tour. Who knew that Walruses were so well versed in Canadian trivia? Or that they can operate handheld microphones?


Since then, we’ve developed a toolkit for The Walrus’s internal team, who will be handling the rest of the identity’s roll out. We look forward to seeing how the identity comes to life at the talks. Hope to see you there!




Like this article? Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to get our top stories delivered to you every week!



Ralph Newton

February 20, 2017


Bang on design. A conversation, and tusks. Simplicity, at its best.


Leave a Comment

* required field

Name: *

Optional URL: (include http://)

Comment: *

Verification: 5 + 4 = *

NOTE: Comments are moderated and should appear on the site shortly, pending approval.


Are you a designer, ad exec, copywriter, illustrator, interactive designer, or photographer with a flair for the written word? We're always looking for guest columnists and contributors on the Applied Arts website! Email editorial[at]appliedartsmag.com to introduce yourself.