Sparking change: CMF rebrand puts inclusion first

Stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are searching for new stories and media content, of all kinds and in all places. Globally, the average number of video streaming hours has increased by 57% compared to last year. As a result, the screen-based industry is booming—and the sources that help fund the production of that content are more important than ever before.

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) fosters, promotes, develops, and finances the production of Canadian content and apps for all media platforms. Since 2010, the CMF has been one of the major tools available to Canadian creators and companies developing original, sought-after content—and its rebranding this year reimagines that legacy while looking to the future.

“The pandemic has changed our world and people are looking for content that reflects those changes,” says Valerie Creighton, president and CEO of the Canada Media Fund. “They’re looking for different kinds of storytelling, different ideas, different characters. Our new visual identity embodies the wide range of compelling content coming out of Canada.”

The Canada Media Fund revealed its refreshed brand identity with a striking new logo, affectionately called “the spark.” Shedding the restrictions of a traditional logo, the spark is an ever-changing frame—animated, brightly-coloured, and designed with careful purpose: to highlight not the organization itself, but the creators and content it supports.

Creative content is central to the CMF’s work so it was important to make it central to the brand. “The logo changes to reflect any type of content at any time,” says Creighton. “It puts the content front and centre, right in the visual identity, with the CMF supporting it.” It is that creative content that has the longevity and the power to tell all Canadian stories, she adds.

Above: The CMF rebranding includes showcasing 12 distinct Indigenous languages including (clockwise from top left) Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Dene, Gwich’in, and Northern Cree.

The new brand identity is focused on creating inclusion and equity, and that includes representing Indigenous creators. After 16 months of consultation with Elders, Indigenous language and cultural experts, storytellers, content creators, and other key stakeholders, a total of 12 distinct Indigenous languages and their screen content will be showcased in the CMF’s new logo: Dene, Gwich'in, Inuvialuit, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Mitchif, Northern Cree, Ojibway, Oji-Cree, Plains Cree, Sḵwxw̱ú7mesh sníchim (Squamish), and Woodland Cree, with additional translations underway. For example, the Canada Media Fund will be expressed in the Mitchif language as L’ARJAN POR LI MIDJYA DJU CANADA.

Creighton emphasizes the importance of including Indigenous voices and culture in the CMF’s new identity. “The visibility of Indigenous cultures and creators across our country is vital on our journey to Reconciliation—and the decolonization of our national brand is just the first step in creating real change.”

The CMF has been working to address the historical inequities in the Canadian industry’s support of Indigenous content since its inception, supporting over 600 projects to date. Mathieu Chantelois, vice-president of communications and promotion at the CMF and lead on the rebranding, credits Creighton for the organization’s long-term commitment to change. “Courage sparks courage. Under her leadership, everyone at the CMF has been inspired to embrace change and set a precedent that we hope other institutions will follow.”

The updated brand identity also represents the ever-changing scope of the media landscape, both in Canada and worldwide. Though the industry has been disrupted since the advent of digital media and the growing use of nontraditional platforms to access content, the CMF’s goal remains: helping Canadian creators tell their stories in whatever new mediums arise. The ability to adapt is key. And while change will not happen overnight—for instance, future developments will respond to legislation passed by the CRTC—the Canada Media Fund has created a dynamic visual identity that can always keep up.

The current shifting state of the media industry, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, has cast the CMF’s work, both in uplifting Indigenous voices and supporting content, in a new light. “The question for us” says Creighton, “is not just what do these creators and companies need to recover from the pandemic, but how can the CMF help them thrive in the long-term? Seeing themselves strongly represented in our new visual identity is our way of letting Canadian creators know that the Canada Media Fund is here for them now and long into the future.”