Allan Robb Fleming was one of the most influential Canadian logo designers in history. He designed the iconic Canadian National Railway logo in 1959, the game-changing Ontario Hydro logo in 1962, and the best-selling 1967 ‘Centennial book Canada, a year of the land’. Fleming worked as the Vice President and Director of Creative Services at Cooper and Beatty Ltd. in his early years. He joined Maclean’s magazine as art director in 1962. He also rendered his services for MacLaren Advertising and the University of Toronto Press.
In 1959 the New York industrial design firm James Valkus commissioned Fleming to create a new logo for Canadian National Railways as a key part of Valkus’ company-wide corporate redesign programme. The resulting logo, launched in 1960, is still in use today and acclaimed as one of the top 50 corporate logos of all time by design historian Alice Rawsthorn.
“I think this symbol will last for 50 years at least.” – Allan Fleming
After experimenting with countless possibilities, Fleming hit on a particularly inspired design while sitting on a New York-bound airplane. He quickly sketched the idea on a cocktail napkin – and CN’s logo was conceived. The continuous flowing line symbolised “the movement of people, materials, and messages from one point to another,” Fleming said. As the eye moves from “C” to “N”, the image suggests fluidity and motion. “It’s a route line that incidentally spells CN,” Fleming explained.
After launching the CN symbol in 1960, Fleming redesigned the Bank of Nova Scotia logo, and worked on projects for Dow Chemical Company, Salada Foods, Jordan Wines, Vickers and Benson, Eaton’s, and of course Cooper & Beatty.