Person walking by Pride Toronto 2018 posters

PRIDE TORONTO 2018: Everything You Need To Know About The Brand

Author: Adrianna LeBlanc

This year Pride Toronto partnered with Bruce Mau Design to create a whole new look and feel for Pride. I had the pleasure of discussing the inspiration and design process behind Pride 2018 with Michael Mavian, Associate Creative Director at Bruce Mau Design. To understand the choices behind the 2018 design, it’s important to know the story behind the rainbow flag and symbolism of the Pride movement.


The Beginning of Pride

The first noted symbol in the gay community was Oscar Wilde’s iconic Green Carnation in the late 1800’s. It is believed that the carnation was metaphorical in that A flower of an unnatural color embodied the decadent and the unnatural. As if to say there is beauty in the unnatural - the unnatural being a common belief of those times. Thankfully, it is not as prevalent now.

Until the rise of the rainbow flag in the 1980’s, the inverted pink triangle was the symbol of the gay rights movement. Originally used as a negative label in the 1930’s, the triangle was reclaimed and worn to serve as a reminder to never repeat the past. Gilbert Baker, the designer of the original rainbow flag, said that

“At this point, the pink triangle was the symbol for the gay movement. But it represented a dark chapter in the history of same-sex rights. Adol[f] Hitler conceived the pink triangle during World War II as a stigma placed on homosexuals in the same way the Star of David was used against Jews. It functioned as a Nazi tool of oppression. We all felt that we needed something that was positive, that celebrated our love.”
According to, “there was a criminal statute that allowed police to arrest people wearing less than three gender-appropriate articles of clothing” in New York in the 1960’s. This caused the LGBTQ (then LGBT) community to “flock to gay bars and clubs, places of refuge where they could express themselves openly”. In 1966, a previously “straight” bar was reopened as a gay bar - “Stonewall Inn”. The police raided Stonewall Inn and it caused a massive riot. The raids inspired Baker to create a new symbol of liberation for Pride - the rainbow flag.

Crowd of people with a Pride Rainbow Flag standing out


Pride 2018 in Toronto

My meeting with Michael gave me a new insight into the depth of Pride’s branding this year. I learned that none of the imagery was created purely for visual aesthetic. Each design decision has an important meaning. Here are the key takeaways:


This Pride is Different from Any Other Pride You Have Seen

Pride Toronto wanted fresh graphics this year. Michael’s team was able use colour in a fluid way, pulling away from the typical rainbow flag colours that most Pride events across the globe use. Michael believes that because so many companies are using the Pride rainbow it can begin to look “corporate”. Switching up the visual tools helped to update the design and create unique identity.


The Design Process was Highly Iterative

The design process at Bruce Mau started by brainstorming with the Pride team, which lead to three distinct brand concepts. Pride Toronto chose one theme to roll with, but decided that it needed to be less abstract. Many rounds of changes and polishing went into creating this year’s bold concept.


It’s All About Identity and Representation

When I asked about the inspiration behind the design, Michael told me the two main focuses this year were Identity and Representation. They wanted to give people the ability to identify themselves within the theme. Rather than use the typical, flat rainbow colours, they achieved this by using vivid colour in a non-binary way.

To represent diverse communities within the LGBTQ landscape, the team explored movement and photography. They used collaged images to give a sense of experimentation and blurred boundaries.


It’s Taking Pride Back to Grassroots

The recent events in the LGBTQ community played a part in this year’s concept. The team felt it was important that the theme didn’t feel like “party all of the time”. Gritty texture and rip effects were used to balance out the colour and bring it back to the grassroots political movement vibe that Pride originated with.

Pride 2018 Toronto poster

Michael Mavian’s Advice for Designers

Don’t play by the rules. There’s so much design and branding out there. Doing what everyone else is doing may seem like the acceptable or easy way, but doing things differently and thinking about things in new ways is really important. Getting inspiration from other things outside of design is really a powerful thing. So instead of looking at branding blogs, going out to a museum or art gallery, or going out in nature and finding more inspiration from unexpected places, yields more unexpected results, which are more powerful.

Pride has come a long way. The brand will continually change with the influence of events in each era. What started as a quiet movement turned into bold and proud proclamation of love and unity. We want to hear your thoughts - tell us what you think about the Pride Toronto 2018 brand in the comments.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.