Evolving the Identity of Canada's Biggest Fair

Canadian National Exhibition
Brand Architecture, Messaging, Positioning

140 Years of History

Founded in 1879, the Canadian National Exhibition is the country’s largest community event and one of the largest fairs in North America. In its 140-year history, it has introduced Canadians to technological advancements like radio and virtual reality and acted as a gathering place of industry, spectacle, and community. Today, it operates in a rapidly changing landscape. Frontier was engaged to help renew its purpose and vision for decades to come.

Think Greater

A collaborative process of research conducted with exhibition-wide stakeholders yielded a new organizational positioning framework focused around the founding ambition of the fair. By reuniting around this original vision, the CNE can refocus its programmatic and operational activities with enthusiasm and relevance while still honouring its past. In addition to this essential purpose, we developed an updated brand personality and messaging.

Making it Real

Following the purpose work, we developed a new brand-architecture framework. To begin testing ideas from the positioning framework, the CNE engaged Frontier to develop festival merchandise, something it hadn't produced in a decade. Leveraging its astounding and often under-appreciated visual history, we created new designs that incorporate the tone and messaging developed in the positioning framework.

Renewing a Sense of Purpose

After the Canadian National Exhibition Association (the governing body of the CNE) completed a new strategic plan, it engaged Frontier to help develop a vision and renewed purpose for the fair itself. Our goals were to create a strategic framework that would align stakeholders, facilitate operational growth beyond the eighteen days of the fair, and renew the identity of the CNE to ensure its resilience in a changing cultural landscape.

Activating a Rich Visual History

Following positioning and brand architecture, we worked with the CNE to create festival merchandise. Focusing on memorable elements of the fair—the food, rides, emotions, memories, history—we created designs that build off of the existing visual culture of the event. In particular, we redrew famous midway-ride signs in digital formats and updated and edited vintage brand marks.

CNE photography via cneheritage.com