Wunderman Thompson puts Vimy Ridge back in the passport

The literal nature of Canada’s redesigned passport is a polarizing topic these days. Depending on your point of view, the government’s decision to swap out the previous passport’s beloved Canadian iconography for landscapes and wildlife is either indicative of “a culture in decline,” a “nothingburger,” or perhaps something in between.

The redesign unveiled earlier this month eliminates images that have been featured on the passport for the past decade—including Terry Fox, Niagara Falls, and parliament’s Centre Block—and replaces them with Canadian wildlife and nature scenes, such as children jumping into a lake.

Also conspicuously absent from the new passport is the Vimy Ridge memorial, a monument to all of the Canadians who fought and died in the First World War. Shortly after the redesign was announced, the Royal Canadian Legion issued a statement calling the Vimy Ridge memorial a “fundamental” image, and saying its removal constituted a “poor decision.”

As an agency with a long history working with veterans groups including both the Royal Canadian Legion and True Patriot Love Foundation, Wunderman Thompson, too, found the omission of the Vimy Ridge memorial particularly egregious.

“We’ve come to realize the importance of the act of remembrance, so we were pretty shocked about the omission of a pretty important symbolic image that had appeared in our passports,” said chief creative officer Ari Elkouby. “I think Canada’s military is a strong source of pride and a big part of our national identity, and to see that missing from our passport image was pretty shocking.”

The agency set out to rectify the situation by creating a proposed update called the “Lest we forget page.” Developed by design director Michael Butler, and associate creative directors Sucheta Shankar and Jer Lenz, the proposed image restores the Vimy Ridge memorial, while adding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa.

In a nod to the updated safety that brought about the passport update, the new page also features hidden imagery—including service men and women and a poppy—that are revealed when the document is placed under ultra-violet light.

“We think showing a way forward is more helpful than just being critical,” said Elkouby. “We have a really talented group of creatives, designers and illustrators, so we took it upon ourselves to create something that fits the motif of the new design.”

There’s no client attached to the effort, with Wunderman Thompson instead sharing the image on its social channels. “It’s just an opportunity for us to take a position more than anything else,” said Elkouby. “This could easily be incorporated into the next update if they so choose.”

Chris Powell