Ernst Roch with staff
of Cockfield, Brown & Co.
Ian Roberts + D.R. McRobie
of Cockfield, Brown & Co.
New NBTel livery on (blue) company vehicles
In Search of a Symbol

“I like NBTel’s new corporate colour and symbol. The colour is dramatic, easily recognizable, and provides a necessary safety factor that was lacking in the old grey. The combination of the deep blue and the reflective white of the markings on the vehicles is really quite attractive. The symbol imparts a sense of our identity in the communications industry that was not there in the old crest. Our real purpose is now evident, whereas before, only a small part of our function was indicated in the pre-war symbol.”


Mrs. Donna Saunders.
Engineering, Fredericton


Archive Repository:

Ernst Roch

Design Collaborative








With thanks to Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB)
and Tanya Duffy of The Details / NB Modern


NBTel News, Spring 1966


Symbols don’t just happen. They are designed. And much of the work that goes into the design of a symbol actually has to be done long before the designer ever makes his first rough sketches.


When we asked our agency, Cockfield, Brown & Company Limited, to help us create a new symbol for our Company, their senior art director, Bob Buckham and the copy writer on our account, Rolf James, got together and started to work out the requirements which our design would have to meet.


This work included a critique of our old symbols, the various type styles we had been using, the colour of our trucks, and so on. Then the objectives of symbol design in general, and of the design for our symbol in particular, were clarified and spelled out.


The next phase was the job of a highly qualified and experienced designer, Ernst Roch. He worked out a number of designs in accordance with the guidelines supplied to him, including the choice of a colour.


In a number of meetings between Ernst and the agency people, these designs were scrutinized, some were rejected, others were further developed, and finally one design and one colour scheme were selected for presentation.


These presentations — the first one to the Company Management, the final one to the Board of Directors — included the complete reasoning behind the recommendation made by the agency. This, of course, is an important part of any symbol design programme. A symbol, as we said, doesn’t just happen. It is created to do a job — a job for the company whose “signature” this symbol will now be for a long time.


The two big jobs for our symbol must be, first, to gain recognition, and secondly to convey character. Our business, of course, is a service, it’s not the phone as such, or TWX machines, or any other equipment we install. Our service is that of providing telecommunications facilities for the people of New Brunswick, linking them by electronic means.


This is our service (or character) and this is what we want people to see in our symbol. We want to gain recognition for this service. And that is what this symbol does. It says “inter-exchange” between points, and our abbreviated name — NBTel — now not only says New Brunswick Telephone, but it also and rightly suggests telecommunications.


Naturally a symbol and short Company name is a sort of shorthand. And in a business as complex as ours, such short-hand can necessarily do no more than suggest the complete range of our services. But we know that the careful work and thought that has gone into the development and design of our new symbol have brought it closer to fulfilling these two jobs than any other design we would possibly have selected.


This fact came out very strongly when our new symbol was shown to a number of prominent people in New Brunswick before it was adopted. In this test, the design alone — the two electronic arrows in the circle — was used there was absolutely no identification of our company. When these representative people were asked “What kind of a company do you think would use this symbol?” 75% thought of a telecommunications company. This response, of course, strongly confirmed the thinking and reasoning of the design team.


More and more, this symbol will become our “face” by which we will be recognized throughout the territory we service. It is a face that represents our increasing services in the total field of telecommunications — which, of course, embraces the telephone service which we were first organized to provide. But we had to realize that a symbol which showed only the telephone (and the words which referred only to telephone) was no longer adequate to represent the many other services we offer. Our new symbol encompasses all of these, and we hope and expect that it will become one of the best-known company symbols n Canada.


The Design and the Designer


The new NBTel corporate symbol is a meaningful trademark. It graphically illustrates our Company’s role in the world wide electronic exchange of information. It represents “Reciprocal Global Telecommunications’ a pretty big term for a Company with a pretty big job.


When it was agreed that the Company should inaugurate a corporate design program composed of a new symbol and a new colour, certain basic requirements were established for both components that would have to be satisfied by any proposed design combination in order for that proposal to be given serious consideration.


In addition to symbolizing the nature of the Company the trade mark would have to be unique in identity, simple in appearance, adaptable to black and white, or for use with colour, non lingual, and timeless. The colour would have to be unique in appearance and provide a high degree of visibility. The latter would satisfy a primary demand for a “safe” colour.


A number of designs were submitted over a period of time to our management for approval. All were rejected. Then, last July our advertising agency Cockfield, Brown & Company Limited of Montreal presented a new design, one which was considered to meet all the requirements demanded of a symbol by our Company. It was subsequently approved by our Management and our Board of Directors, and was officially accepted as the Company’s corporate design.


Graphically this new symbol features a globe upon which are superimposed two horizontal and parallel electric arrows pointing in opposite directions.


The globe, representing the separation of two points geographically, is a universally recognized symbol of world wide communication and denotes the multilateral transmission of data.


The electric arrows pointing in opposite directions represent the reciprocal electronic interchange of information between two distant locations.


The total design, then, is symbolic of the electronic exchange of information between two distant points, be they across the room, or around the world.


The new symbol represents the role of a Company involved in reciprocal global telecommunications. It represents NBTel. And it does it in a manner that is unique, simple, adaptable, non lingual and time less.


Colour was the next consideration, and since the most important and most wide spread use of colour involves the vehicle fleet, the choice was arguebly determined by this factor together with its suitability for general corporate application.


The colour had to be unique, and thus render all vehicles instantly recognizable as NBTel vehicles. It also had to be highly visible, for often our trucks are parked at roadsides and on busy streets while the men are at work. The selected colour would have to stand out clearly against any background — trees, highway, sky, buildings, fields, snow etc.


The safety value of the colour’s own visibility would also be furthered by the reflective material of the symbol which would be applied to both sides of the vehicles as well as on the rear of most trucks. A further safety feature would be the use of the black and yellow striped barricade markers on the backs of trucks.


The suitability of a number of colours was explored, and all but blue were rejected. Blue was chosen because it is a strong colour without being aggressive. It contrasts well against any kind of background, and no other major Canadian company uses this particular blue. It is dominantly visible, providing the required safety factor and it is unique to NBTel, having been especially formulated for us by a major paint manufacturer. It is NBTel Blue.


The new NBTel corporate design was created and developed by one of Canada’s most outstanding typographic designers, Ernst Roch of Design Collaborative Montreal Limited.


Ernst Roch, an Austrian born in Yugoslavia, began learning his trade from his father in Osijek, Yugoslavia where his father was a graphic artist and teacher.


While still a boy Ernst learned most of the manual reproduction techniques of his profession. However, because of the extremely unsettled conditions in Europe at the time, a move to Austria was forced, and Ernst had to give up his formal education. He then began working as a cabinet and coffin maker.


Still however he was developing his graphic skills by drawing and painting at every opportunity. At this time he saw a performance of the famous Salzburger Marionettentheatre and was inspired to build his own stage and sets and to hand carve a set of puppets. His whole family took part in the performances, each one either reading a part, or operating a puppet.


In the fall of 1948, realizing that his formal education had been neglected, Ernst returned to school at the State School of Applied Arts in Graz, Austria. Here he received the basic training he felt he had missed, and here he began the long hard years of studying and practising the fundamentals of his trade, the background work which is common to the top designers.


In 1953 he emigrated to Canada and began work as a junior artist in a photo engraving plant. The fall of 1954 saw him at a leading art studio where he began to gain a fine reputation — winning awards for work he was exhibiting across Canada and the United States.


In the spring of 1960 the Canadian National Railway began a redesign programme that has become one of the largest corporate image projects ever attempted in this country. Ernst Roch became graphics director of James Valkus Inc., Montreal, the firm commissioned to handle the programme.


In the fall of 1960 Ernst eft Valkus to work on his own as an independent designer. Since that time Ernst has produced a stream of award winning designs in advertising, direct mail, trademarks, magazines, and even postage stamps.


This internationaly known designer then, is the man who conceived the new NBTel corporate design, and this, his latest achievement, is meeting with the same appreciative response as have his previous successes.


About the New image?… I think…


The new NB Tel corporate symbol and colour were first publicly introduced December 1 1965 in what was to become one of the largest corporate design programs ever carried out in the Atlantic Provinces by a local company. Here now are some candid comments received from employees and customers evaluating the new image.


The Province-wide employee introduction to the new NBTel corporate design began Monday November 22 in Saint John with six one-hour presentations. Through the use of films, slides, and live delivery John Reid, General Personnel and Public Relations Manager and C E Ryder Public Relations Supervisor presented the design program — the need for a new symbol and colour conception of the two meanings of the design, reasons for the colour and the proposed application of the combination.


The introduction was then put on the road to be held on consecutive week days in Moncton, Fredericton, Newcastle, Bathurst, Campbellton, Woodstock, Edmundston, St. Stephen, and Sussex. In each location but Sussex, where only one presentation was made, multiple presentations were held so that as many employees as possible would have the opportunity to preview the new corporate design program. Twelve hundred employees were introduced to the symbol and colour through these presentations.


Customers were first exposed to the new NBTel corporate design program December 1 when full page ads in two colours appeared in the Province’s daily newspapers. On the same day CHSJ TV channel four carried the message of the new design. The next day, the message was delivered in our weather program commercial period over CKCW TV in Moncton. The following day John Reid and Moncton Commercial Manager W C. Boutilier were interviewed about the design program on CKCW-TV’s Supper Club Show.


Since then, ample time has passed to allow employees and customers to become sufficiently familiar with the new corporate design to express their opinions about it. Fredericton was chosen as the area where candid comments would be obtained from employees and customers.


In discussing the symbol, such words of description were used as, “effective” “modern” “purposeful” “progressive” “timeless” and “smart”. Regarding the NBTel blue comments ranged from”dramatic” “attractive” and “distinctive” to safe” “easily recognizable” and “outstanding”.


Fredericton Communications Consultant, John Winchester probably summarized the views of most of those interviewed, both employee and customer when he said, “I like the new image. There’s a certain basic simplicity about it which is at the same time attractive and effective. It is easily recognizable and safely visible. And I think these are the essentials. To be able to identify an object immediately with NBTel and in the case of vehicles, to make them as visible as possible.


However, it’s a big change and it takes some getting used to. When I first saw the symbol and colour, I was shocked. A month later, coldly receptive, a month after that I was thinking, ‘My Gosh ! Why didn’t we do it years ago ?’. Of course, contributing to my change in attitude were the enthusiastically favourable comments from customers with whom I deal. Unfortunately not all of our people are subjected to the complimentary comments of these objective observers, but I’ll bet that a year from now, even those employees who have, from long service and loyalty, been partial to the old crest and colour will be solidly behind the new corporate design. As a matter of fact, they will be the greatest boosters by virtue of that very loyalty and pride of service.”


George Mackie
Supervising Engineer Outside Plant, Fredericton
“Our new Company image? It’s a great idea! Our Company is one of the most progressive in the Maritimes so why shouldn’t we upgrade our image with this new look? On viewing the new NBTel Blue for the first time, it seemed a shock to the eyes, but the colour grows on one. Now the odd grey Company vehicle one sees is drab in comparison. I have heard many comments from the public saying, ‘we didn’t realize NBTel had so many vehicles operating until they changed their colour’ For me it is a dramatic colour, a safe colour.”


Dave Parlee
Central Office Man
“I didn’t like the new colour at first, but I like it more now, and in time I know I will come to accept it completely. It’s just a matter of adjustment. It stands out more than did the grey and since safety is a prime factor, this is important. It’s a good industrial colour. I appreciate the meaning of the new symbol, but I wonder how the man in the street feels about it. The average person in seeing it wouldn’t know what it represents.”


Mac Trail
Outside Representative, Fredericton
“I think our new corporate symbol and colour will require some time to gain acceptance. It will probably achieve a purpose in that it is both different and distinctive. The new symbol should be effective for quite some time since its modern design has a timeless quality about it.”


Chet Campbell
President, Tractors & Equipment Ltd., Fredericton
“I like your new colour, NBTel Blue, and I find your new corporate symbol attractive. The average person won’t immediately recognize its significance in what it means in representing your Company’s role in the communications industry but given sufficient time, understanding will come. It was time for the change and it was a noteworthy change to a progressive corporate appearance.”


Harry Levine
President of Levine’s Department Store and The Fredericton Board of Trade
“I think your new colour and symbol are very nice. Whoever chose this particular combination made an excellent choice. The two colours, blue and white, compliment each other and together are particularly attractive. I’m sure, too, that everyone will understand the meaning and significance of your new corporate symbol.”


Jim Cookson
Central Office Man
“I think in terms of safety that the new NBTel Blue is fine. It has greater visibility in fog and snow. At first I didn’t like it as well as the grey, but now that I am used to it, I prefer it much more. As far the new symbol, it is modern and suits us much more than did the old one. It represents our role in the industry much more adequately.”


Mrs. Carole Sterling
Commercial, Fredericton
“Blue has always been one of my favourite colours so I really like it. Also, since hearing the explanation of why this particular shade of blue was chosen, I can see that it really does suit the purpose of safety and easy identification. The symbol is neat, clear and modern and conveys our purpose in this industry.”


Mrs. Donna Saunders
Engineering, Fredericton
“I like NBTel’s new corporate colour and symbol. The colour is dramatic, easily recognizable, and provides a necessary safety factor that was lacking in the old grey. The combination of the deep blue and the reflective white of the markings on the vehicles is really quite attractive. The symbol imparts a sense of our identity in the communications industry that was not there in the old crest. Our real purpose is now evident, whereas before, only a small part of our function was indicated in the pre-war symbol.”


Dave Pickard
Outside Representative, Fredericton
“In talking with sales contacts during the past month, I have found that our new colour and symbol have certainly attracted the attention, and sparked the interest, of the general public. In my opinion, although the colour and symbol are generally very good, they take some time to get used to. They are very noticeable.”


Bob Murphy
Outside Plant Engneering, Fredericton
“I think the new colour scheme certainly makes our vehicles easily recognizable, and consequently offers a visibility factor of much safer proportion than did the old colour, grey. As far as the symbol is concerned, however I feel that a more outstanding design could have been chosen.”


Douglas H Etter
Manager, Imperial Bank of Commerce, Fredericton
“I like the new NBTel blue. It really stands out distinctively. The combination of this colour and the white of the symbol is quite smart and quite effective.”


Dr G S. Larimer
Professor, Psychology Department University of New Brunswick
“I’m neutral about your new corporate design. I don’t associate telephones with the symbol, but then I realize you have to express your purpose beyond the confines of voice. But then, I don’t associate communication with your symbol either. It looks as though it represents an electro magnetic field. The colour of your vehicles is much nicer. The blue is a much more distinctive and I m sure safer colour than the drab grey.”


Dick Mersereau
Installation & Repair Dispatcher
“I like the new vehicle colour now that the markings have been applied to make them appear brighter more easily recognizable. As for the new NBTel crest it is too abstract for me, too much like modern art. It means nothing to the public who will not recognize it. The old symbol was distinctive and colourful.”


Hugh Jarvis
PBX Repairman, Fredericton
“I like the new colour and corporate symbol very much. The newly painted and marked vehicles are really sharp in appearance and are drawing a lot of favourable comment from the public. Our old symbol was outdated in relation to the services we are offering today.”


All Articles


Archive Repository:

Ernst Roch

Design Collaborative