todd falkowsky: revealing urban colours.

In an interesting and lovely cultural colour project, Todd Falkowsky, co-founder of the kick-ass Canadian design collective Motherbrand and one of the forces behind the must-visit Canadian Design Resource, set out to capture the visual identity of Canadian cities through simple Pantone colour palettes in his article “Revealing Urban Colours” for Walrus Magazine.

Using computers to figure out the predominant colours from landmarks and landscapes from each Canadian capital city, he then built individual palettes to create a kind of chromatic identity for each city. The end result is a multi-faceted colour theory study, with results similar to the palettes created by people on one of my fave sites, COLOURlovers,

As with the work he contributes to at Motherbrand, there’s an intrinsic simplicity to this whole project that I love. I’m a colourphile, and any work of art or science that examines our relationship with colour gets me going. On top of that, there’s something very Canadian about it. No huge fanfare and glossy pictures of monuments and other stereotypical urban signifiers (“oh, look, the CN Tower, they must be talking about Toronto…”), the colours and the entities they represent are all subtle and true. More so it’s that these are the shades of the things that make up a place but don’t necessarily overwhelm it. These are the hues of things seen and known but not always looked at or thought about…

Sometimes hockey and football, sometimes water and rock, these colours represent natural pulls to the land where these cities lie, to the cultures fostered there, and each one is chosen not for it’s glitz but for it’s purity of presence. These are real things. Solid things. Look at Whitehorse and you first see “Aurora Borealis” and “Fireweed” – it doesn’t get much more elementally beautiful than that.

Each palette has been personalized out of a genuine reality and not out of an urge to impress. Being a Torontonian, I can’t think of any colour more omnipresent than the slightly annoying sanguine red of the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission). Pretty? Not necessarily. Affection-inducing? Most people’s opinion of the TTC lies somewhere between detestation and apathy. But it’s presence is undeniable and a visual colour-thread for anyone that lives here – and capturing that reality is, I think, exactly what Falkowsky set out to do.

Thanks to Hannah + Matt.


  1. Love this work, amazing idea and a fresh take on how we see the world around us.

  2. Did Todd put you up to writing that post, he is a self aggrandizing Bullsh*t artist that would sell his own puppy to get name and recognition.
    You have a cool blog though

  3. i’ve been all over canada, and i have no idea where these colours are coming from…this “designer” chose landmarks and decided that a few colours from these locations represent the city. Regina and Vancouver are very different cities and yet they have nearly identical swatches??

  4. hamish says:

    We’ve had something similar for a while here:

    Dulux colours of New Zealand:

    Resene is in on it as well…

    I wish I could find the Dulux advert online but no luck…


  1. […] example of the kind of thing Wired was talking about in the article I mentioned earlier. Artist Todd Falkowsky has processed thousands of photographs of all the Canadian capital cities into the three most […]

  2. […] Revealing Urban Colours […]

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