When Cultural Appropriation is Not Okay in Design

Paul MycroftI am the owner of Market 2 All and am from south London in England. Before emigrating to western Canada (via 14 years in the US), I had never heard of the Canadian First Nations people, but I had heard of native Americans due to the movies.

Having lived on Vancouver Island since 2008, I am now aware of their painful history in Canada and most recently, the brutal and unjust residential school system, which still affects many of them today.

I now have many First Nations friends, play soccer with them, and socialize with them as well.

Logo Design

So when a design job came across our desk a few weeks back for a client who works with them in their communities to develop strategies and plans, we were more than happy to design their logo.

We thought a First Nations logo design might be appropriate (business name protected for privacy) so we did our research on design principles and even sketched our idea out.

Griffin sketch Griffin sketch

From these, the finished design looked like this:

FN logo grey

Nice, right?


We asked a local FN carver and artist acquaintance to “look it over” and give their “blessing” but received pushback that it was not something a FN artist does. They train for years and are unique in their highly skilled trade so do not comment on each other’s work.

We then asked another FN friend about this so he asked his own friend and artist. He said this:

“It is cultural appropriation and isn’t a good example of First Nations art. More and more people are starting to try and do native designs – what can we really do besides just educate them that it’s not very genuine?”

He is right on all counts.


Today is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation so we decided to not continue with this design out of respect for the process and our FN friends.

We came up with this, a much better logo and more suitable for the client, who has Welsh heritage. And he is more than happy!

Logo grey


I hope this article helps you better understand First Nations art. I was more than happy to be educated and am even more happy to end this day on a positive note.

Huy ch q’ u siem.

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Paul Mycroft

Having emigrated from south London, England, Paul has moved between cities in North America, building a loyal following since starting the business back in 2002. Many US and Canadian clients are with him today who were there from day one.