Nigel Hood’s memorial logos honour Saskatchewan’s ghost towns

by Aidan Morgan

nigel-1art-2Nigel Hood knows more about Saskatchewan ghost towns than you. Guaranteed. He knows how Poldarth got its name. He knows the one thing that sets Girvin apart. And he claims to know which town really likes to party.

Born in Prince Albert and raised in Weyburn, Hood lives and works in Edmonton as a graphic designer. You might recognize his style from the half-decade he spent designing Prairie Dog, or more recently, our June 12 cover on the anniversary of the CCF’s first government.

To combat the occasional tedium of using his talents in a commercial environment, Nigel began to devote an hour a day of his free time to personal projects. Out of this came The Ghost Towns of Saskatchewan poster, a set of logos for 120 Saskatchewan communities that have seen better times, from Ardath to Yonker.

I spoke with Nigel over delicious beers during a recent short visit he made to Regina.

What was your inspiration for The Ghost Towns of Saskatchewan?

I did this thing called “The Songs of SNFU,” which was a 138-day drawing project. I’ve been doing these one-a-day projects where I take a theme and do one drawing per day. When I finished the project I just wanted to get away from SNFU songs. Listening to SNFU every day can get pretty tedious.

After about 50 days I can see that getting difficult.

Yeah, there’s a critical mass with these things [laughs]. I feel that people could get sick and annoyed of seeing these things [on my Instagram feed], because I can get sick and annoyed of working on them.

This ghost town one came about when I was researching prime ministers for a different project. From there, I got into the Wikipedia wormhole of Saskatchewan ghost towns. I realized there were 120 of them, which is a lot compared to other provinces. Some are completely deserted, and some of them still have a small population. I think there’s a story in that.

I’d research these places as much as I possibly could. Wikipedia was my best friend ever and a great starting point. There’s also the book Our Towns by David McLennan. It’s the Saskatchewan Bible, full of stories and history.

Once I started talking to people I was able to broaden my research further. Chris Morin at Planet S shared some resources with me. Friends on Twitter would ask me if I knew about such-and-such a town. People at work would say things like, “Hey, my boyfriend’s from this town. Denzel, Saskatchewan! Look it up! It’s got 100 people, it’s a ghost town!” And I’d be like, “Nope, that’s a village.”

One hundred people don’t make a ghost town?

No! Ghost towns are places that are either completely dead or have dwindled down to a very small remnant of their population. Usually it happens when the railroad moves or a new highway diverts traffic or similar circumstances. A lot of these towns were located close together on a rail line, and when the technology changed, the towns couldn’t support their numbers. It’s sad, but it’s an illustration of how you can’t stop progress.

Tell me about some of the responses to your logos.

One of the things I learned in my research is that people care a lot about Saskatchewan communities. When I was working on the project, I put one up on Instagram every night — it’s that melding of technology and these old-school ideas of community.

I can track the interest in a project from views and followers on my Instagram account [], and it really went up when I was doing the Saskatchewan project. Now that I’m doing illustrations of Degrassi Junior High episodes, my numbers have gone down quite a bit. It turns out that people who like Saskatchewan don’t like Degrassi.

You should do a graph of that.

It would be a Venn diagram with very little overlap.

Tell me about the process of generating the logos. What did you draw on for that?

As a graphic designer, I look for symbols and certain things that resonate more than others, especially with towns and stuff. I always say that a logo is like your face. It’s not necessarily going to tell everything about you, but it’s going to identify you to people. So if you have a logo, it should be just enough to identify you. It’s doesn’t have to tell your life story. It doesn’t have to tell all the sad parts and all the happy parts.

 Now that you’ve finished the Ghost Towns project, what’s next?

I’m about a month away from finishing [the Degrassi project]. Right now I have two or three projects planned out. But it’s a one-day-at-a-time process. Once a day I make something.

My next project is the Battle of Alberta. Calgary against Edmonton, the Flames vs. the Oilers. There are over 200 games, and I have to find a way to represent them somehow.