The two logos in question.
The Whistle is a café in Glendale, Pennsylvania, located in a small building by some railroad tracks. Their logo (above left) is extremely familiar.
Anyone who lives or gets drunk in Toronto (or Sudbury, or North Bay, or parts of Alberta and British Columbia) will recognize that stylized steamwhistle. It belongs to Steam Whistle Brewing, makers of Steam Whistle pilsner since 2000. The semi-circular building in the background of the logo is the John Street Roundhouse, a heritage site near the base of the CN Tower that Steam Whistle renovated and made into its centre of operations.
The Whistle’s logo is the same in all particulars. Even the Roundhouse is still there, though it’s safe to say that Glendale doesn’t have one exactly like it. The only difference is that instead of blue and emerald green, the Whistle’s version of the logo is brown, and instead of “STEAM WHISTLE: CANADA’S PREMIUM PILSNER,” it says: “THE WHISTLE: Ardsley Train Station, PA.” The logo is used in the Whistle’s online marketing materials.
Several calls to the Whistle went unanswered, and an email to the administrative contact listed for its website’s URL has not, so far, been returned. The café’s Facebook page indicates that there was a change in ownership late in 2010, meaning whoever is in charge at the moment may not have had a hand in deciding on the logo.
In fact, there might be any number of explanations for the apparent logo theft. A dishonest artist hired by the café could have passed the work off as his or her own, for example. We’ll update when and if we’re able to get the Whistle’s side of the story.
The similarities between the two logos were first noted on the web on Saturday, when graphic design “gotcha” blog You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice posted a dispatch from a reader who came across the café during a train ride through Pennsylvania.
Someone from You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice notified Steam Whistle. As of this morning, the company wasn’t sure what to do.
Sybil Taylor, the media spokesperson for Steam Whistle Brewing, said that the company’s founders, including her husband, co-founder Greg Taylor, came up with the prototype for the logo in 1999, while sitting around a kitchen table. They took a hand-drawn image to graphic designer David Hayes, who refined it. The final touches were done by Reactor Art & Design, a Toronto-based studio.
“It is a copyrighted logo,” says Taylor. “I’m not really at this moment entirely sure what happens when you go over a border. But we’re in consultation about that.”
Hat tip to Marc Lostracco.
: Steam Whistle Brewing spokesperson Sybil Taylor tells us that the person who owned the Whistle before its recent change in ownership emailed her after our story went live. The old owner claims the ripped-off logo was the work of a graphic designer he’d hired. In the email, he promises to make sure that the café stops using the logo immediately. It has already been removed from the Whistle’s website and its Facebook page.