TransLink’s ugly Compass card could use an art contest

Remember when TransLink staged a contest to name its new electronic fare card? Sadly, the dull “Compass” came out on top in 2011, even though the public also suggested better names, such as “Sockeye” and “Oolichan”.

Nevertheless, the name of Compass—which seemingly no one is calling a “smart card” anymore—isn’t nearly as dreadful as its design. A bunch of location pins encapsulating the letter “C” on a blue, orange, or grey background (depending on whether you have an adult, concession, or ticket card)—well, it’s nothing special to look at.

Luckily, it’s not too late for TransLink to do something about this. After all, the full rollout of Compass, which was originally scheduled for 2013, has been delayed to summer 2014.

My proposed solution? An art contest to design the front of the Compass card.

Such a contest could be open to art students across Metro Vancouver—or even all artists in the region. It could be judged by a panel of art professors and professional artists, with the finalists going to a public vote.

The winning artist would have their design printed on the card (with credit), get paid a reasonable fee, and receive lots of media exposure.

And TransLink wouldn’t have an ugly Compass card any longer.

Artists and designers: Got a great design for the Compass card? Share it with us by emailing

Should TransLink hold an art contest to design the front of the Compass card?

Yes 60%
127 votes
No 36%
76 votes
Maybe 3%
7 votes
Comments (14) Add New Comment
Darcy McGee
Arts contests are actively discouraged, particularly for publicly funded government institutions. They are seen as a ploy to get "spec" work done.

Designers need to get paid, as do photographers and writers.
Rating: +21
I don't condone the way trans-stink is run so to enter a contest would be two faced.
Rating: -4
How do I enter and where? Look at my website maybe one of those designs might work.
Rating: -37
Captain Corelli
I don't understand the hate for the card name/appearance. Compass is a fin name for the program, and while the appearance is a little bland, it is definitely not ugly.
Rating: +13
Absurd. Translink would waste even more money on this boondoggle than they already have.
Rating: +7
with a limited understanding of the reality of the graphic design industry, I would have assumed that various options would have been put forward to Translink and this was either the chosen one or the one that was most liked at the public focus groups. Just because this is the result, doesn't mean it was the best option. Simply that it was the chosen option.
Is it that bad? How about my Save On More Card? how about my drivers licence? My costco card? out of all of these, the compass card is by far the nicest.
Rating: +4
Careful what you wish for
With or without a contest, it'll eventually wind up covered in ads.
Rating: +8
I think the writer is missing the point. The transit card represents the city and its transport system. Why would they give it a silly name? Compass sounds professional and of course they would prefer that compared to, I don't know, "Sockeye." As for the design of the card, I think a card should be functional and utilitarian, and I liked the simple clean-looking design they came up with. Imagine the money spent on printing all sorts of different designs when they could just stick to a simple few.
Rating: +13
Stephen Rees
There are a *lot* of problems with Compass. The design of the card is the least of them
Rating: +3
We must indeed be living in a world and city where most things are going really spectacularly if you're actually dedicating time and space to such trivial non-issues as a mildly bland but inoffensive piece of public graphic art.
Rating: +5
Really, you give a crap what the card looks like? I just want to able to use it, and don't give a hoot what it looks like
Rating: -2
Menial concern.
Rating: 0
At a time when graphic designers are struggling to make ends meet, and Translink is one of the few bodies with money to spend, to open this to a FREE contest is just ugly. Next time Translink has a legal issue, should they ask law firms to submit free legal ideas in order for the best firm to win the file?
Rating: 0
I like it, looks nice and clean...
Rating: +2
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