Logos and other symbols

“A brand ‘lives’; it is born, matures, develops, has a personality, and if it doesn't evolve, it may not survive.” —Desjardins Magazine, 2003


A logo is vital to a brand's identity. Desjardins Group's logo has seen a number of changes over the years, retaining some distinctive features along the way.

The very first logo featured the intertwined “CPD” initials (for “caisse populaire Desjardins”). It made its appearance in the early 1950s and was mostly used on caisse passbooks.

From the time the first caisse was founded in 1900 until the death of Alphonse Desjardins in 1920, the budding caisse populaire network didn't have a distinctive visual identity. No logo appeared in the first annual reports, whose design was quite plain. For many years, the same was true of the caisse outside signage. In the 1940s, for example, the sign outside of Caisse populaire de Lévis consisted only of its name in block letters, the year it was founded and the phrase “Société régie par la loi des syndicats coopératifs.”

The first imagery to be used was a portrait of Alphonse Desjardins, which came into use with the founding of the Fédération de Québec des unions régionales de caisses populaires Desjardins in 1932. Official Federation documents such as letterhead, however, still bore no logo into the 1950s. Most of the time, they only featured the institution's name and address along with the phrase “Société régie par la loi des syndicats coopératifs.”

The oldest documents bearing the intertwined initials date back to the early 1950s. It's still not known when exactly the design first appeared or who created it. The initials were mostly found on caisse passbooks, but its usage wasn't widespread. It was never used in the organization's magazine (Revue Desjardins) or on official Federation documents.

Over time, the intertwined initials gained some popularity. When the coat of arms was adopted in 1960, it was announced as their replacement. Use of the initials did decline, but without any kind of organization-wide policy on the matter, it continued to resurface occasionally. In 1969, for example, 9 years after the coat of arms was adopted, the initials were featured on the night deposit box at the new head office of Caisse populaire de Lévis.

Intertwined CPD letters logo The head office of Caisse populaire de Lévis in the 1940s (FCDQ) A passbook bearing the CPD logo (SHAD) The Caisse populaire de Lévis night deposit box in 1969 (CDDL)

Designed by heraldry expert André Genest, the coat of arms was adopted by the Board of Directors of the provincial Federation on October 25, 1960. It was used across Desjardins until the hexagon logo was introduced.

At the centre of the symbol are 2 shields. The first is gold, overlaid with a maple leaf pattern, representing Canada. The second shield is red and features a bee, representing the virtues of hard work, efficiency, perseverance and cooperative action. The bee, which would continue to feature in Desjardins logos, was not an entirely new symbol at the time. Blank cheques printed by the Federation for the caisses populaires in 1953 featured a beehive next to a portrait of Alphonse Desjardins.

The bee and maple leaves likely owe their origin to the Federation's general manager, Cyrille Vaillancourt, who approved the final design and was involved in the consultation process. Early in his career, he was head of the beekeeping department at Quebec's Ministry of Agriculture, where he founded beekeeping and maple syrup cooperatives.

In Revue Desjardins, Émile Girardin, President of the provincial Federation, welcomed the coat of arms as a unifying symbol that the organization had been lacking. He added that the accompanying motto, “s'unir pour servir” (unite to serve), was a call for unity among all the Desjardins caisses. As soon as it was adopted, directors planned to send copies of the “symbol of unity” to every caisse. Items featuring the coat of arms were handed out to participants of the congress held in Montreal in May 1961.

The coat of arms was used across Desjardins. In the caisses, it replaced the CPD logo on passbooks. It was also used on official documents and on signage for the caisses, unions régionales and the Federation. 15 years after it was adopted, the coat of arms had become the official symbol of Desjardins Group, but would soon be replaced by the hexagon logo.

During the 1960s, all Desjardins components adopted their own emblems and logos. Placed together in a circle, they are, from left to right starting at the top: the provincial Federation, Société d'assurance des caisses populaires, Assurance-vie Desjardins, La Sauvegarde, La Sécurité, Société de fiducie du Québec, Association coopérative Desjardins, Institut coopératif Desjardins and Les Placements collectifs inc.

The Desjardins Group coat of arms in the 1960s. The coat of arms displayed on the head office of Union régionale de Joliette, inaugurated in 1962. (FCDQ) Logos and emblems of Desjardins Group components in the 1960s (FCDQ)

Officially adopted on March 8, 1977, this logo represents a stylized bee in a honeycomb cell. Like the bee on the coat of arms, it symbolizes the virtues of hard work, efficiency, perseverance and cooperative action. The sides of the hexagon represent the multiple components that make up Desjardins Group.

Less than 15 years after the coat of arms was adopted, the provincial Federation first considered adopting a new visual identity. At the end the summer of 1974, consultations were launched to get input from the caisses. The Union régionale de Montréal embarked on a similar undertaking the following year. In the summer of 1976, it hired communications firm Cabana Séguin to design a new logo. The stylized bee inside a hexagon representing a honeycomb cell was adopted at the Union régionale de Montréal's annual general meeting on November 27, 1976.

During that fall, the provincial Federation, feeling the coat of arms was outdated, asked Cabana Séguin to continue the work it had done for the Union and find a logo for the whole of Desjardins Group. In February 1977, the firm proposed using the one it had designed for Union régionale de Montréal. The hexagon logo was officially adopted on March 8, 1977, at Desjardins Group's annual general meeting. The plan was for subsidiaries to imbed their own symbol in the centre of the hexagon, in place of the bee. Interestingly, the same image had been used on the 1967 annual reports, a full decade before the logo was officially adopted.

The most apparent sign of continuity was the bee. Still symbolizing the virtues of hard work, efficiency, perseverance and cooperative action, it had been redesigned in a stylized fashion. The circle enveloping the coat of arms became a hexagon, representing a honeycomb cell. Its 6 sides stood for the components making up Desjardins Group. The colour green, symbolizing growth and development, also signalled action, youth, hope and wisdom.

The logo in 1977 Cover page of the Fédération 1967 Annual Report. The coat of arms is placed within a hexagon. A school caisse flier explaining the Desjardins Group logo (FCDQ)

At first, the hexagon logo didn't include the Desjardins name. In 1998 a new visual identity was developed, introducing a logo block comprised of 3 elements: the honeycomb cell symbol (now in white), the Desjardins name and the colour green.

Over time, the version of the logo on the green background became one of the most widely recognized symbols in Quebec. In a 2002 survey, 95% of Quebecers were able to identify Desjardins by name from the logo. That same year, a new visual identity was adopted to more prominently feature the Desjardins name while still retaining the hexagon, now in white in a green square.

The Desjardins logo block in 1998 The Desjardins logo block in 2002

In the 2010s, smartphone and tablet use took off and new developments in technology transformed consumer habits around the world. The financial services industry was no exception: between 2010 and 2015, Desjardins saw a 98% increase in online and mobile banking and a 30% drop in ATM and teller services.

Companies everywhere were updating their logos to adapt to smaller electronic screens. In 2018, the Desjardins logo was simplified to make it easier to recognize on mobile devices. The pared-down logo retained the main features of the 1977 version: the hexagon and the iconic shade of green. It marked the biggest change to the logo since its creation some 40 years prior. To promote sustainability and responsible business practices, it was decided to roll out the new logo gradually, over the span of a few years, starting with digital applications.

A logo for the digital age (2018 to present) A logo for the digital age

Other symbols

In addition to official logos, Canada's leading financial cooperative has used a variety of images to represent it.

This portrait of Alphonse Desjardins wearing the medal of Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great was used by the provincial Fédération to illustrate various documents.

The founding of the provincial Fédération in 1932 gave rise to the first visuals. They featured a portrait of Alphonse Desjardins taken in 1918 by the famous photographer Jules-Ernest Livernois of Quebec City. The founder is wearing the medal of Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great awarded to him by Pope Pius X in 1913. The decoration from the Pope rewarded him for his civil merit and contribution to Catholic social action.

2 years after its creation, the Fédération distributed, for use by school caisses, a stamp bearing a portrait of the founder. Maple leaves were placed around a photo inset, a decorative element that would be seen again in the coat of arms of 1960. The same portrait was found on blank cheques printed by the Fédération for the caisses in 1935. That year, the Fédération launched its official mouthpiece, the magazine La Caisse populaire Desjardins, which became Revue Desjardins in 1941. The cover of the first issue displayed this photo of Alphonse Desjardins and the second a photo of Dorimène Desjardins, his spouse and the co-founder of Desjardins Group. The same picture of Alphonse Desjardins was used on the cover of a colouring book produced by the Fédération around 1960.

The choice of photo is revealing. It was not the only photo of the founder available to those who continued his work. Another photo of Alphonse Desjardins appeared on a book of ink blotters produced by Caisse populaire de Lévis in the early 1930s. In a deeply Catholic society, the decoration from the Pope enhanced founder's credibility. He took care to add the mention of "Commander" to his name on his letterhead. The Fédération probably selected this photo because of the honour and credibility it gave the founder.

The next portrait of Alphonse Desjardins was published by the Fédération in 1954. On the cover of the October issue of Revue Desjardins is the photo used on the book of ink blotters from Caisse populaire de Lévis. It was 1 of 3 photos taken by Ottawa photographer Alfred George Pittaway in 1913. In 1957, a touched-up version of the photo is used to illustrate the proceedings of the international convention of caisses populaires. The tie worn by Desjardins on the original photo has been replaced by his medal. The switch may have been made as a reminder of the Church's support of caisses populaires.

Other photos of Alphonse Desjardins gradually replaced the Livernois photo. The founder's portrait serves still today as a symbol of Desjardins Group.

Alphonse Desjardins
(J.-E. Livernois, BANQ)
School caisse stamp of 1934 (SHAD) Blank cheque of 1935 (CIPC) Colouring book produced by the Fédération (SHAD) Book of ink blotters from Caisse populaire de Lévis (SHAD) Original version of the 1913 photo Original version of the 1913 photo (SHAD) Touched-up version of the 1950s (FCDQ)

Inaugurated in 1950, the Desjardins Building served as a symbol of Desjardins Group in the same way that Cité Desjardins de la coopération in Lévis and Complexe Desjardins in Montreal do today.

Cité Desjardins de la coopération in Lévis and Complexe Desjardins in Montreal occasionally serve as symbols of Desjardins Group. The former, inaugurated in 1961, shows Desjardins Group's strong attachment to its roots. Recent development of Cité is a "reflection of the sustainable prosperity" of Desjardins Group. The latter, which took 4 years to build from 1972 to 1976, is Desjardins Group's flagship building in Montreal. By giving its head offices prominence, Desjardins Group affirms its continuity.

The Desjardins Building was more consistently used than current head offices and the image was maintained until a few years after the coat of arms was adopted in 1960. It appeared on the cover of Revue Desjardins for 15 years, from 1950 to 1964. The building can also be found on several other publications during that time. It appears, for example, on the cover page of the brochure Qu'est-ce qu'une caisse Desjardins? produced in the early 1950s for promoters of the Manitoba cooperatives, and the book Le Mouvement Desjardins by Jacques Lamarche, published in 1962.

Its use reveals the pride in the "living monument" built in tribute to Alphonse Desjardins. In 1936, Philibert Grondin, a major associate of the founder and the author of Catéchisme des caisses populaires, recalled that Desjardins had dreamt of giving his city a "building that would house under the same roof a wealth of Catholic, economic and social organizations".

Shortly before construction on the Desjardins Building began, Cyrille Vaillancourt, General Manager of the Fédération said that "In this building, the founder's entire dream will be fulfilled". The building housed the Fédération, Union régionale de Québec, Caisse centrale Desjardins de Lévis, Caisse populaire de Lévis and Société d'assurance des caisses populaires, today Desjardins Financial Security. It became a symbol of unity for all of Desjardins Group.

Desjardins Building Cité Desjardins de la coopération in Lévis (R. Garnett, G. DesRosiers, FCDQ) Complexe Desjardins in Montreal (R. Garnett, G. DesRosiers, FCDQ) Qu'est-ce qu'une caisse populaire brochure (SHAD) Revue Desjardins cover in 1954 (SHAD) Revue Desjardins cover in 1964 (SHAD)

Part of the provincial Fédération's ad campaign of 1971 and 1972, the coloured circle logo spread throughout Quebec and had a surprisingly long lifespan.

The large number of symbols used throughout Desjardins Group before the hexagonal logo was adopted in 1977 showed that the latter met a real need for uniformity. Among the numerous emblems used throughout Quebec, the coloured circles spread throughout the province without being a real Desjardins Group logo.

At the end of 1969, Desjardins Group pursued its modernization by creating an information and publicity department, which burst onto the TV commercial scene the following year. The commercial starred a young Marie-Josée Taillefer reciting a mnemonic device to remember all of Desjardins Group's components, "pop-sac-à-vie-sau-sec-fi-co-pin", and was a huge success.

The coloured circles were part of the next ad campaign for years 1971 and 1972, and were accompanied by the slogan "C'est toi, c'est moi, c'est lui, c'est nous autres". This was also the title of campaign's theme song, sung by Renée Claude and with lyrics by Stéphane Venne. The commercial's primary goal was to help members understand that caisses populaires were cooperatives that belonged to them. It was a special campaign because, for the first time, a few subsidiaries agreed to participate and be designated in the campaign to "convey the same image of Desjardins Group", as stated in Revue Desjardins.

The coloured circle logo was explained in the magazine Ma Caisse populaire at the time the ad campaign was launched. "The circle represents mankind. One circle means you. Two circles mean you and me. Three circles mean you, me and him. Seven circles mean they can be multiplied up to 2.5 million", the number of Desjardins Group members at the time.

The coloured circles appeared on the Desjardins Group 1971 Annual Report. They then disappeared from provincial Fédération communications, but continued to be used in caisses. In 1973, they were used on a poster announcing the opening of a Caisse populaire de Sainte-Marguerite service centre in Trois-Rivières. At the end of the 1970s, the exterior signage of Caisse populaire de Sainte-Bernadette and Caisse populaire de Grand-Mère still displayed the logo. These examples demonstrate the spread of the symbol throughout Quebec and its surprisingly long lifespan.

Coloured circle logo A poster with "pop-sac-à-vie-sau-sec-fi-co-pin" (FCDQ) Slogan and logo of the 1971-1972 ad campaign (FCDQ) Ma Caisse populaire cover page at the beginning of the ad campaign (FCDQ) Caisse populaire de Sainte-Bernadette Head Office sign, with the coloured circle logo inside the letter P, cut in 2 to form the letters CP for caisses populaires. (FCDQ)