How George Elliott's "I'd Rather Be In Peterborough" Slogan Changed His Life (And The City)

Every person has a "moment when it all began". The "I'd rather be in Peterborough" logo and design was that moment for George Elliott.

Flashback to the mid-1970s, and George was working in the art department for Outboard Marine in Peterborough where he designed many of the motor logo designs.

One of George’s old designs from his Outboard Marine days

One of George’s old designs from his Outboard Marine days

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce put out a call for local artists and marketers to submit their best idea in support of a new brand statement and logo for the city, and George, vying to build a freelance career outside of Outboard, made his pitch with five simple (but brilliant) words: “I’d rather be in Peterborough”. His original submission (see below) was selected to represent the city.

George’s winning entry

George’s winning entry

“I’d rather be in Peterborough.”

The simplicity of the message coupled with his striking design caught on, capturing the love, passion and sense of pride people had for their city.

George Elliott in 1995

George Elliott in 1995

The logo became ubiquitous and has become an iconic symbol of the city. Indeed, it’s still seen on T-shirts around town nowadays.

His “I’d rather be in Peterborough” put George on the map, and he went on to become a renowned local artist and illustrator after leaving Outboard Marine in the 1980s to commit himself full time to his art vocation.

“I’d rather be in Peterborough T-shirt”

“I’d rather be in Peterborough T-shirt”

”Our dad’s art work was synonymous with Peterborough for decades and still lives on today,” says his son Aaron Elliott, who is our Brand Strategist at PTBOCanada. “Although he retired nearly 10 years ago, you can still find it all around town—in offices, boardrooms, in the Memorial Centre and possibly on one of your family member’s walls. You name a church, school, well known building or monument in town and he’s likely captured it in some way.”

Indeed, George’s art made our list of
57 Signs You’re From Peterborough that has been shared across Canada—”No. 13: You or someone you know has a George Elliott print hanging in the house.”

George Elliott illustration

George Elliott illustration

“My Dad loved our community, being involved in it, and simply creating art for everyone to afford,” Aaron tells PTBOCanada. “To him, that was the most important thing. He never wanted anyone to walk away from art because it was too expensive.”

Trent University painting by George Elliott

Trent University painting by George Elliott

A lifelong love of PCVS spurred on this original pen and ink collage, completed in the 1990s, and made available in prints, art cards and publications.

As a graduate of PCVS, George developed his interest in art (and mischief!) in the classrooms and hallways of this beautiful building, and actively supported the preservation of its history and traditions.

George Elliott illustration of PCVS, which he had a lifelong love for and attended in high school.

George Elliott illustration of PCVS, which he had a lifelong love for and attended in high school.

George dabbled in water colour, acrylic, oil, and pen and ink and thankfully years after his retirement much of his remaining collection is still in pristine condition.

“Our dad was an old school entrepreneur at heart,” says Aaron. “He pounded the pavement to get his work out there and only had a website for a brief moment in time. He preferred dealing with customers face to face at shows or in his studio on Homewood Avenue way more. He loved conversation and if you knew his voice and how he projected it, he never missed out on one.”

George Elliott in early 2000s at the Lift Lock

George Elliott in early 2000s at the Lift Lock

There are literally hundreds of original pieces and many more prints on hand as the family has opened up the proverbial vault to make much of his work available to the public again.

His children—Andrea, Paul and Aaron—plan to continue making his art accessible in the modern era through social media display, and by offering select originals and limited edition prints for sale.

Keep an eye on The George Elliott Collection social channels—Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—as his past works are being rolled out for the community to enjoy again.

George Elliott Christmas card illustration

George Elliott Christmas card illustration

For more info on the George Elliott Collection, you can reach Aaron here.

—by Neil Morton

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