Don Watt (designer)

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Don Watt (February 9, 1936 – 23 December 2009) created the Watt group, a world-renowned, award winning retail branding and design consultancy. The company was a trailblazer in retailing, and among the first agencies to envision a system of branding that unified the entire shopping experience. Don Watt, Richard Huczek, Gerry Pencer, Dave Nichol, Ira Teich, Ted Zittell, and other key players in the Watt Group over the years are credited with introducing premium private label brand design to the North American Market. Some of the more recognized brand designs include Home Depot’s iconic orange logo[1] and innovative store concept, Sam's Choice, no name and President's Choice. Don Watt was the first designer to use photosymbolism on packaging, for Nestle Instant Coffee.[2]


Early life[edit]

Don Watt was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. His father worked in the military and his mother would often paint pictures while his father was on duty, this inspired Don early on to pursue a career as an animator. Don graduated from the Ontario College of Art for industrial design.


Don Watt’s first job after graduation was for A.V. Roe, working on the design for the Avro Arrow and the “flying saucer”—a special project for the U.S. Army. Don went on to work for Warner Brothers in California, doing animation for Bugs Bunny, but then soon moved onto package design.

After working as a creative director for Hathaway-Templeton, where he worked on finalizing the design of the Canadian Flag,[3][4] Watt founded Don Watt and Associates in 1966. Soon after, the firm landed the account to redesign the Nestle brand in Canada. During the early inception of the firm Watt also worked on the design of the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 67.

In 1973, Don Watt was hired by Galen Weston, to help resuscitate the Loblaws brand. Don Watt designed the brand, stores, packaging for “no name” generic products, “President's Choice” premium products, “Too Good to be True” nutritious healthy products and “Green” for environmentally friendly products.

Soon after the product launches, Watt suggested that then-current spokesperson William Shatner be replaced by Loblaws president Dave Nichol, after Shatner’s availability became limited by his involvement in a new television series. The enhanced store flyer featuring Nichol’s product picks, The Insider Report, soon followed.

In 1987, The Watt Group was recognized by the Harvard Business School for developing solutions to classic profit-improvement problems, using strategic design to effect change in consumer response. However, in 1992 Watt sold the somewhat ailing Watt Group to billion dollar company beverage maker Cott Corporation, to market branding to retailers across North America, Europe and Australia. From 1992 to 1999 The Watt Group flourished with the association with Cott. Cott CEO and major shareholder, Jerry Pencer attracted Gary Oakley as creative head; David Boyd, production guru, Richard Garvin, retail store designer, Patrick Rodmell, business development expert, and Ted Zittell, retail strategist. To lead this team, he engaged Ira Teich as CEO and Managing Director of the Watt Group. The Watt Group grew rapidly and profitably under this format until the death of Cott's founder and chief shareholder, Jerry Pencer in 1999.

Watt International[edit]

With the help of Envoy Communications, Don Watt bought back the Watt Group in 1999, renamed as Watt International, and expanded the business's offering, merging it with the International Design Group (IDG).

Building on Don's legacy, Watt International has since continued to expand its expertise and service offering, providing retailers and retail developers around the world. Watt's work continues to be characterized be a blend of marquee projects, including the design of the largest shopping centre in Latin America at the base of South America's tallest tower, as well as more modest work for regional retailers such as Longo's, for whom Watt has designed stores, packaging, price programs and numerous other marketing vehicles.

As a full service retail agency, Watt International's interdisciplinary team provides world class services ranging from research and strategy to the design and execution of every element of retail environments and experiences, including the marketing support, advertising and other activation required to deliver on a brand promise. Their track record of providing game changing strategic and creative counsel is unparalleled, and their creative work continues to be recognized by numerous awards. In 2016, Watt International will celebrate 50 years or retail leadership and innovation.


In 2003 Watt, along with longtime business partner Geoff Belchetz, founded DW+Partners with St. Joseph Communications,[5][6] a consulting firm specializing in retail branding and design. DW+Partners continued to work with Wal-Mart in the U.S. to re-design their Great Value line, which has since been redesigned by others.

In 2005 Watt developed the Super C brand and store design in Quebec for the Metro Group, and in 2007/2008 developed their “Irresistibles” premium packaging line. The next year, 2006, Watt was inducted into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends under the category of Enablers–representing those who provide excellent brand-building expertise.[7]

Don Watt updated the Food Basics brand and store design in Ontario in 2008, after Metro Group acquired the Dominion and A&P business and created a new “Metro” brand identity for the corporation and he applied the Metro brand to Ontario stores, replacing the previous banners.

Don's Life and Legacy[edit]

In 2008, Watt was inducted into the Private Label Hall of Fame.[8] He sat on the board of Aastra Technologies, Menu Foods, Pet Health, Cosmetic Essence, and Immunotec Research. Don Watt was a regular contributor to Private Label Magazine.[9]

He died in 2009 after a stroke at the age of 73.[10] After his death, DW+Partners was absorbed into St. Joseph Communications.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Walker, John (30 October 1964). "Majoerity for one-leaf flag product of hard work, hope". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "National Flag of Canada". The Canadian Design Resource. Todd Falkowsky. 
  5. ^ "Watt, Belchetz form DW+Partners". September 18, 2003. 
  6. ^ Press release
  7. ^ Strategy MAgazine article
  8. ^ Private Label Magazine
  9. ^ Private Label Magazine
  10. ^ Dale, Daniel (9 January 2010). "Don Watt, 73: Designer made name with No Name (Obituary)". Toronto Star. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 

Further reading[edit]