Remembering Expo 86 Legacy 25 years later

Expo 86 Logo

Expo 86 Logo







A look back at memories of the Expo 86 legacy on its 25th Anniversary from you and the co-designer of the fair’s logo Ian MacLeod.


The World Fair opened May 2nd, 1986 in an area known as False Creek, a previous toxic contaminated industrial area in Vancouver, BC Canada.

After the fair ended Oct 26, new high rise developments over the next 2 decades would change the look of the city skyline and  Vancouver would grow up to become one of the best cities in the world.


I asked my friends what they remembered about Expo 86 on my facebook profile, and that’s where Ian MacLeod told me that with creative director Frank Mayrs, he helped “design” the iconic Expo 86 logo.

Ian also worked on the graphics for the colourful street banners as well as graphics for the Northwest Territories pavilion designed by Bing Thom.

Ian MacLeod Expo 86 logo co-designer and world fair employee

Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ian studied Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba and graphic design at Red River College.

He is now a full time abstract painter living and working on the Sunshine Coast in Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia.

Before Expo 86, Ian worked for a small graphic design studio who’s most exciting client (from his point of view) was the Manitoba Theatre Centre.

In 1972 Ian sent a portfolio of work to Chief Designer Frank Mayrs at the Canadian Government Exposition Commission (Information Canada) in Ottawa where he was hired in a few short weeks and moved with his wife Gailene.

Along with Frank Mayrs, Ian was sent to Vancouver in 1975, to work on Habitat the 1976 UN Conference on Human Settlements, as Graphic Coordinator.

At the end of the conference he returned to his position in Ottawa, then in 1977 Ian and his wife moved to North Vancouver and opened a graphic design firm in Vancouver.

Ian MacLeod’s Expo 86 Employee ID and Pass

Through his design company Ian began work on some aspects of the World Exposition in 1980 – including
development of the logo with Frank Mayrs who returned to Vancouver as the Creative Director.

In 1981 Ian started as Graphic Coordinator for Transpo 86 on a contract basis. The name would later be changed to Expo 86, but still keep much of the transportation theme.




In the beginning Expo 86 was called Transpo 86


Frank Mayrs (1934 – 1994) was the Creative Director of the World Fair, and strived for excellence. He, along with Patrick Reid (Commissioner General and Ambassador) believed in innovation and creativity.

The Chief Architect was Bruno Freschi who was responsible for the site plan and the Expo Module pavillion design.

Jimmy Pattison was the Expo 86 Chairman and CEO.

Mike Bartlett was brought in from the US as President of Expo 86 – his background was in theme parks. He established a team with theme park experience (and the mandate started to change).

Mayrs left when the direction of the World’s Fair became that of a more ‘commercial’ venture rather than a forum of intellectual vision, discovery and invention.

The new Creative Director was Ron Woodall (an advertising genius).

Transpo 86 transformed into Expo 86

Ian left in 1984 and formed a new design partnership – and started working on a number of EXPO projects. His first briefing was with Patrick Reid the day after his ‘retirement’ party.

Advertising agency creative director Peter Matthews took over Ian’s position, which grew into a large department with some very talented designers and production team headed up by Dale Simonson and Win Seaton.

Ian continued to work on various marketing projects and EXPO site graphics as well as the graphics for the Canada pavilion and the North West Territories pavilion designed by architect Bing Thom and the exhibits conceived by designer David Jensen.

When he looks back on it now Ian says he can “clearly see how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to work with Frank Mayrs and so many Vancouver designers, photographers, architects, planners, writers and printers.  There was a creative freedom with no limitations, something and how just extraordinary that was.”


“For me the experience was stimulating and unforgettable.”


Many thanks Ian for rustling about those great memories, facts and sharing the Expo 86 memorabilia! Ian’s involvement in the world transportation fair came to light when I asked my facebook friends what they remembered of the fair on its 25th Anniversary.


Wow 25 years ago today! 😀
That was amazing although I was skeptical. I remember seeing Princess Di and Charles at BC Place stadium for the opening ceremonies with 60,000 people I think it was. I also got hired by BC Ferries that year. Anyone else remember Expo 86?  51 comments 9 likes!/DuanesWorld/posts/143192805753993


Tiffany Chilton
good times.. good times\

Joan Edwards
i sang in the opening choir…(always a shoe gurl right?)

Roxanne Haddrell
I remember drinking strawberry margaritas at the Mexico pavillion while watching the fireworks. I was almost legal.

Lynn Lowden
didn’t think you were that old Duane lol

Joan Edwards
the Russian pav had the best food

An Expo 86 Communique Vol 1 No 2 June 1982

Jody van der Woerd
Waaaaay before my time.

Shannon Kewley
Loved that time of life…..:) 1986 it was a good year!!

Duane Burnett
some amazing exhibits, loved the rainbow war film, the first nation story, the 3D big screen, crap it was all good! Maybe we should host another one? 😛

Jody van der Woerd
Why don’t I remember those? I was probably too busy chasing shit head kids all over the place and missed it all. I DO remember the Ramses Exhibit though and that was the only one I REALLY, REALLY wanted to see.

Christine Moore
Yes we had passports and I couldn’t ride the roller coaster, Pregnant with Jo ! it was a good time !

Ian MacLeod
with creative director Frank Mayrs, I designed the logo.

Max Stelmacker
I thought it was a good event for remembrance and commemoration, too. Remember all the rain and clouds we had that year and then how bodaciouly beautiful it was after that? Employee train trams that seemed to be have imported direct from studio lots in Los Angeles..and the weather to match.I remember how proud I felt to get access to the grounds as an employee and work so hard to impress tourists at the International Cafeteria and BBQ where I worked. And then on the final day during the fireworks, having only lived in Vancouver for about two years by then, was the first really good to cheer so loud since I had been here. What a great time Expo 86 was. Thanks for posting.

Ian MacLeod
also worked on the graphics for the Northwest Territories pavilion – and the street banners.

Heather Jeal
We lived i Mission because we couldn’t afford the rents in the Vancouver suburbs. The kids all got to attend because the schools bussed them in for field trips. I got to stand and look out the window at Dept of Fisheries and Oceans, at the crowds gathering for Chuck ‘n’ Di. Then I went back to my desk and booked my boss onto a flight to Halifax.

Duane Burnett
Anyone remember the corkscrew roller coaster? i terrorized my poor cousins taking them on it. what a blast 2 min ride 1 hour wait was worth it 😀

Cindy Lee Evans
Was a great year my middle daughter Kristi Evans was born

Michele Whiting
The concert with Bryan Adams and Studio 86…:)

An Expo 86 Communique Vol 1 No 2 June 1982 feauturing the fair mascot Expo Ernie

Heather Doré
The Spirit Lodge was very cool.

Duane Burnett
Thanks Heather that was the name of it! The Spirit Lodge it was brilliant amazing 3D live story telling and unfortunately sponsored by a car company but you can’t have everything.

Pammila Stew Ruth
That was a year of change for me: Met my future hubby, started working at the Royal Bank (started as one of the AMBASSADORS for Expo! Met LOTS of big-wigs, who I had NOT a clue who they were LOL) then worked ON-SITE exchanging dirty money… for our ‘funee-munee’. Soon moved in with future hubby onto Beach Ave, over-looking Expo. Fireworks every night! AWESOME! Friends came out of the woodwork! LOL “We’re going to bed… just let yourselves out when the fireworks are over…” L Best memory of the actual EXPO: “Wasn’t That A Party?” THE UNICORN! Cheers Expo 86! (thanks for another walk down memory lane, Duane! ♥

Duane Burnett
Coulda bin the whiskey, might of bin the gin? coulda bin the 3-4-6 pack I don’t know look at the mess I’m in! Wasn’t that a party! Irish Rover’s VIDEO

Darlene McIntyre
It was a good year. It was the year I fell in love.

Myrtle Winchester
‎86 was the year Vancouver got so unbearable for me that I moved to Pender Harbour. Expo 86 gave us a “world-class city” but we got world-class crime along with it. I lived just off Broadway & Granville, and within a few months the B&Es sky…rocketed, hookers were everywhere, the building next door was set on fire (arson) and a dead body (heroin o/d) was dragged into my parking area. Not to mention the traffic, and the trafficking, which went absolutely crazy. Oh, and I forgot about the homeless guy who moved into the laundry room.

Myrtle Winchester
I did have a free pass for the whole thing though, from a buddy who set up the Can-Dive pavillion 🙂

Something’s Happening Here
EXPO 86 Theme Song and Fireworks


Linda Pearce
I remember the crowds, the concrete highway sculpture, the opening ceremonies (peaking in from the aisles cause I was working at BC Place), the nightly fireworks – set the world in motion, together we ca catch a rising star…

David McMillan
I came down the end of May ’86 for a school band trip. We played the Plaza of Nations.

Chelsea Sleep
I was there. I was two. I was naked, playing in the water fountain. There are photos.

Charlene Graham
Married my LOVE 25 years July!

Cindy MacInnes
I was there too with my class and my sisters and we were part of the opening ceremonies- we saw Lady Diana up close….beautiful lady (as well as Mulroney, Bennett and Charles, but they no where look as good).

Ron Michel
i remember all the buses had the moto “don’t miss it for the world” I missed it, for the world.

Johan Stroman
Yes. Between 1st and 2nd year UBC hanging out at many Pavilions as they were called.

Carole Sauve
I was living in Ontario then, but my sister came to Expo 86 and had a great time.

Troy Mathews
aw d man enough with the monarky crap

Sara Scott
i remember the food being really expensive and you weren’t allowed to bring your own.

Stephen Archibald
Yes I was volunteering at Expo 86 at the Highway 86. And at the sculptures for placement throughout the city at Kits Point. They had hardly anyone show up there! I was thrilled to be polishing and water power washing some of the great pieces in Vancouver’s outdoor art works that are still vibrant today. And I had my opera premiere with LA SCALA! I was chorus in IL TROVATORE – *l heard it on CBC FM last Saturday and was in a little bit of tears. Best experience onstage. 12 foot metal horses in front of me as we sang this giant march off to war. And then photographed – 2 page spread in the Expo Memorial Book as a blonde priest – THAT WAS HYSTERICAL. I was overjoyed to be one of 459 who applied and only 40 who were hired. And since I’ve been chorus with La Scala and with Edmonton Opera’s 25th Anniversary – AIDA – I was stripped down to an egyptian tiny kilt, with a wig and wrist cuffs – inside the cuffs I had the cheat sheets of phonetic italian to remember my lines. Maestro caught me and stole them from me on 3rd night. And laughed all the way back to his podium after the snatch of my words. I just made it through – JUST – thereafter.

Stephen Archibald
Premiere at the time cut off all of us going into the Peru exhibit, then 4 royals from Belgium and Norway went in – and we were welcomed along with them as long as we gave them 10 feet of space in respect. I really thought royality rocked, and politics sucked! What a great experience.

Huge thanks everyone for your great memories and to Ian for all the amazing Expo 86 memoriablia.

I went online and found a great 3 part video series with great footage highlighting the fair plus the official theme song! Each of the 3 segments is about 10 minutes long and I post the playlist here for all of you to enjoy.

Expo 86 3 Part Video Playlist PLUS Theme Song



Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane…

Do you have a memory of Expo 86? Please post and comment below.

It’s Always a Good Day on the Sunshine Coast! Duane Burnett



  1. wow, 25 years??? how time flies.
    i worked at the Atrium, with the Bandstand, in the Purple Zone… those were some fun times! saw some great shows, met some great people, did some great drugs… 😀 ahhh those were the days.

    And… GREAT article, Duane!

  2. Oh wow I forgot that the whole world fair site was coloured zones! Sure made it bright and easy to know where you are… I remember meeting Prime Minister Brian Mulroney twice actually. LOL I saw guys in black suits with wires coming out of their ears from microphones and walked right over and said who’s showing up? 😀

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I’m completing a small book about branding and visual identity at world’s fairs and hadn’t heard the background about the Expo 86 logo. As part of that project, I also submitted a design for Milan’s Expo 2015:

    I didn’t win, but you can vote for your choice of the two finalists:

    I was there in Vancouver for Expo 86 when I was 19. I flew from Atlanta on the cheapest flight I could find (via Houston, Portland, and Seattle). I’d been to the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville and the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans, but this was my first time outside the Southeastern/Midwestern USA.

    This past weekend, I returned for the 25th anniversary. It’s always great to see Vancouver continuing to progress.

    I’ve been to 8 world’s fairs now and co-host the World’s Fair Podcast. We’re looking to put together an episode with Expo 86 memories:

  4. Lived on a boat in the creek at that time right opposite the GM Pavilion, took most of that summer off. Watched the morning rush to be first in line for the show (became known as the GM 500), fireworks every night. Had seen most of the pavilions by June so just went over to party almost daily, eat some great food, see some brilliant perfomers, Orbison, Everlys, Newhart and not to forget the great street performers. (spent a bucket load but worth every penny) Steam expo, Cousteaus boat, I could ramble on forever. Got the Video and the book. Big thanks to Jimmy for getting that done, and to Duane for the reminder.

  5. After I got my new WordPress site online in early Sep-2011, I was going to add a note on this page – about my involvement with Expo86.

    As I’m about to add this comment, I noticed a new link – that points to a new page on my site. Wow – guess this is what a ‘trackback’ looks like… 🙂

    Ken Cooper

  6. I worked at Expo 86 for nearly four years. Hired to put together the special events program, I wound up managing the Entertainment Division. It was quite an experience. A day a month off for six months, whether you needed it or not! I remember Ian from the early days, and I still wear my gold “86” with pride. It remains a great design. Thanks for recalling the memory Duane.

  7. I saw Expo 86 with my family when I was 15. What a great experience!!

    For those who may be interested, the Knott’s Berry Farm hired the same designers to create an almost-identical version of the Spirit Lodge (which was just amazing); it’s called the “Mystery Lodge”. So that’s still around to see, although you have to go to Southern California to do so.

    The “corkscrew roller coaster”, aka “The Scream Machine” is still in Vancouver; you can ride it every summer at the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition)/Playland. I didn’t have the guts to ride it back in ’86, but I did many years later at the PNE. Wow, what a fun ride!!

    Haha, I still have the “Expo 86/Lotto 6/49” (“Motion, motion, motion, man in motion, motion, motion”) TV ad stuck in my head… May be a world record for the most durable ear worm ever? XD

  8. I worked at the NWT Pavilion for the entire Expo. Had a blast and would love to go to another Expo one of these days. I think after the 6 months of Expo parties and over 25 years has past, I have finally recovered enough for another one.

  9. Hi Duane,

    Sitting on our property in Gibsons, BC, we have the original fiberglass “Man in Motion” who was part of the BC contribution (or perhaps it was Vancouver?) to Expo 86. I have been searching for archival photos of his role at the Fair but am unable to find any information about him. I would very much like to see him restored to his former glory and will pursue that once I have more details.
    Can you help? I do have a photo of him if you would be interested in seeing it.

  10. What a great time, age 26, single, we sky trained in from Burnaby, I met a long cool Texan, ate lots of great food, danced a lot, lined up too long, rocked out, made too much noise, took lots of pics of our young selves, and made good memories-thanks Expo 86!

  11. one of the earliest employees, I worked until 1985 as architectural designer
    {hired by Bruno Freschi} alongside Frank Mayrs, Peter Matthews, Ian MacLeod….
    I had photographed the site development from early times and after my
    employment, moved into photograhy, a career which I persued intill retirement.
    I supplied Peter Matthew with the photo which became the official EXPO poster
    showing the Eastgate with fireworks behind.

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