A major transition in Canada’s history was the conversion to the metric system from the imperial system of weights and measures. The process of metrification was making metric units — such as metres, kilograms and degrees Celsius — the common units of measurement in Canada. The Metric Commission was established by the federal government in 1971 to accomplish this, and their role was to ensure a planned and coordinated conversion in all sectors of the Canadian economy and to disseminate information on metric conversion. To enable this, the commission brought Gottschalk+Ash Toronto on to create a simple, flexible and functional symbol.
The metric symbol had to be simple, so kids could easily incorporate it in their school projects, and adaptable to a lot of different uses at a wide range of sizes. It also had to be versatile enough to work well whether embossed on the head of a bolt or appearing on packaging or a sheet of plywood. Incorporating a stylized maple leaf in the letter M and usually shown in red, the metric symbol could be adapted to a wide variety of reproductions, including other shades of red, as well as black or white on a red background.
Although trademarked by the Commission, the logo was free to use by any organization producing Canadian metric products. With the help of Gottschalk+Ash Toronto, the Metric Commission successfully completed its mission in 1985 and was later dissolved.