Last week I went to Lake Louise, Alberta, for a storybook winter wedding. Chateau Lake Louise is a picturesque, dream location to host a wedding. The venue is so historic, so luxurious, so iconic, so… Canadian, that you just can’t go wrong. The glorious Rocky Mountains, ice castles, horse drawn sleighs, lake ice skating, skiing, snow shoeing, the list goes on and on.

But this was just not just anyone’s winter wedding… it was my only Sister’s winter wedding. So when she asked me to design her wedding invitations (and everything else that goes with it, there are so many other pieces that are needed for the event), how could I even consider saying “no”?

My sister (and her fiancé) were tough customers. They knew what they wanted, and there was a lot of pressure to live up to the aesthetic of the venue. In the end, we kept the graphic design simple, tried not to compete with the elements that were already in place, and capitalize on the “Canadiana” of the wedding.

Hopefully you’ll agree with my Sister (and her guests) that everything turned out perfect.


wedding invitation blind emboss

custom wedding script

wedding poster


Lake Louise signage

Lake Louise decor

winter wonderland

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Over the years I have had the good fortune to spend many summer days at various beach communities throughout North America. I’ve splashed in countless lakes across Canada; from Lake Muskoka, to Lake Winnipeg, to Sylvan Lake. I’ve lounged on beaches up and down the Pacific Coast; from San Diego, to Pacific City, to Tofino. I’ve strolled along the Coney Island Boardwalk, and Seaside’s Promenade.

One thing that impressed me about all these waterside communities is their common graphic design aesthetic. Maybe it is with nostalgia that I look back on all those lazy summer days and ice-cream induced comas, but there is a very rich sense of innocents and honesty about the graphic language utilized within those neighbourhoods. The tone and style of the roadside visuals shift the further you move away from the city, and take on a different voice the closer you get to the water. The signage that designates the regions of these small communities is often imperfect and unpretentious (sometimes even dilapidated). However, that isn’t to say that effort and attention hasn’t been put into making the visual messages communicate. Honestly, if the pieces are too “good”, pristine, or refined, they wouldn’t work. The charm would be lost. It is almost as if the inhabitants of these communities are compelled to “brand” their summer properties and family run businesses, to let others know that they belong there. The typographic efforts are a joy to behold, and the variety of materials used to house these messages are a refreshing change from the vinyl and plastic found in common contemporary signage.

Unfortunately, it looks as if more and more of the imaginative signs that I appreciate in these communities are being replaced by the easier, uninspired plastic and vinyl that I’m not a big fan of. Not that plastic and vinyl letters don’t have their place, it just feels like much of the personality is lost when those elements are introduced to these character rich communities. Next time you are off the beaten path, and in a community near a large body of water, look around at the graphics on display… chances are you’ll get that “beach town” feeling before you even see the water.

Click on the “read more” link below to enjoy a few images from my collection of signs that display beach vernacular. Maybe they will help warm you up on this chilly winter day.

beach_signs 2

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A few weeks back I did a quick trip from Vancouver to Los Angeles. It was a jammed packed, over-the-top four days, but I managed to find time to admire the typographic diversity and craftsmanship of the signage on display in the various neighbourhoods that I visited. Although I wasn’t enamoured with the local design offerings as I was when I visited the East Coast, there was still plenty to appreciate. In comparison to New York, Los Angeles is far more spread out and sprawling, so there is more distance to be covered to experience different signage opportunities. A great deal of the architecture is Art Deco and International inspired (at least in the neighbourhoods I spent my days), and the best environmental typography I found reflected that style. Neon was everywhere (which really fit with “LA”), along with the standard, mundane corporate light boxes. Not as prevalent as I would have expected, there was some “hand done” typography to be found. A somewhat unexpected surprise was a plethora of mosaic treatments. The light is unique in LA (maybe it is the smog?), and it gave the architecture and the accompanying signage a charming quality that is hard to describe.

Here are some samples of a few of my graphic design favourites;

LA signage - 09

Many more images from my field trip here…

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A few weeks back I had the privilege of attending Work & Turn‘s Crafting Type; a 5 day intensive workshop all about typeface design. As soon as I heard about the program, I jumped at the chance to attend. For years I have been waiting for an opportunity to attend a type design workshop. I would longingly read reviews about the Type@cooper program in NYC, knowing full-well that I would never be able to afford the time away from work or family to attend such a self-indulgent nerdfest. Then out of the blue, a type design workshop pops up in Edmonton (EDMONTON?) of all places. My old stomping grounds! I could even crash at my parents’ place, borrow my dad’s car (Update: sorry about that photo radar ticket, Dad!), if I was lucky, maybe Mom would pack me a lunch (and she did).

Sure, it wasn’t the rigorous 5-week intensive condensed program in typeface design at the Cooper Union, but Crafting Type was no slouch. Kyle and Jeff (Work & Turn) brought in type heavyweights to do it right, three graduates of the MA Typeface design at the University of Reading; Dave Crossland (UK), Eben Sorkin (USA), and Octavio Pardo (Spain). Three guys that love all things letters, fantastic instructors that complemented each other well, and they each brought a distinct and well-balanced approach to type design.

The 37 participants started off by drawing individual letters (curse you letter “o”) and learning the proper technique for sketching letterforms. We also gained insight into understanding how and why letters are formed the way they are, and how type is related to, yet different from handwriting. At the end of the day I was amazed at how much I had learned, and it was only day 1.

After a full day of pencil drawing (my poor clawed hand), Dave introduced us to FontForge; an open source type design program, which happens to be free. At first I was skeptical, but after working with Fontforge for 5 days, I’m a convert. I will be utilizing FontForge for the majority of production on my next typeface project.

The remainder of the week focused on massaging glyphs in order to get them to relate to each other, mixed with lectures about letter spacing and kerning, multiple weights, italics, diacritics, ligatures, open type functions, and hinting. After day 5 most of us had only completed a handful of letterforms, but we were well on our way to developing new industry standard fonts. It was tough work and a whirlwind of knowledge, but there was plenty of lively discussion about fonts, tote bags filled with typography books and typographic freebies, coffee & cupcakes, and a great after-party to wrap the whole week up.

At the end of it all Crafting Type was 12 hour days fully immersed in drawing letters and focusing on creating a system of glyphs that work as a cohesive unit. I loved every moment.


Type Design Workshop

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My recent field trip to New York coincided with The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Spring 2012 Costume Institute exhibition (on view May 10–August 19, 2012). Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, explores the striking affinities between Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, two Italian designers from different eras. By all accounts the exhibit has been a huge hit, as the place was packed the day I visited.

If you can manage to pull your eyes away from the beautiful garments in order to examine the space details, the exhibit design itself is as incredible as the fashions on display. Having recently completed our Art Deco Chic exhibit for the Museum of Vancouver, I had a full appreciation for The Met’s awe inspiring exhibit design. Massive projected backdrops, glossy plexiglass info panels, custom built display cases and high definition video photo displays (with subtle touches such as opening and closing eyes on the vintage photo models), combine to present the apparel in the best light, and elevate the material on display beyond mere mortals. Even the mannequins are crowned with striking head treatments that are the perfect compliment to the garments without being distracting.

The Metropolitan is always inspiring, but the Impossible Conversations exhibit was definitely a surprising highlight of my trip.


Prada Exhibit at The Met

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Sorting through the collection of sign photos from my trip to New York City (or I should say Manhattan), it became apparent just how much the street level typography helps define the character of particular neighbourhoods. Even with all the urban renewal steamrolling through the city, obvious attempts have been made to hold onto existing treasures or recreate quintessential typographic elements. Retail giants dominate the advertising and storefronts, and the slick art gallery system and entertainment industry that permeates the city obviously lends a certain polish, but there is a visible amount of hand-crafted work that nicely offsets the corporate gloss. NYC presents a wonderful variety of signs, for all levels of communications. Inspiration is on every street corner. In addition to these, here are some more signs that caught my attention while meandering through the city.


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New York City is a visual treat. The City that Never Sleeps has something to offer everyone, and on my recent visit, it offered up a dizzying array of letterforms and signage that I found just as interesting as the characters that inhabit the five boroughs. It felt like there was construction on every block, with an increase of slick, sterile, pre-fabricated letters dominating the streets. However, with urban density dominating Manhattan, typographic gems were everywhere, old & new. Hand lettering is alive and well in New York. Neon lighting is everywhere, thankfully not just in Times Square. Here are a few of my favourites, from the over-the-top visual noise pollution of Times Square, to the over-the-top paranoia of Fallout Shelters.


NYC signage

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