The weather has been unusually beautiful here in Vancouver over the last few weeks. It reminded me of of this illustration we did years ago for the Continuing Studies summer catalogue at Emily Carr University of art & design. Our old graphic design studio location was literally a brick oven. I remember that summer it felt like a million degrees in there (our current studio is much more comfortable, thank you very much).
I hope that wherever you are it is (almost) as beautiful as it is here. Get out and enjoy the sun!
The nature of our business requires the creation of many types of infographics. By far, the most common is creating a map. I can’t count the number of maps I have drawn over the course of my graphic design career. On average, our studio probably designs at least 1 or 2 maps a week. From floor plans to traffic advisories, we’ve done them all. Which I find ironic, since I have the worst sense of direction. When I was a kid, I once got lost three times in one day on a family vacation (my sister loves to tell that story over and over). Now I rely heavily on my iPhone to tell me where to go.
You would think that it would get boring drawing something as mundane as a simple map, but there is something zen-like about getting into the flow of working on wayfinding and cartography. Sometimes Sue and I even argue over who gets to work on the maps (she wins). Each project requires a certain set of design parameters and usually our maps need to fit into the scheme of an overarching project beyond the map itself. How much detail is required? What is the final delivery medium? What is the colour palette? What is the most effective manner to convey the information required? All while keeping everything in line with the project “brand”.
As an added side effect of drawing so many local neighbourhoods, I’ve become very familiar with Vancouver (as well as many regions I’ve never even visited). Maybe I like this aspect of my work because it reminds me of how much I enjoyed treasure maps when I was young. Who doesn’t like pirates and buried treasure!?!
My love of comic books is no secret. I have been purchasing funny books on a weekly basis since I was eight years old, and much to the dismay of my wife, my collection has ballooned to almost 20,000 issues. There is little doubt that my love for the comic book medium lead directly to my involvement in the graphic arts. When FanExpo was held this past weekend in Vancouver, anyone who has ever met me knew where I could be found.
I love comic books, but the fans that attended FanExpo really, really, REALLY embrace pop culture. The variety of costumes on display helped pass the time while waiting in the ridiculously long line-up to get into the convention centre. So many characters pulled from comic books, cartoons, anime, movies and video games… kudos to the amount of effort that Vancouver fans put into their costumes.
For anyone associated with the visual arts, events like this just can’t be passed up. It was visual overload and a great opportunity to be exposed to some really interesting material. The work that our graphic design studio produces is primarily based in print, and there was no shortage of interesting print matter to ogle. Great vintage posters, exciting books, wonderful packaging, and cutting edge illustrations; many created right in front of your eyes. Aside from an opportunity to find obscure comics or hard-to-find toys, it is a good chance to discover new inspiration. I was lucky enough to chat with the creators of some of my favourite comics and I even had Stan Lee sign one of my back issues. The guy is in his 90’s and he has more energy than my kids!
If comic books aren’t your thing (What!?!), FanExpo does a great job of offering a variety of pop culture interests, and the programming takes advantage of the TV, Film and Videogame talent that is a huge part of the industry in Vancouver. Great fun for kids of all ages. Maybe next year I’ll even bring mine along.
A few months back, we were asked to participate in the Canada Line Public Art Program. The result was an exhibit organized by Working Format and presented at the Waterfront Station’s Platform Gallery. The theme of the show was “Intersections“, as interpreted by various Vancouver graphic design studios.
“Great cities are defined by great intersections; Locations that play host to significant historical events, define the culture of a neighbourhood, and are the meeting point for diverse groups of people. Intersections invites seven Vancouver-based designers to explore seven essential locations throughout our city.”
Through luck of the draw, our Intersection was Broadway & Granville.
What a great project to be involved in. I have many fond memories of the Broadway & Granville intersection. Early in my career, I had a run at another design start-up (before I was fortunate enough to partner with Sue) that was located in that neighbourhood, and I used to grab my coffee at that intersection almost every morning. Years ago I had taken some photos of the historic Dick building with the spinning neon Kaplan Education Centre sign (while it still worked). We also dug up some historic photos of the long gone Aristocratic dinner that used to be a late night go to staple while I was in art-school. All that is left of the dinner is a faux neon sign in the window of the Chapters bookstore that is on the same corner. The shopping along that stretch of Granville is great, and only getting better. So many aspects to focus on. However, in the end, what it really came down to was public transit.
“The focus for the Broadway & Granville poster was the prevalence of public transit found at the intersection. Six major bus routes converge on the intersection and the 99B-line along the Broadway corridor moves more people than any other transit route in North America. The layered, abstract photograph of the trolley cables creates visual texture in the background of the poster. The custom typography is reminiscent of the hand painted shop signs and storefront windows from the high society days of the neighbourhood.”
Other posters on display are by Glasfurd and Walker, Post Projects, Seterah Shamdani, State Creative, Working Format, and Zach Bulick. Great company indeed. Please visit the exhibit, up until later this summer.
Last night we went to the Museum of Vancouver to listen to guest curator Ivan Sayers discuss his (and Claus Jahnke’s) beautiful collection of vintage Art Deco dresses. There is little doubt why the event was sold out, Ivan is a fantastic story-teller and his knowledge of fashion history is staggering. Ivan walked everyone through the Art Deco Chic Exhibit and talked about all 77 garments on display. The top 10 finalist from the Art Deco Design Challenge were also on hand and they were able to discuss their garment designs with Ivan, Claus and MOV Curator Joan Seidl. The top three designs were produced and put on display last month in the foyer of the Art Deco exhibit, so it was good to see the student’s creations get the spotlight.
It was great to poke around the exhibit again and see visitors experience our hard work. Probably the last time Sue & I will get to visit before the show closes next week (Sept 23rd) and then it will be gone forever. If you haven’t seen Art Deco Chic yet… do yourself a favour and DO NOT MISS OUT.
What is it about creative businesses and dogs?
The very first studio that I worked in had a dog named Jake who would wander around the office demanding attention. I liked having him sleep under my desk even though he didn’t belong to me. I used to keep a box of dog biscuits close by so that I would become his favourite. The video production company across the hall had a dog that would always visit and there were at least four other design offices in the neighborhood that had studio dogs, some even incorporated their furry pals into the naming or branding of their businesses. Kind of like a badge stating “We’re anti-establishment… the MAN can’t hold me back. I’m bringing my dog to work!”
When Sue and I decided to start 10four, it was important to find a dog friendly work space. I never had a dog as a kid, but I had recently got a puppy, Loki, and we wanted our business to be the kind of friendly place that would have a dog hanging around. Years later, the photographer that we shared offices with got his own little studio dog Lola.
Even though Loki barks at the mailman and sounds menacing, our clients and suppliers love to see her at the studio, and are often disappointed when she isn’t around when they drop by for a visit.
There’s something calming and comforting about having a dog with you at work… and Loki is so low key that I often forget she is here, until the mailman arrives.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how much I was enjoying the Railtown neighbourhood of our new studio location, and although it has a different feel from our previous space, it was a good move. Last evening I received a phone message from my pal Steve letting me know it WAS a good thing we moved, as the building we used to be located in at 2nd and Quebec was burning. On my way into our “new” office this morning, I swung by our old graphic design studio location to see the extent of the damage (and an excuse to grab an apple fritter from the swiss bakery around the corner). I chatted with some of the business tenants who were milling about in the rain and they filled me in on what happened. Apparently the roof was being resurfaced and it looks like the fire started up top (from a left over cigarette… see smoking IS bad for you!). The consensus is that the building is done for. Which is a shame, as it had a lot of character. We always received compliments from clients who visited, about how much they enjoyed the space and how there aren’t many like it left in Vancouver.
Now there is one less.
A few years back we vacated our Quebec street location and went on a hunt for a new home for 10four. We scouted across all of Vancouver to find the perfect space (we were picky, and it was painful), but eventually we landed at our current home here in Railtown.
We’ve been here for a while and it is finally starting to feel like home. Early in my career I worked a few blocks away on Water Street in Gastown, and I wasn’t really looking forward to moving back into the neighbourhood. Luckily, Railtown has turned out to be a much better fit than Gastown. Things are a little quieter; there are no nightclubs and there are definitely not any tacky tourist trinket shops.
Although it is probably the smallest “named” neighbourhood in Vancouver, Railtown has a historic quality that helps define the area. Traditionally a district of warehouses and light industry, recently fashion boutiques, arts groups, technology and design studios have been scooping up the vacant spaces. There is a mix of restaurants and food trucks to supply a good variety of food choices for lunch, and nearby Crab park is a hidden urban oasis down by the tracks.
JJ Bean Coffee Roasters is just up the block, and Loki always receives at least a few pats while she sits outside waiting for me to grab my morning coffee. There are also a ton of dogs in the neighbourhood, so that makes Loki feel right at home.
Now that summer is here and I’m spending more time walking around the area, it feels like we made an inspiring choice for our studio location.