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.
I’m a sucker for good graphic design books (what designer isn’t?). A pile of books showed up around Christmas time. Some of them were X-mas gifts, others arrived from the library. Luckily, I was able to dig into them over the holidays and become inspired by what I read. Here is a quick rundown of what was awesome on the book pile;
Prior to Christmas holidays I was busy styling Danica Studio’s Fall 2013 catalog.
In October I was very fortunate to see Sibella Court when she spoke at Maiwa on Granville Island. She is a stylist, designer and collector who I’ve really come to admire. She has an eye for finding the extraordinary in everyday settings and objects. The timing of her lecture was perfect as I was in the beginning stages of planning and I found her talk very inspiring.
In late November, I was on the prowl for new and interesting props. Some of the things on my list were: vintage perfume bottles, metal trays and vessels, fancy utensils, feathers, fish, nuts, fall foliage, bristle brush animals, pearls, spotted eggs, trophies and small things in shades of blue. When I wasn’t shopping, I was painting and distressing backdrops and searching for small, portable pieces of furniture.
Early December we embarked on a three week photoshoot. To make the most of everyone’s time and resources, three catalogs were shot simultaneously. For part of the shoot we rented the upstairs apartment at Le Marché St. George. The dark wood floors and vintage doors and hardware made for a lovely backdrop. I was very fortunate to work with photographers Tanya and Meghan of Sweet Heirloom again. Here are a few of my favourite shots.
I usually take a lot of photos. There is something about quickly being able to capture a moment or creating a scenario that really appeals to me. Photographic images compliment our graphic design work, and the two disciplines often merge. I’ve lost track of how many times our Vancouver design studio has been transformed into a makeshift photo studio. However, the past year has been crazy busy and my usual photo output has dramatically dropped off. The wind was taken out of my sails when all my camera gear got ripped off earlier in the year. Although it was an opportunity to update my equipment (even if it was a little forced), I had a comfortable history with many of those items and it felt hard to get back into the groove with new photographic tools.
Regardless, I managed to shoot some images I was happy with. Here are some of my favourites from the past year that haven’t been “published” before. 12 for 2012!
Heading out the door for some holiday cheer? Looking for a last minute Host gift on the way? Well look no further. Arrive in style with some festive treats; sweet sweet sweet macarons from Soirette Macarons and Tea. Last year around this time we were putting the finishing touches on packaging (and signage, and other materials) for our friends over at Soirette. At the time we did some holiday variations, however, Soirette didn’t open their doors until after the holidays, so the packaging variations we designed have not seen light of day until this month.
To celebrate the season, Shobna has launched into Christmas with a macaron collection including Gingerbread, Orange Spice, Roasted Chestnut, Mulled Wine, Cran-rosemary and Santa’s Milk & Cookies.
…And Soirette has also opened a cute little pop-up shop inside Holt Renfrew. Drop by while you are downtown wrapping up your X-mas shopping.
We’re happy to announce the exhibit we designed for the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society titled “One War, Two Victories” and hosted at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa has been extended an extra month… until February 3rd, 2013.
“The exhibit explores the experiences of Chinese Canadians who served in the Canadian Military and Volunteer Services and in Allied war efforts during the Second World War. Though denied rights and subjected to widespread discrimination before the war, many Chinese Canadians volunteered for military service and related duties, helping to secure victory abroad and greater equality at home. The exhibition presents fascinating wartime stories of unforgettable men and women, and their remarkable contributions to Canada and to the Chinese Canadian community in war and in peace.”
It was an honour to be asked to design this inspiring exhibit. If you are in the nation’s capital over the next six weeks, please check it out (the rest of the museum is spectacular as well).
images courtesy of the Canadian War Museum
A few years back I discovered that I was colourblind. I was well into my design career at that point, and the revelation came to me as a massive shock. How could I have gone all this time without knowing!?! I had taken art classes all through primary school, attended two different post secondary institutions to study art & design, held jobs at multiple graphic design studios and advertising agencies, and it had NEVER come up!?! How could this have happened? I used to mock people who had “bad” colour sense and now the karma police had come calling.
My loving Mother dropped the bomb on me during a family vacation (“we had you tested when you were a toddler and you came up as colourblind”) and when I got home I did some digging online. I found a few examples of the Ishihara Test and sure enough, failed miserably. Those frustrating circles filled with various sized dots didn’t look like anything other than that. Guess I’ll never be a pilot now, let alone an astronaut… gee, thanks Mom.
In hindsight, maybe that is why I have always been drawn to bold, high contrast graphic work. Maybe it is one of the reasons my preferences skewed early on towards graphic design instead of fine art. I’ll never know, but I do know that being colourblind has never held me back. I learned early on never to trust my eyes anyway. I was taught to look at the numeric breakdown of CMYK process colours, spec pantone numbers and never to believe the colours represented on potentially poorly calibrated computer monitors. Perhaps that is why I got really good at two and three colour solutions. As every good designer knows, in order to create a successful piece of work, it MUST work in black & white before you even consider the application of colour. I always take pride in the fact that my designs would really pop in black and white (it will be great on a fax!).
Of course Sue will never let me live it down, and loves to rub my nose in the fact that “I can’t possibly spec anything to do with colours, because I’m colourblind”. Nevermind the fact that I had created award-winning designs all while never even knowing that I had trouble distinguishing between the darkest shades of red and green.
Besides, I figure if Graphic Design master Herb Lubalin could build such an illustrious career all while being colourblind, there might be hope for me yet.