Project Revisit #2

As mentioned in my previous post, I was tasked with revisiting a few projects that were done over the past couple years. The second project I decided to go back on is a conference brochure on sustainable building. The designs will also include a banner, website, and poster. The conference is called Building Green: A conference on the future of sustainable design for buildings.

Building Green Conference Brochure

I wanted the main focus of this revisit to be on the brochure. I planned to do another complete design overhaul on this project as well, but start with the brochure and then carry the primary design elements over into the website, banner and poster. The old brochure seems very crammed, with the heavy green bars lining the edges. These bars are also taking your eyes away from the primary content and aren’t really doing anything for the design itself.

The buildings at the bottom are mapped with leaves, and it is difficult to read it the way it is. I tried to keep the same idea but take a different approach to interpret the name of the conference, Building Green.


I tried many different styles and concepts, but I felt this one best represents the title. This image was incorporated into the background of the new brochure. Another issue with the old design, was the type hierarchy in the Programme.

conference brochure

As you can see, the primary image has been dropped into the background and has been scaled up. By removing the thick green bars on the sides, it has opened up plenty of space to neatly organize the large amount of text. The colours have been lightened up so that they don’t draw your eye away from the content.

The next steps for this project are to carry the design elements from the brochure over to a poster (brochure cover), website screens and a standing banner.


Project Revisit #1

Revisiting a project is something I rarely have time for, but a couple weeks ago I was tasked with tackling a minimum of three projects (max.9) to revisit. I have chosen to do an extensive amount of work for each project and here I will be talking about the first project and the progress I have made.

Editorial Illustration
The Creativity Trigger
The goal of this project was to create an illustration for an article about design. The illustration should somehow incorporate the title of the article.

For my original idea, I tried to think of other ways to represent a trigger, or a surprise action (idea) and ‘thinking outside the box’. I used a Jack in the Box concept, and I remember it being a concept I was immediately drawn towards. I also remember not being satisfied with the final result and looking back, there are many changes I should have made.

I have decided to complete a full revisit on this project; essentially starting from scratch.
Some of the steps I have taken so far include brainstorming, sketching, refining and finally bringing it onto the computer. I am currently in the process of creating a grid and laying out the illustration. I am also trying to find a way to incorporate the title into the illustration.


Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping

Preliminary Sketches
I had designed these with the same ‘Think Outside the Box’ concept I used in the original and I thought that, if I am starting from scratch, I should forget about the old concept and try something different.
trigger 2

After a bit more brainstorming, I was able to land a concept with some irony to it. trigger 3
trigger 4
I tried to take a new approach and really use the name of the article to my advantage. The gun represents the trigger, and Everyone Steals (everyone is inspired by other artists, is what I mean). The irony is that this article is not about crime and gun violence. The article is simply about triggering ways to find your creativity. As I mentioned previously, I am trying to find a way to incorporate the title, The Creativity Trigger, into the illustration and am open to suggestions!

Design Thinkers 2014

This past Friday, I had the amazing opportunity of attending the Design Thinkers conference at the Sony Center in Toronto. Design Thinkers is Canada’s largest conference for visual communicators and is a must attend event for creative thinkers. Speakers dive into the various trends in the design industry including user experience, branding, advertising, social media and entrepreneurship.

Friday was a long day. I left Kingston at 3:00 in the morning on Friday after being awake since 7:00 pm the night before, only to arrive in Toronto around 6:30 am Friday, for the all day conference. Also making the trip back to Kingston in the same day to make it for work the next morning. Nevertheless, I was as excited as ever and couldn’t wait to get motivated and listen in on as many speakers as I could. I only regret not leaving a day earlier to catch the first day of the conference, and to not be awake for nearly 25 hours straight.

A couple designers from Day 1 of the conference that I wish I got the chance to see were Paula Scher, from Pentagram, and Aaron Draplin. Though, the big name I wanted to see the most was Jessica Walsh, from Sagmeister & Walsh, a NYC based firm. She was the very last speaker on the second day and I was very glad I caught her presentation before my bus back to Kingston.

Other names I got the chance to see were Richard Turley, Steve Vranakis, Philippe Apeloig, Andy Epstein, Charles Adler, Willy Wong, Javier Mariscal, and Erik Spiekermann. They were all fantastic speakers (they had to of been since I managed to stay awake the whole day!). A couple more serious than others but overall a hilarious, inspiring and motivating experience.

Philippe Apeloig had a really cool presentation about his process when incorporating typography into his designs. He shared his process, from (nearly) start to finish of how he created the design for An American in Paris, which was super neat to see.

Charles Adler (co-founder of Kickstarter), Andy Epstein and Willy Wong together discussed ‘How to Create In-House Envy’ or to put it simply, what it’s like to work in-house and how to position yourself around the rest of the team.

Javier Mariscal was also one of my favourites. He presented a speech about colours and the sort of purpose they serve, and he did this in a very interesting, unusual, funny, but totally inspiring way. Javier used visual poetry to tell the story of the world through the colours of the rainbow. Many times, you could see Javier getting up on a ladder to add his own pieces to his video, he would be making sound effects to go along with his story as well.

Erik Spierkmann was hilarious. He titled his speech ‘Keeping the A**hole Factor Down’ and he spoke about recruiting great talent, keeping clients happy, and making profits. He says, “How to find good people: Don’t work for arseholes, don’t work with arseholes.”

Last but not least, Jessica Walsh and her presentation on Creative Play. She explains how designers who play outside of work, ultimately become more productive inside of work. Jessica continued to speak about herself, and the type of work she and Stefan Sagmeister have put out in the past. One piece of advice that she left was that, if you want to get noticed, get naked. And I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to do that…maybe one day. One of my favourite pieces from Sagmeister & Walsh is their ‘Quotes on Shit’ series (yes, that is what it’s called), which is exactly what it says it is. Quotes. On. Shit.

Photo acquired from:

Photo acquired from:

Overall, Design Thinkers was such an amazing experience and I look forward to attending more of these conferences in the future. Definitely something all creatives must attend at some point in their careers. It provides many, many inspiring speeches and tons of opportunities to connect and meet with businesses.

Back to Basics: My Top 3 Artists/Designers

I haven’t been at this blog thing very long, though I keep running into the same problem. What the heck do I want to write about? How do you other bloggers find topics to write about?

In my previous post, I talked about ways of overcoming this sort of obstacle, and I even had to refer to it before starting this post. After trying out a couple of the steps from my own home, I still was not having any luck coming up with something I truly wanted to talk about. So I decided to take an easy route. In my very first post, I talked about other blogs I enjoy following. In this post, I will talk about my top 3 favourite artists/designers – each who have made a significant impact on the arts industry in their own ways.

3. Jessica Hische

Jessica Hische is an letterer/typographer who I am greatly inspired by. She is also an illustrator with a very unique style. Most of her illustrations incorporate her unique typography styles. I really like the paper cut-out/vector based styled illustrations that she features on her old website. She is mostly known for her typography skills though – you can see some examples on her new site.

Photo acquired from , page 1.

Photo acquired from , page 1.

2. Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol is a very well known pop artist – the man has a museum after him! A couple of his more notable works are the Marilyn Monroe pop art pieces and also the Campbell’s Soup Cans among many, many others. Warhol has been a favourite of mine growing up, and although he has passed on, his work will remain an inspiration to me.


1. Saul Bass

I would have to say, Saul Bass is my all time favourite designer. He is best known for his film posters and famous corporate logos. His style is incredibly unique and really is like no other. I love the simplicity and minimalism in his film posters, yet they all seem to have an edge of complexity to the ideas behind them.

Thanks for reading, be sure to check these designers out!

Beat the creative block

Are you struggling to find a concept to run with for your project or are you having a difficult time coming up with that first idea? All designers and artists will run into a creative block at some point in their careers and there are many ways out there on how to beat it, but I’d like to share a few of my steps to overcoming the block.

1. Get away from your work

Just step away from your work. I find that stepping away to for a bite to eat or going for a walk around the house, will help bring new ideas when you go to sit down the next time. It doesn’t have to be long, even five minutes away from your work can bring new inspiration.

Speaking of inspiration…let’s get to number two.

2. Search for inspiration

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview a professional graphic designer, Justin Dzama, and he left many thoughtful answers, but the one thing he said that stood out the most was, “the trick to inspiration is to never stop being inspired.” You can read about the interview here.The most likely go-to place for inspiration is online, but I feel that it is better to take an indirect approach and look for inspiration outside. I also find that talking to people outside the industry can bring good ideas. These ideas might come across as cliche at first, but it’s never a bad place to start. It’s up to you, as the designer, to push the design to where it’s no longer a cliche. Unless that’s what you’re going for, I suppose.

3. Carry a small sketchpad or notebook


You might find at first that carrying a small sketchpad around with you is a bit of a hassle, and you feel you won’t be using it so much at first, so you start to forget that you have it, just like I did. But maybe you’re not like me. I try to carry a small sketchpad with me where ever I go. I try to always think about projects that I’m working on and am always writing down ideas and thoughts. Even if these ideas have no relation to your project, they could come in handy for a future project. Also handy for writing down things you need to do.

4. Think about it before falling asleep

I know. This one sounds a little weird, but don’t knock it till you try it! I’ll find myself going through all my steps with no luck, and decide to leave the project for the next day. Then I’ll be lying in my bed, and that’s when an idea will hit. I think it has something to do with just getting relaxed and comfortable. It’s similar to step one, in some ways.

I hope these tips can come in handy for some of you.

RGD Event

Tonight, I watched an event video from the RGD website whose speaker was Jessica Hische. The title of the video is, “Jessica Hische: Drop Caps and LOL Cats. Jessica Hische is a letterer and illustrator known for her side projects. She is also known as the ‘Drop Cap Lady’ because of one of her side projects, which she explains in this video that I watched: 

“Side projects can be real game changers,” is something she said to open her presentation. She explains how side projects show the different styles of work you are capable of producing. I believe her when she says that side projects can provide new inspiration and influence your work in the future. 

Create the type of work that can get you noticed. If you want to be, that is. Most of the time this isn’t possible when working for a client so this is where side projects come in. A simple tip that Jessica mentioned when it comes to side projects is to create things that you wish existed. A perfect example of that is her ‘Print Locator’ website idea, which has exploded (in a good way). Side projects can be as little as keeping up with writing a blog. Doing side projects not only shows other things that you are capable of but it shows that you have a passion for what you are doing. 

Final note – Jessica Hische is the creator of Don’t Fear The Internet, a HTML/CSS basic learning site with video. It is a very useful tool if you are just starting out learning how to code. It starts you at at step one and teaches you everything you need to know.  

Did you notice I never told you why they call her ‘Drop Cap Lady’? Yes? Go watch the video. Not only will you find out why but I think you will also be just as inspired as I have become to do more side projects after watching this video. 

Another point of view: Justin Dzama

Another interview! If you follow my blog, you would know that my last post was an interview as well. This time, I had the privilege of contacting Sault Ste. Marie graphic designer, Justin Dzama, who is the senior designer at Fuzed Notions Creative Studio Inc. I found Justin on the RGD (Registered Graphic Designers) website and began to research him and his work before coming across his website This is where I noticed that Justin seems like a really interesting guy, with his clever ‘about’ page and his taste in a wide range of music. Plus, he’s got an epic beard. So I e-mailed him, and he replied with a few answers to my questions. And I learnt some new things that I’d like to share. 

I asked Justin, “what has been a unique challenge you have faced while becoming a graphic designer?” His response was, “..mastering things I hadn’t been formally trained in (but it’s also the thing I love most about the job). Six years later and I’m still learning things at a rate that makes my brain feel like it’s had a run through a Quiznos toaster oven.” Funny little metaphor. From what I gather, design is growing constantly, trends are changing constantly and as a designer you need to keep up with it. Justin also insisted on becoming comfortable with the coding world. Good thing that is something I’ve become familiar with lately. To my readers interested in learning how to code html/css, check Code Academy. It is a fantastic and, easy-to-use tool. 

“The trick to inspiration is to never stop being inspired.” This short sentence that Justin stated is the biggest piece of advice I took from the interview. He explains how you will find yourself sitting at a dead end when it comes to finding inspiration, when in reality, everything is inspiring. In my last interview, I was inspired to start carrying a notebook around to jot down new ideas that hit. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great idea, and the tip Justin provides is just as good – carry a small digital camera with you, so if inspiration is in sight, you can easily just snap a photo.

“Anyone can make a brand beautiful or stand out, but the brands who truly “get it” can make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.”

Thanks for the advice, Justin. I really appreciate the time you took to reply with some well-thought answers to help me as I move forward in my design career. 

A new point of view

Recently, I had the opportunity to learn more about common issues in the design world by interviewing an artist in the industry. I was lucky enough to get in contact with a dynamic, fully-loaded designer, who goes by Janice Fung. Janice is a Toronto based designer who has the ability to work on all sorts of projects ranging from print to video to photography. She is also part-owner of JF Design, a graphic and architectural design firm run by herself and Jason Fung. 

I was curious about what types of problems professional designers face and wondered if I could relate in any way. 

First, I asked,”What is the most common problem you run into while working with clients?” She responded with, “…Clients who forget what they initially asked for and changing direction..You need to know your client well..” Although this is not a challenge I, personally, have faced yet, I believe this can be extremely annoying to a designer. Getting to know your client and understanding them as best as you can before starting any designs, and making sure both yourself and your client agree 100% on the written brief, is very important before going forward with the job. As a designer, you never want to get turned around in the middle of a project because of a little miscommunication. 

Janice provided some insight on different ways to find inspiration and how to regain it after losing it. Keeping up with the trends by going to exhibitions and other shows is just one way, but she also explains that it is easy to “burn out” and that sometimes it helps to engage in a completely different project to gain inspiration. This is something I can relate to, and it is a relief to know that this is something that happens all the time. I often find myself picking away at every project in my agenda because I can’t seem to stick to one because of a loss of inspiration. 

How important is an individuals workspace to their creativity? Janice left a helpful tip for this question: always carry a notebook or sketchpad with you. As a designer, you never know when inspiration will hit, and it’s not something you’ll want to forget. This is a simple and effective way to collect your thoughts, and definitely something I will start doing myself. On the other hand, when it comes to the final execution of any project, Janice explains that it is important to have the right tools to produce and polish your piece, which I agree with 100%.

Lastly, I was curious which artists she finds influential, and it seems we share a couple popular big names in Milton Glaser and Stefan Sagmeister. But she has also introduced me to the work of Morag Myerscough and the books by Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady and I look forward to checking them out. 

I really appreciated this opportunity to speak with a knowledgeable designer and I definitely learnt a few things that I hope I can pass on to my peers. Hopefully, you learnt something from reading this as well! 

Check out some of her work!






Accessible Design

Over the past few weeks, and in the coming weeks to follow, I am working part of a team of designers to address an accessibility issue at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario. We found that a major issue at the school was just finding your way around. If you were a new student, or just a visitor, and you were given a room number to get to; you wouldn’t be able to find it (not easily at least). After our research, we found that it’s not only difficult for new visitors/students, but also to students who have been attending for over a year. 

I attended Algonquin College in Ottawa for one-year prior to moving to Kingston. That school was a nightmare finding your way around. At St. Lawrence we have 10 minutes travel time in between classes and the same goes for Algonquin. The difference is that, at Algonquin you might have to travel from building A to building P, and that just sounds far if you have no idea where you are going (which I didn’t). However, at St. Lawrence, all buildings are connected and when I began attending, a huge sigh of relief came over me, that I wouldn’t be rushing around so much. 

Turns out, I was wrong. 

I am in my 4th year now at St. Lawrence College, have had classes all over the school, but when a new classroom is in the mix, I just get totally lost. We all get used to our usual routines and have no need for going anywhere else. This is where the school map should come in handy. But it doesn’t. Through our research and self-observance, we found that the map really isn’t that great at all. Barely good, for that matter. The type is too small, colours have zero contrast (both which don’t help the visually impaired), and most maps around the school are just overall too small and unreadable. 

I wanted to put a picture of the school map here, but it won’t let me for whatever reason, so hopefully I’ll get to post it soon. 

To sum this all up, we found that one of the biggest issues was way finding and reading the map successfully. And that is what we are here for. We are expected to come up with a design, whether it be an app, or a map, or whatever we feel would be accessible to everyone at St. Lawrence College. 

We are a team of designers assigned to work together, and a couple of us have never worked together before. So far, we have built good chemistry, and all work well together. None of us could consider ourselves leaders so we all acted as one. We worked together on all aspects of the research process including coming up with questions to ask other students, and video research. At this point in the project, we have split up to pursue our own ideas for the project, and hopefully in the coming years (or even months, who knows), someone’s design will be put to use at our school to make it more accessible for everyone.

Have you ever had bad experiences finding your way to a certain destination? Even if it’s just a washroom; just because signs and maps directing you aren’t clear. 

Is spec work worth it?


(school work, not spec work) (school work = spec work? hehe)

I came across an article today on why designers should tolerate spec work (*see article). All designers have their different routines and different things they like to get involved in, such as design competitions. I am anti-spec myself and after reading the article, I still haven’t changed my mind, but author Conor Odriscoll provided well thought out insights on why spec work could be tolerated. 

I’m assuming you know what spec work is, but just in case, I’ll quickly explain it. Spec work is doing work for a client without a contract and without any guarantee that you will be paid. 

*Conor states that, “If you feel that you can do a good job on a design brief, then take it on and hope that the client will like it. If you don’t feel you can do a good job on it, then don’t do it, and leave it to people who can.” 

And thats exactly it when it comes to doing this type of work. There are quite a few designers out there who are using sites such as to help promote themselves, others are doing it just for fun, and for others, it’s a way to make a living. If you have a real passion for design, in the end, it really doesn’t matter what kind of work you are doing. 

In my opinion though, the thing about working on sites like 99designs and creating concepts is that if you lose, you don’t really get anything out of it other than hours of wasted time. If you do win though, that’s great! Fantastic! All your hard work paid off, you will eventually get paid, and you have something new to add to your portfolio. You’re thinking that things will all go your way next time around as well.

This all sounds great, but in the end you never really gained a new client, and that client probably won’t be referring you to their friends. They’ll simply refer to 99designs. 

What are your thoughts on spec work? Design competitions?