Category Archives: design

topographic vector map of BC


I keep on making these and then switching computers every few years and losing them, so I’m putting it here. The above file is what it looks like, but it’s a .PNG; ignore it. Here is a link to the BC vector map in AI (Adobe Illustrator) format. If you need to know what an Illustrator file is, this blog post isn’t for you.

I can’t guarantee the accuracy of the elevations but this will generally do for presentations / report covers etc. It is based on a JPG I found through a Google image search, but this will reproduce far better if you are working in Illustrator or InDesign. If you need a more sciencey or accurate topographic map, I recommend you go to GeoBC.

If you are a topography nerd, you should view this list of North American ultras. There are some sweet prominences in there, many of which are in B.C.

Reflections on Emergence

I just took down all the “get tickets” links for Emergence on and changed the language to be past tense. This means we have reached the point in time where we have largely accomplished what we intended to do when we started planning this event. There are so many people to thank for this that even writing an update is an intimidating idea.

The short form is that the event was the combined forces of an engaged city, exceptionally supportive partners, courageous thinkers, brilliant performers, and some of the most outstanding organizers I have ever had the privilege to work with.

The longer form is that it has been a significant amount of work, and it’s not over yet. The fruit of this is not just the day, but of course the photos and speaker videos (talks) from the event, which give the ideas worth spreading a far larger wingspan. This year’s theme was very strong, and the speakers were equally as strong and brought it to a new level. We are fortunate to have these brilliant minds asking the hard questions and exploring possibilities.

Effectively doubling the size of the event (from 400 people to 772) meant that there was more hands needed on deck, and a different strategy for marketing and communicating about the event. We made a new communications plan, a new marketing strategy, designed a new website, made a new eNewsletter campaign, made stretch goals for media relations, developed a great relationship with a new media partner, increased advertising spend, designed and activated new volunteer roles, and broadly participated in more community engagement through our Salon events. We had an open house for people interested in getting involved that attracted even more people than most TEDx events.

So much has developed over the last year that it’s difficult to articulate it all short of writing a book. Putting on an event of this scale requires serious attention to detail, vision, time, energy, and perhaps most importantly, relationships. I am deeply grateful for the people I worked with, as well as the opportunities and experiences; quite simply, I was challenged and I grew.

Those who worked on TEDxVictoria have a lot to be proud of; we have accomplished a hell of a lot. The potential of the team is massive, and this was demonstrated.

Other reflections

  • For serious conversations, email is bad and texting is worse
  • For the best relationships, telephone/skype/google hangouts provide tone, which is essential to understanding one another on an emotional level
  • When working with volunteers, emotions largely govern energy, which determines the power of the team
  • Social nights are important with the team
  • I still like building and designing highly functional websites
  • I got excited when I saw other team members post on our blog
  • Most of my responsibilities were prior to the event
  • Proof, proof, proof
  • Speaker coaching is time well spent, and understanding that aspect has given me more insights on how to market speakers/talks
  • The stage design was brilliant, on-theme, dynamic and powerful – I was impressed by how it came together
  • I took the image above from the balcony the night before the event
  • The night before the event is a lot of work for the day-of crew
  • The day-of crew does so much work it’s difficult to comprehend
  • We were spoiled at the after-party, which was also a tonne of work by another talented crew
  • No matter how much social media you do, you’ll always feel like you can do more – same as with the recording label
  • The McPherson is a beautiful venue
  • The Zone has been an awesome and creative media partner
  • Royal Roads University is a kickass Title level sponsor who put myself and 3 other organizers through their Strategic Leadership Program as part of their support for the event
  • Our presence at Rifflandia was awesome and our booth looked better than ever
  • We did a free event about the future of cities in city hall’s Council Chamber
  • We had absolutely incredible emcees
  • People are still hungry for this type of event according to ticket sales
  • Change is inevitable; attitude makes an extraordinary difference in times of transition
  • People grow when you give them the chance
  • There are so many chances to develop professionally as a volunteer – many of these are opportunities that are not available at the workplace or school
  • Some of the TEDx rules inhibit the potential of partnerships and events; this may be by design, and it can be frustrating
  • Watching so many TED talks on the Internet and then seeing new talks in-person felt like being at a live recording of the Internet
  • I am forgetting something, but that’s okay
  • One thing leads to another

impedance to expression

I took the above photo of my good friend Casey Jo, just before she was about to say ..

As time goes by, and I create more and more through many different platforms, programs, and processes, I’m beginning to notice which are most successful and why.
At one point I believed I just “wasn’t feeling creative” when I sat down in front of my computer and failed to blog the 150 photos I would take with my DSLR from the weekend past, complete with descriptions, post processing in photoshop, upload via FTP, and a written summary of the experience. I also decided I wasn’t “feeling motivated” to write music, which meant sitting down and composing, arranging, effecting, mixing, and sometimes mastering a track, all on a computer screen.
Some time around September of last year, I picked up an iPhone 4. It has a couple cameras on it, both vastly inferior to the DSLR I have, much like the Sony Ericcson phone I had before it. I made some notes on the difference between taking photos with my iPhone and DSLR/Computer. Nothing from that has really changed. But all those steps involved with the updating from DSLR suggest a higher level of impedance to my artistic expression than the iPhone. For that reason, I quite often use my iPhone more than my DSLR.
Applications like Instagram, MoreLomo and Tumblr get heavy use even though they are not as technically full-featured as alternatives on the desktop. In these cases, less process is exactly equal to more creative output. That is to say, less steps equals more usage. There is less impedance between my creative experience and the subsequent expression.

On that note..

Extending this lens to music making, there are remarkably far more steps to writing a compete song in Reason than there are to singing a song and recording it. To be clear, I am not saying one is easier or requires less skill. There are all sorts of classes one could take in singing to hone the expression of it. However, the state of expression largely will remain the same (just more refined and sophisticated). The same cannot be said for an art form which is proportionately more technical in nature, such as electronic music production, which is at the mercy of the software developers and how they interpret our workflow, if we are lucky enough that they do so at all. Relating it to singing, this means that there can be many busy-work computer-based steps before intent meets voice. Impedance.
Recently, as an experiment, I tried making a song in Ableton Live from start to finish, instead of the back and forth I usually do between Ableton Live and Reason. While I am very proficient in Reason (and in my opinion, that software is really, really well thought out), I found I was spending a lot of time (and process / steps) in Reason getting sounds that I really liked, whereas I was spending relatively little in Ableton Live. I ended up finishing a song I was happy with in 3 sessions over a weekend; compare that with the 1-6 month process I spent in Reason on each song, and you get the idea.

What happens when an idea takes a long time to express?

I find the longer an idea takes to express, the more it is at risk of losing its raison d’ĂȘtre; that is, each idea has a reason for existence – an essence. Each revision can either make it deeper and better, or wider and weaker – less focussed. A lot of musical and design ideas have depth in simplicity from the get-go, and more time spent on it can be equal to the gradual destruction of the idea itself. Does this sound silly or does it sound like science? I’d be curious to hear other people’s ideas on how to preserve idea integrity for maximum expression.

How broad is this topic?

I realized that when I had been thinking about this topic over the last two months, it’s pretty deep, and I likely will not be dropping it after I make this post. I am sure I will be revisiting this as I apply the concept to different areas.
One area it got me thinking about was today’s Federal Election. I saw some numbers from the previous election which mentioned there were more Canadians on Facebook than there were at the polling booths. That said a few things to me:

  • Canadians are addicted to facebook
  • Canadians could be apathetic about voting because they think everything is fine
  • Canadians could be apathetic about voting because it’s too annoying to go out and do it – we can do our taxes online, why can’t we vote online?
  • Canadians could be apathetic about voting because they think they cannot have an effect on change anyway – the process has the ability to hide their opinion

That list could go on. I’m sure there’s lots to add. Having voted in the Advance Poll last week, I am not standing in lines in the rain to do so today, but I can see how unappealing that would be to a lot of people. Last week I went to the wrong polling station and barely squeaked in before 8 PM to the correct polling station, a 15 minute walk away from where I was (which was 5 minutes from my home.) I don’t consider going out to vote to be a big deal, but with everything else online, why isn’t voting yet? I get the points about security, but I’d counter with the fact that there are some pretty smart security experts out there who could get it done right. I figure that the less steps there are to formally expressing yourself in a modern democratic nation, the better the process will reflect those who it must serve.
Today, I’m not so sure the lack of online voting is a problem, but it might be a part of a Gladwell-esque tipping point scenario. At this stage of my life, most of the friends who I’ve talked to who do not vote are doing so to make a point – they do not believe in the system or the process. I’m not sure how much I do either, but I do see the opportunities for improvements.

in need of an exorcism?

As seen in Vancouver at Davie and Denman in late August.
I would have used red instead of blue for “You may be possessed!” – would get the fear and impatience going a bit faster.
I should note that I came across a similar flyer in Trinidad, except it was a guru there. I’m sure there are big differences, but their promise statements were essentially the same. However, this appears to be a little bit of attempted viral marketing for a movie or something to that effect. The one in Trinidad appeared “legit.” Whatever the attempt was, I did not go see the movie and I didn’t post this until .. now, so – you know, consider that.

Cameron Sinclair at Design Currency

This week I wrote a post about Cameron Sinclair and Architecture for Humanity.

In and amongst all the discussion at and about Design Currency – now a week and a half ago – there is one talk that stands out for me. And it is not to do with the way it was said, or its value to business, or its philosophical implications, or its parallel struggles with marketing in the corporate decision making process. It had to do with Cameron Sinclair’s talk on architecture for humanity, an organization that he founded:
“Architecture for Humanity is a nonprofit design services firm founded in 1999. We are building a more sustainable future through the power of professional design.”

Sounds good. But what does that mean in practice? The most recent (and current) example illustrates this well…
It would be hard not to notice the massive earthquakes in the news lately – in particular Haiti’s 7.0, and Chile’s 8.8. If one were to continue to follow the stories, it would also be hard not to note the difference in casualties:

  • Chile 8.8: 486 fatalities, 79 missing
  • Haiti 7.0: 92,000 – 230,000 fatalities

Cameron was pretty quick to point out that earthquakes don’t generally kill people – buildings do. And poorly designed buildings at that. Since Chile experienced the incomprehensibly large 9.5 Valdivia earthquake in 1960, they had re-examined how they design buildings – requirements for seismic response changed in response to the environment. The building codes are stricter than a place such as Haiti. And so now we have a case where difference in design policy means a completely massive difference in how a country survives an earthquake. Chile was rocked by the 8.8 earthquake and ensuing tsunamis – any country would be – but Haiti’s buildings were annihilated, and they came down on the people inside.

This is not a trite design discussion. Here we have an extreme example of design currency being equal to human life itself. As was pointed out at Design Week, Haiti is not waiting to rebuild. They’re doing it right now. They have to.

My hat is off to Cameron Sinclair (pictured above) and those at Architecture for Humanity and the Open Architecture Network – an organization which is making better building plans accessible to everyone who is building – or in Haiti’s case – rebuilding.

Find out more about the Haiti rebuilding project on the Earthquake Reconstruction in Haiti page.

Some notes on how I made the image above:

  • I took the original shot during Design Currency on a Canon 30D with a 50mm lens at F1.4
  • Image was resized and refinished in Photoshop and imported to Illustrator
  • Spent some time tracing edges in Illustrator, adjusting palette and curve threshhold until his finger and his head looked the way I wanted, as well as the Design Currency logo
  • Exported back into Photoshop for the radial gradient linear burn, texture overlay with a soft-light blending mode, and a colourized resaturation to get the blues “just-so.”

Look at the large version to see more of the details (the largest version is over 3000 pixels wide, a bit too large for webbiness.) Some would say the above look is played out, but I think it’s the lack of care in using presets and effects that is played out, and the process itself can still yield pleasing results if done with care.

Design Currency: Defining the Value of Design

Design Currency: Defining the Value of Design
This past week was Design Currency: Defining the Value of Design, an installment of Icograda’s world-wide Design Week series. This was a multidisciplinary design conference – there were speakers that had backgrounds in business, education, marketing, advertising, industrial design, journalism, city planning, consulting, strategy, and much more.
I’ve written a number of posts on defining the value of design and the conference:

What I really liked about this event was how well-rounded it was. This was not a technical skills-oriented conference where you’re taking tutorials or talking about new technology. This was a meeting of the minds about the philosophy behind design itself – why do we design, and what place does it hold in society? There were many inspiring talks and perspectives, far too much to recap here. I recommend checking out some of the links I’ve provided with the photos below, and of course the Speaker Interviews from the Design Currency website.
One of the highlights for me was the Dinner with a Side of Design series at the Irish Heather in Gastown. Myself, Matt Warburton (Emdoubleyu), Helen Walters (BusinessWeek), and Phil Kneer (IBM) debated and designed the city of the future. We called it Village 2.0, and I assure you, it is nothing like Sheffield.
This event was bookended with the GDC National AGM at the beginning and the Graphex Awards towards the end. I did not make it to Graphex, but the GDC AGM is worthy of its own post and so I’ll leave it at that. On to the photos!
Below are my photos – I’ll provide information where I can.

Continue reading Design Currency: Defining the Value of Design

Design Currency update

My blogging is all over the place – I realize that some of it isn’t quite right for the audience here, but this is also my own archive so deal with it ;).
This is what I posted last night on

Say what you will about the value of design, but one thing is clear: no two people think exactly alike when it comes to defining the value of design itself. And if the question of defining the value of design sounds like a simple one, let me assure you – you’re dead wrong. It’s not just about dollars and cents. Design Currency 2010 discussion has been going on at – there is information on the events, workshops, dinners, breakfasts, speakers, and information on where to stay and eat.
Interviews with speakers are being added every day in the Design Currency 2010 Interviews category.
Also I would be in some sort of trouble if I didn’t mention that I had a go at the topic myself on the Design Currency 2010 blog. Really, it is a continuation of the conversation that I had started on the GDC blog – defining the value of design – but it’s much more direct in its relation to the topic of the conference.
Finally, you really ought to treat yourself and have a look at the beautiful Design Currency 2010 video by Rethink – it is below.

defining the value of design

The entrepreneur who picks a logo off the shelf to use, solely because it appeals to himself or herself, is more likely to fail in business than the entrepreneur that engages in a full design process. This isn’t just because self-reflection can sometimes be a smokey mirror. A full design process can be defined many ways, but for this post, lets say it is is one with research, symmetrical communication between the organization and its stakeholders, and sound design thinking with evaluation. Designers know the value of the design – but how can this value be articulated and understood by those outside of the industry? How do you define the value of design?
Business is based upon a trade of value – or an exchange. The fundamental concept behind it is that we, as a society, are better off if one specializes individually and then provides the expertise of specialization to others in exchange for money or barter. This relationship is built on trust, and – I imagine, in the old days, much of trust was based on and delivered by face to face meetings in a market or private store of some sort. Without that trust, you could not be certain that you would get what you paid for; the exchange may not have value in that case. We will be having a guest post from Matthew Politano (Oculus Design + Marketing) on the subject of design and trust which will elaborate much more on this subject.
Business has grown far beyond the original model of exchange into a global system of giving and receiving between people that may never meet or even speak. A gap has grown between those who make or provide, and those who consume or participate.
In this gap, intention, character, relevance, value, and relationships themselves become elusive. How do consumers connect and level with the merchants that they need to? Who – or more accurately – what is speaking to consumers in an age where so much business is done, literally, in seconds across the entire world? The subject of design, amongst other business practices, speaks volumes as to how organizations establish themselves, connect with their intended audience, and maintain a relationship. Indeed, design has elevated to the limelight of worldwide attention by becoming the hands and face of the modern business. In this sense, it appears to be a pretty remarkable noun. But what else is there to it – why can’t an entrepreneur buy a logo off the shelf and expect to have consistent and reliable success with it?
Design is much more than a noun; design is first and foremost a verb which has parallels in other fundamental business concepts.

"Design of logos involves effective articulation and visualisation of communication concepts determined by the client’s individual marketing goals. It involves analysing, problem-solving, strategizing, structuring, planning and creating images and text for specific purposes, including differentiating the client in the marketplace. Design affects a client’s bottom line, motivates potential customers, captivates audiences, cultivates brand recognition, and influences public perception of the company, service or product." – Peggy Cady, FGDC

Traditional business has market research; modern design is based on listening to the business and the market simultaneously. Traditional business has a marketing plan; modern design has an agile and maneuverable creative brief which outlines how the business speaks the language of the intended audience. The list could go on. The long and the short of it is that design has adopted the most critical processes from traditional business practice and utilized these processes into smart, two-way, relevant practices for the visual communications environment of today.
A gap exists between a company or organization and its audience. Thisall-important gap is the space in which an organization can sink or swim. The organization can put their communications into it – visual and otherwise – and if it’s hit the mark, it will reach the other end where the intended audience is. If it’s the first time this gap has been explored, however, the chances of making the connection is slim. Why? Because they haven’t figured out who is on the other side of it, and what will make them hold on to something that is making its way across. Indeed, exploration of the gap is very important. The gap between an organization and their intended audience is where the creativity can truly happen.
Traditional communication sees an organization position itself (or a brand that it owns) inside this gap. Broadcasting occurs asymmetrically – that is to say, the message enter from the organizations end and then are received en-masse. The theory roughly goes "if you communicate enough where you think your audience *should* be, then things will go according to plan." The image and words can be extremely calculated to reach as many as possible. It ends up notably impersonal and ambiguous as a result. Unfortunately, that vagueness is exactly where the relationship between organizations and intended audiences breaks down.

"Graphic design ignites passion, identifies, informs, clarifies, inspires and communicates in our interconnected, interdependent, real-time world. Identity has to do with what lies within and with intrinsic qualities – if that’s the case, are we satisfied with the qualities and values of graphic design as a profession? Never has there been a greater need for designers to dig deep, to exercise whole-brain thinking skills, to understand patterns of inter-connectivity, to join peer networks, to collaborate with other experts and to leverage the multi-perspective advantages of teamwork. How to best proceed, and to succeed? Help break down divisive barriers, embrace pluralism, raise the bar for civilization – and above all, further the characteristics that matter in making us truly human beings." –Robert L. Peters, FGDC, "Worldwide Identity" (Rockport Publishers)

Indeed, design requires understanding and a significant deal of whole-brain thinking to turn ideas, space and relationships into a meaningful catalyst for interaction. Nobody said design was easy – but does it need to be a shot in the dark? Absolutely not.
Symmetrical communication and thinking throughout a design process ensures that those who need to be spoken with are identified and understood. Market research and analysis uncovers who the stakeholders are and engages them. The relationship It is built on understanding and relevance, not volume and inundation. There is no need for excess when the mark is being hit. There is as much focus on who the organization is as who their audience is. The relationships are the priority.
Exploring the gap with symmetrical communication between the intended audience and design itself allows an intimacy which allows the merchant to be human again. A complete design process is one that not only enables a business to articulate itself, but one that also gives businesses the profound ability to listen. This is one of the many values that design brings to modern business.
None of this is to say that there is a problem with an organization deciding that it must, on its own, determine how it wants itself to be perceived, or its products – on the contrary, those organizations with a raison de’être will understand very well who their audience is, and may even be born of it. The business process required is one of critical thinking of the opportunity in front of them, and an action to address what they find. In other words, the business process has come face to face with the process of strategic intent: design.
I am not going to pretend this is an easy subject, or that it is even well-understood, especially by those who need to understand it – as Mark Busse points out on the Industrial Design blog.
There is an entire conference about the value of design coming up in Vancouver put on by Icograda and hosted by the GDC. It is Icograda’s world-touring design week, and next April it is in Vancouver for Design Currency – Defining the Value of Design. As an aside, I had a fantastic time putting the Design Week site together with Steve Fisher and Matthew Warburton. I had actually started this post in September and had no idea that there would be a conference about the value of design, so I think that goes to show the mindshare of the subject amongst those who think about a design a fair bit. The thought of mobilizing on a subject of this size is truly invigorating. If you have read this far, go look at the Design Week Vancouver website here:
See the headphone jacks at the beginning of the post? They look similar but they’re not the same. I’ll buy a drink for the first person to identify what the difference is – and what the implications could be for anything that could possibly follow that one, simple, difference.
I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments area below. How do you define the value of design?

This was originally posted earlier tonight on

the technology pendulum

Is design technology doing what we need it to do? New products are everywhere, but is technology helping with quality products or obfuscating design’s purpose with quantity of products? Are those responsible for rendering our designs doing so in a timely way? Finally, is infrastructure for cloud computing ready for what designers will need it to do?
When I started designing, technology was looking for ways to catch up to design. Programs were popping up for illustration, photo manipulation, colour, pantone integration, tablets, etc. After a while, the software and hardware caught up, and (not for the first time) changed everything about the way we produced design work. Some more time goes by, the technology passed us, and the world of design moved far beyond typography, grids, shapes and the colour wheel to a lot of really technical, software and server oriented advancements. Fine, learn some code. Wait a year or two, and then no longer was simply knowing HTML enough to make websites, you had to evolve again with technology. As a designer, it was a question of not if I could learn a new programming language or program, but whether the particular language or technology was niche, or indeed the wave of the future. We, as designers, evaluate all new things this way. This, I imagine, is because we are not just designers, but also business people – people who evaluate a skill on the marketability of the skill in question. At some point you have to make a choice – either you’re going to continue learning every single program coming out, or you’re going to start doing what you love – which is to say, designing things for people that need it with the skills that you have.
For example, when Flash was new, I pondered learning it – and I did, a bit, but demand wasn’t there, and I wasn’t too interested in making animated websites that required a plugin to function. At the time, many people weren’t even allowed to install it, so it seemed like a poor idea. Over time, flash has certainly grown in appeal to me, but it’s still a niche so far as what clients actually need in terms of visual communications. Certainly it is more useful to certain types of industry than others. I digress. I love flash, it just wasn’t in demand in my area.
I don’t really want to make examples out of any specific software that I consider to be less than useful because it isn’t productive. The people who make the software know it’s not (because they see the numbers) and you know when you come across a piece of software or hardware that is not, in the foreseeable future, going to be of any use to you or anyone you know. The reasons why this irrelevant technology gets made in the first place could fill a whole blog post, so lets just say that there are reasons. The reasons themselves are not as important so much as the noise to signal when we’re looking to advance our skill-sets, and ultimately make visual communication pieces for our clients.
Lets talk about some technology that has jived with design, shall we?

Continue reading the technology pendulum