UCalgary Alumni Magazine | Spring 2019

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The “Architectural Design” issue.  The main editorial feature in this issue focuses on the impact that UCalgary alumni have had on making Calgary one of the most liveable cities the world.

The main feature is intended to shine a light on the brilliant alumni that have graduated from the university’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape. Rather than simply turning this into an Architectural essay (static photos of beautiful buildings), I wanted to go the extra mile and actually get the designers within the spaces they created. I also worked closely with the photographer on the day of each photoshoot to capture people actually using the space. This served to make each story more relevant, personable and alive.

I went over my concepts and comp layout sketches with the chosen photographer and worked with them on all five photoshoot sessions. My personal favourite is the Wednesday Room. It is a very dark, tight and moody space that just oozes a comfortable “speakeasy” vibe. The logistics to capture this mood were quite challenging: on a -25C morning before the bar opened, we were given 30 minutes to set up in the basement before the two models (McKinley and Burkhart) showed up. They gave us 30 minutes to shoot them before they got up and told us they had to go to a pitch meeting (they are very busy… that happens when you’re good at what you do…).

We set these two gents up as if they were the sole patrons relaxing together and enjoying their surroundings. We rearranged and lined up the chairs and candles for the perfect camera angle. I added the touch of some yellow dye to the ice water in the tumblers. With no room to second-guess or shoot for further options, the final image is just outstanding. Huge thanks to Roth and Ramberg Photography for their talents on this one, as well as every other shoot they do.

The other session I really enjoyed was the intro layout. Great story there too: the department has all these building models scattered across four floors. I did some pre-scouting and picked the pieces I wanted for the scene. We arrived two hours before our model (the faculty head) showed up. We set up the scene in the public student gallery space. This meant moving those delicate models (up to 20 kg each) and arranging them on a table array for our model to sit behind. We worked with the existing studio wall lighting because it looked so nice already. The faculty head is also another one of those busy types who is hard to nail down. He actually agreed to book 90 minutes with us a week prior, only to show up on the day with his EA in tow, telling us that he could only give us a half-hour because he had to attend another meeting which he just couldn’t miss. Good thing we had the scene set so all he had to do was step in and look good. Special thanks to our video guy, Steve Chin, for some great ideas and all the bts footage on the day of the photoshoot.

While the previous two stories might suggest that I thrive under pressure, I believe in being as prepared as possible so that little hitches and bumps don’t get in the way of me achieving my creative vision. Planning, planning and more planning. That’s the ticket.

Oh, and have a good idea to begin with.

Here’s a couple of BTS videos I produced from two of the photoshoots:

The second feature (Protecting the Vulnerable), was not designed by me, but it did give me an opportunity to work with an illustrator whose work I have long-admired. Jasu Hu, from New York City, was so professional. Her ability to take our initial story and creative brief gave me the confidence to let her run. She delivered a visual story that augments the written one so seamlessly that the design layout was developed in such a way to become the frame for her work. Well done.

All-in-all, this 52-page print piece is great to hold and flip through.

For the online version, I was once-again paired up with a talented web developer (Nicola is awesome!), and we ported the content to this website within 3 weeks (sitemap, content map and page builds). Same platform as before, so no great shake-up or advancement there. We are trying to get the editorial process more aligned to an “online-first, rich-media” approach, followed by print, but it’s a slow evolution.

Read the online version →

Surge Energy Website

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Eight years after I designed their logo, I was contracted to help Surge with a website facelift. The old website was simply not working for them or their investors any more. It wasn’t responsive and it was a bit of a legacy mess, considering how things have changed, with smart phones and deeper understanding of how people consume information digitally.

The website content was reconsidered with an express purpose of making it easier for investors to get the info they need quickly. The focus was on content and clean delivery, however, I was able to convince the executive team that we could keep it simple and still make it more visually engaging.

Several custom info graphics and enhanced visuals were created as part of this whole re-launch.

View the new website here ».

And, for comparison’s sake, you can see the old site here ».

UCalgary Alumni Magazine Fall/Winter 2018

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The theme for this issue was “International Education”.  Most of the editorial within this issue focuses on the impact that UCalgary alumni, faculty and students are making around the world. I developed the cover concept and design.

In order to make this cover happen, I explored many solutions before our client decided on “Alumni flag pins around the real world”. My initial steps involved exploration of how maps and flags could be shown to imply a “global presence” within a single image. Through this exploration, I decided that a standard printed flat map was “too limited and simple”. So I determined that a physical world/globe would work better, but with so many alumni around the world, I wanted to avoid overcrowding or obscuring the earth’s surface. I worked to strike a balanced ratio of “flags-to-earth”, confident in the fact that the symbology of spreading flags across the continents would communicate this message clearly.

Lacking the budget to commission custom satellite photography, I researched and sourced a flat map image of the earth and combined this with sub-ocean imagery and global cloud patterns. Then I warped the final image for optimal cover positioning (focused on the Americas) and applied extensive image manipulation to enhance the focus, thus making the earth appear more like a “highly-detailed model”. This granted me the leeway to play with scale of the pin flags, so that the overall final effect is a playful and engaging image worthy of further exploration .

For the flag pins, I purchased a box of flag pins on Amazon. Then I took over 250 photos of these pins stuck onto a piece of foamcore, shot from various angles and heights, and pshop-merged with the final base earth and clouds image. For added authenticity, I searched our Alumni database and chose individuals to be our “flag-bearers for the pins on the cover.

The main title (Making or Mark) was chosen to support the “flag placement” without being too literal.

Here’s a brief BTS pdf of how I put it all together.

I also designed all three of the inside main features. Each design concept was developed and executed in consultation with the magazine editor. All-in-all, this 56-page piece is great to hold and flip through.

For the online version, I was paired up with a talented web developer (Nicola is awesome!), and we whipped this website together in less than 3 weeks (sitemap, content map and page builds). Design-wise, I have to say that I found that we were a bit constrained by the corporate/institutional parameters set out for all UC websites. No point getting into the background except to sat that we were tasked with porting the magazine website back from WordPress over to Drupal 8, which is the official UCalgary website platform. As a result, I have begun to improve my Drupal skills. IMO, the Drupal CMS platform that the UC webdev has implemented still has a long way to go before I would consider it to be a proper and comprehensive design solution for online communication. But I must work within their constraints… so there you go… just making lemonade…

Read the online version →

Hempco Website and Investor Presentation

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I was contracted to help a public company with a brand facelift as they were initiating a consolidation merger. They needed to communicate and demonstrate the advantages of the merger to their current shareholders while also attracting interest from a completely new audience. This all had to happen at the upcoming AGM, which was two weeks away.

I ramped up my understanding of their USP and various sub-brands and delivered a fresh and informative PPT deck in time for the May AGM. The website was redesigned and launched just 10 weeks later.

Several custom infographics and enhanced visuals were created as part of this whole re-launch.

The website (built and designed within WordPress) and presentation are available here ».

UCalgary Alumni Weekend 2018 Campaign


UCalgary wanted to promote their upcoming Alumni Weekend. I was given an approved word doc and the logo which I designed. There was no previously developed look or anything, so I was also tasked with creating a branded look and feel for the campaign. I was handed this design project with two days to develop a look for three campaign ads for public consumption.

So, in a situation like that, you just need to get creative in a quick and decisive way. I chose to go with authentic event photography from previous Alumni Weekend event days, but the boring side of the ads were a little more open to interpretation. Stock imagery and a photo of my own garage seemed to fit the bill quite well. The design and creative was approved on round one and I then had to resolve the pieces into all horizontal and vertical iterations. Everything from small digital screens to 5ft high transit posters.

These three creative pieces spoke to different demographics that UCalgary hoped to attract to Alumni Weekend.

UCalgary Event Graphics


Certain UCalgary Alumni-focused events were in need of a visual touchpoint. Each logomark reflects the heritage of a common UCalgary brand, yet they are all unique enough to stand on their own.

These brand elements have been employed across print and digital with equal and consistent success.

UCalgary Convocation e-book

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This was a super-fun project that I got parachuted into right back from my holidays. It was a request to turn five webinars into a brief but engaging e-book for new graduates to browse and click through to the official UCalgary Alumni website.

I designed it and got approval on round #1. Then I built out all of the interactive elements and uploaded it after playtesting on desktop, tablet and phones.

Yes, I did the playtesting as well.

Here’s the online link to the piece →

UCalgary Alumni Magazine Spring/Summer 2018

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An extremely impactful main editorial feature focused on mental health issues and research demanded a smart, respectful visual creative solution. The rest of the mag looks nice too, but this case study is primarily about the main editorial feature and the cover.

After reading the written articles, I developed the concept of “We all have baggage” which I tweaked into the phrase, “The things we carry”. This phrase, along with the visuals of each interviewee carrying a relevant form of baggage (ie. suitcase, backpack, gym bag, etc.) delivers a positive message that everyone is affected by the stigma of mental health. The inspiring written phrases on each person’s bag are direct quotes that each person (interviewed and photographed) allowed us to use. We added this touch of positivity to each person’s story because, even though they will carry the issue with them for the rest of their lives, they have also made the decision to be positive about how they deal with it.

Great photography based upon my initial layout comps made it through from pitch to final print. My main challenge was figuring out how to present weighty issues such as sexual assault, suicide and depression without appearing sad or hopeless. I also managed to keep the editorial design more-or-less “on-brand” with the colour and typography choices.

This issue won four North American CASE awards in 2018, as follows:
Print General Interest: Gold.   |   Cover design: Silver.   |   Photo series, Mental Health Matters: Silver.   |   Illustration series, Derring-Do: Silver.

After the mag went to press, I started preparing and populating the content and images into our responsive website magazine. It’s built upon a WP template with some additional custom CSS styling.

Here’s the pdf link to the magazine →

As an added bonus, here’s a quick bts video on how the cover came together.

CD Package Design – For Me

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Yup, this is my own music. I’ve been writing and recording for quite some time now. I finally decided to just put some of my favourites into a nice little package with a pretty bow on it.

The concept: I wanted to create a Christian Rock CD without drawing too much attention to the artist. So, I did up a bunch of original paintings focused on a single musical chord, made with G, C and D. The shorthand nickname is “Gsus”. The paintings are shown as “larger than the human subject”, which seems appropriate for who the music was written for. At least, that’s the way I feel about it.

Both the music and the design are getting favourable comments.

Tim Hortons: Adopt a Donut

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This was an idea that hit me one morning when I noticed the design team descend on a dozen donuts. All but one was taken up in the first rush. This led me to feel a strange sort of empathy for the unchosen pastry. If I could give voice to the donut’s insecurities and low self-esteem, I figured I could help us all to be better-informed and more sensitive about how we choose our donuts.

And then I thought this would make for an excellent campaign to boost sales for coffee and donuts. So I wrote and designed this up.

Yes, the donut had a name… and it was “Delicious”.