Alphabet-a-Day Project update

I'm thrilled to share that my Alphabet-a-Day Project is online! All 250 alphabets are archived and fully searchable by pen type, case and style. Which is your favourite?

Check it out here:

Looking back, moving forward

I would agree with the general consensus was that 2016 was a challenging year for most people, myself included. I am so grateful for the support of friends, family and my community. As in previous years (2011201220132014, 2015), here is my annual recap of how my year unfolded.

In January, I started my most ambitious lettering project to date: Alphabet-a-day, where I set out to hand-letter one complete alphabet each weekday of 2016. I also had a small illustration of my favourite numeral published in UPPERCASE Magazine.

February was busy with client work, but I took time to release 4 free downloadable Valentine cards!

Among other client projects in March, I had fun doing a logo refresh for Pocket Concerts. I also taught a Ligatures brush pen workshop at Shopify, and spoke about vernacular typography at Humber College.

In April, I zipped over to Calgary to teach a brush lettering workshop at UPPERCASE Magazine. The magazine also released its new issue, featuring my interview with Penguin UK book designer, Coralie Bickford-Smith. Two exciting lettering projects were revealed: a hand-lettered wordmark for Jane 100 (celebrating the work of Toronto urban activist, Jane Jacobs), and custom lettering for Seattle-based music Erik Blood's new album, Lost is Slow Motion.

May was super busy with client work, and preparing the launch of my new 2016/2017 collection. And, I settled into my first studio space, and started doing small lettering videos.

In June, my collection was previewed at the first ever Pixel & Bristle design market, which I co-organized with colleagues Margot Trudell and Marta Ryczko. It was a blast!

July marked three fun lettering projects (coincidentally, all in Toronto's east end!): a massive custom chalkboard for Wonder Pens, custom lettering decals for BRIKA store, and a hand-painted sign for the new French restaurant, Greta Solomon's. Also this little blog turned 10 years old!

In August, I launched three new hand-lettered products in the Ligatures shop.

September was pretty epic! After months of preparation, I made my 2016/2017 collection live on my new online shop and Etsy store, including 16 prints, a clock and my perpetual Calendar, with its own fancy microsite. Thanks again to my talented developer, Chris Roberts, for his help!

Then, it was off to Calgary to teach another brush lettering workshop at UPPERCASE Magazine. And at the end of the month, quite unexpectedly, I was invited to join Candy Palamater on CBC Radio q to chat about the future of handwriting. You can listen to the interview here.

In October, UPPERCASE issue 31 was released which featured not one, but TWO, articles about design for the performing arts. The first was with Ireland film graphic designer, Annie Atkins. And the other was with Toronto-based theatre set & costume designer, Michael Gianfrancesco.

In November, I eagerly attended RGD DesignThinkers conference as the roving reporter for UPPERCASE Magazine. You can check out my recaps here and here.

As well, my It gets better / It gets worse paintings were featured in Swash & Serif group typography show, as well as the Buddies in Bad Times Art Attack auction, which raises money to support Canada's best LGBT theatre.

And then, just in time for the Pixel & Bristle holiday market at the Drake Hotel, I unveiled my 2016 limited edition holiday cards.

And then it was December! I co-instructed a Ligatures brush lettering at Klick Health, and then capped the year off with Toronto's best holiday market, City of Craft. It was so much fun - a great, celebratory culmination of the year.

This year wouldn't have been possible without the support of YOU – those who purchased a print from my shop, liked one of my Instagram photos, attended a workshop, or visited my booth at City of Craft. I am endlessly grateful to continue doing work that I love.

May 2017 bring you peace and happiness in this ever-changing world.


Etiquette Project turns five

Back in December 2011, I launched the Toronto Etiquette Project, little reminder cards which aimed to help improve public behaviour in Toronto. This later evolved into the Urban Etiquette Project, which could be used in other cities, both English and French. The project garnered a lot of attention, with coverage in the Globe & Mail, Flare Magazine and the Toronto Star.

To commemorate the five year anniversary, and to keep the kindness flowing, I've created five new graphics to share on social media, using #etiquetteproject.

You can view the project's entire 5-year development here.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

City of Craft X

Hope to see you this weekend at Toronto's favourite winter market, City of Craft.

December 9, 10 & 1, 2016
Friday 6pm-10pm
Saturday 11am-6pm
Sunday 11am-5pm

The Theatre Centre 
1115 Queen Street West
(one block west of Queen and Dovercourt)

$2 (Kids 12 & Under FREE)

2016 holiday cards

This 4-pack of festive, limited edition A2-size greeting cards were hand-lettered with brush and ink, scanned, and screen printed by hand in Toronto using water-based matte black and metallic gold ink on pure white 100% cotton archival paper. Matching gold envelopes included. Includes:

-Fa la la la la la la la la
-Pa rum pa pum pum
-Ring ting ting-a-ling
-Thumpety thump thump

Available for purchase here.

Better / Worse

These limited edition paintings will be on display tonight at the Buddies in Bad Times annual Art Attack auction, which raises money to support Canada's best LGBT theatre.

DesignThinkers 2016, Day 2

Jake Barton
Local Projects - museum/exhibit design (Smithsonian, 9/11 Museum)
“The Future of Virtual is Physical”

“virtual reality” is now much more than just masks on our face
poetry of experience

“genius is 1% inspiration, 99% persiration (attributed to Edison)
talent = person who has done his/her homework

projects discussed:

1) 9/11 Museum
stories projected on top of artefacts
a collection of memories (vs. just telling)
a container for stories
a communal space for NYC
“We Remember” gallery - global memories of the morning of 9/11/01
risk of allowing people to write their own messages - what would happen? 
lesson: trust your visitors - they will rise to the occasion and lift everyone up with them
inverted pools with inscribed names - randomness of order + meaningful adjacencies
creating a “latticework of human meaning”

2) Cleveland Museum of Art
platform used for patrons own expression
visitor placed at the centre of expression
social, performative

3) BioDesign Studio - DNA museum
can create competing organisms
people learn by doing

-communal experience - combined heart beats

museums should be
-“a friend you want to spend time with” - more social / a shared experience

interactive devices for kids to measure physics on the playground
playgrounds = physics machines
“technolgy that requires a friend”
extracting math and science out of experience

7) Let Go (Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian)
interactive pen allows patrons to collection inspiration
pattern design - patrons able to export and buy via zazzle

fully immersive

Eddie Opara
“Design in Retrograde?”

industry is “under siege” from inside out
design must be stimulus for creative thinking, and must outlast critics
ie. initial criticism of Eiffel Tower faded over time
designs should be allowed to breathe (ie. Met rebrand, which was attacked immediately)
Brand New = Fox News of design world
need for better education - reading, writing, better dialogue
lobbying is dangerous if left unchecked (ie. petitions)
Quinnipac university - and Fox News coverage
stop the retrograde

*create the change you want to see

“Dark Patterns & Business Models: “I Can’t Let You Do That, Dave.”

discussion of DMCA (Copyright act) and DRM (digital rights management)
lawsuits with HP, Sega, Skylink, Lexmark, Netflix, Sony BMG

we’ve entered uncharted territory with copyright, it’s legally terrifying
“software is eating the world”
huge implications for security landscape

cell phones = “pocket distraction rectangle”

DOSAs (Denial of service attack)
RATs (remote access trajan)
-all threatening security, stability of web

feudalism resurfacing - control from above
us vs. corporations choosing products for us

solutions proposed:
1) Devices should obey their owners (not the corporation)
2) Security facts are legal to disclose

need for organizations and structures (ie. you can’t recycle your way out of climate change)
-Apollo 1201 - org looking to eradicate DRM

the stakes are higher than ever
support organizations, have conversations

too much at stake not to FIGHT

Meg Lewis
“Creating a Personal Brand Mission

“I don’t have strong opinions”

considers herself a “value-based designer” - only works for companies that share the same values 

Ghostly Ferns
-freelancing firm of best friends
-no profit

outsider as a child, fascinated with TV / pop culture - “exaggerated versions of humans” - wanted to be that!
decided “I don’t want to be a boring adult”

was told she might be a “star person
-native american tradition
-special beings sent from other planets to inject kindness and positive demeanour
-make the world HAPPIER

star people characteristics:
-lower than normal body temperature
-usually female
-swollen / painful joints
-short stature
-creative profession

“the world needs me!”

struggled in early career
-working for people who hated their jobs, hated their work
-constantly analyzing herself - trying to impress, act better/cooler
-started dancing, dance fitness classes (ie. jazzercise) - “danced my butt off”
EPIPHANY! “Why was I hiding?” + “What else have I been hiding”

began to analyze her flaws vs. her values
-love change
-way to honest about herself
-not interested in separating work and life

-want to make the world a happier place
-authenticity (ie. showing vulnerability)

asked herself “how can I adjust my career to reflect my flaws and values?”

decided to only work for happy companies
*work never feels like work
“the more I’m me, the more I succeed!”


craft your life and turn your flaws into superpowers!

Steve Powers
“Painting Blues”

as a child, interested in graffiti (ie. one word); as an adult, interested in art (ie. all other words)
interested in making art about life, accessible, personal
isolating basic human emotions into short phrases - playing with the misheard and the misread
“negotiation in life and love”

-talking in pictures, as most civilizations in the past
-“post literacy”?
-destruction of existing language system? new language emerging?

current trend of “adult infantalism” in American art
- post 9/11, Americans don’t want to be confronted with complicated art
-looking for an escape

“the game is never over”

“get paid, and then do it again”

Ulysses pact - no plan B

design philosophy
fuck it up, then fix it up
*make better mistakes

“as long as I have ideas, I’ll never stop painting”

“you already have the best drugs in you”

“do no harm, bring some alarms”

“every song is a love song”

dedicates at least 5 minutes to painting each day

only takes on commissions if:
-he gets 100% creative control
-gets the money upfront

-gets as much time as he needs

Steven Heller
“Make Eye Candy into Design History–A Story of Addition”

Previous work discussed:
NY Free Press
NY Review of Sex
The East Village Other
Monster Times
NYTimes Book Review

Publications discussed:
Shadow Type
Stencil Type
Paul Rand bio
Alvin Lustig bio
The Moderns
Iron Fists
Red Scared

“the desire to get under the skin has never left me” - strong anti-establishment, counter culture approach

“happiness comes from doing what you love”

David Carson
“Self-indulgent Design”

makes work from his hobby - “it’s all personal”
the solution is in the thing you’re given
embrace restrictions and small victories
never snap to guides

*put some of yourself int it!

Day 1 here.

DesignThinkers 2016, Day 1

Paola Antonelli
“Are We There, Yet? A Road Trip Through Utopia”

Obama quote: “this is the best time to be alive”
“utopia” is within reach
idea of utopia - perfect, in balance, harmony - keeps us alive

reference to Garden City Movement
-clean, perfect world (a bit fascist)

reference to 1960s
-cellular processes in architecture
-drugs, psychadelics
-desire for a better future

Torre David
-unfinished skyscraper in Caracas, Venezula

Robert Venturi essay “Complexity And Contradiction In Architecture”
-interested in contradictions - hybrid, distorted, ambiguous, perverse

Quantum design - future of design with mechanics, computers

ambivalence and ambiguity = collaborators
quirks and unpredicability

cat which is simultaneously dead and alive - tension

-3D printing of viruses which can treat cancer (good) and hack DNA (bad)
-Design and Violence project (MoMA)

interaction between human and machine - tension
Japanese robotics - Hiroshi Ishiguro

Slow And Steady Wins the Race - NYC fashion design - white t-shirt project

Stefan Sagmeister - Casa da Musica / OMA
-building = logo = building 

bean bag chair - object with infinite shape combinations

Alex Schweder - Counterweight Roommate

Elemental - social housing
“half a home” - starter homes for middles class
building doesn’t exist until occupied

Kinematics dress - 3D printed in folded form, modelled off nervous system
art, science, design and engineering applied to a problem

SymbioticA - pig wings project
design by growth / growth by design

Brand and Phelan - bringing back passenger pigeon using DNA

Agapakis and Tolaas - human cheese

MIT Media lab - silk pavilion created by silk worms
also, bees create vase from honeycomb
“self-assembly” - provide environment for growth, natural cycles

Minecraft - spacial trading in physical and digital world

Tobias Frere-Jones
“Punch-Cutting for Pixels”

“Why make more typefaces?”
typefaces are an engine, typefaces are solutions
“I love problems”
pixelized type = “fruit salad gone wrong”
problems with rendering Helvetica on screens - screens didn’t exist when it was made
CBS News 36 - first instance of type created for screens
metal type - each size is reproportioned correctly - “optical scaling trends”
hypothesis: screen text can be treated as an optical size

Mallory typeface - Std Book + MicroPlus
*typefaces should have equal relevance on page and screen - “what our eyes need”

Retina typeface - created for Wall Street Journal stock listings
difference kind of language - data-based
“duplexed text” (stacked), therefore, bold could not be wider

type is an engine which can have problems

the goal is always to make things better than they were

curator, MUJI art director
“Visualize and Awaken”

Projects discussed:
Architecture for Dogs
Neo-Preistoria and 100 verbs
-Plants (edible vs non-edible, shadows, uncontrollable + geometric diakon!)
-Nakedness (bums, tiny panties…)
-Woman (diverse possibilities of gender
-Tokyo (mask made of 200 faces, camouflage fashion)

“make things known / make things unknown”

“Visualize and Awaken” - laws of the designer

Fredrik Ös and Erik Kockum
“Make Enemies & Gain Friends”

Snask = branding and film company
get fans!
brand yourself, dammit
create a good quote
how do YOU show change through design?
dare to be BOLD
stand up for your opinions - it’s not f*cking hard

Campaigns discussed:



North Korea rebrand
nicer to love than hate




Erin Sarofsky
“Sarofsky’s Top 10 Design Philosophies”

designer, animator and collaborator
“design-driven production”
stay informed and educated about the process - it’s the only thing you own

Philosophies (and portfolio examples)
1) It’s all about the concept.
Captain America: Civil War

2) Less is always more. - process of reduction
Captain America: Winter Soldier
Aleve ads

3) Typography! Hell yeah!
Guardians of the Galaxy

4) Set the tone.
Absolute Vodka
Animal Kingdom

5) Just because it’s called Ant-Man doesn’t mean it will have ants. - obvious solution is not always the answer

6) It’s okay to have an agenda. -do projects that feed your soul

7) Work clean.

8) Designers need producers. -importance of collaboration

9) Client is not always a moron. -nurture relationships, teach them the language

10) Design is an opinion, SO HAVE ONE.

Rod MacDonald
“Positively Grotesque”

-discussion of Classic Grotesque / Monotype

Leland Maschmeyer
“Into the Dark”

always trying to push the ball forward
always thinking “what’s next?”

“dragons” =
things that protect, enslave, threaten progress
metaphor for life-denying problem
moral of every fairy tale: ten times as big doesn’t mean ten times as hard

designers are creating, enabling new life
acting with courage, confronting what is scary, slaying the dragons

influenced by John Ruskin
“Stories of Venice / Nature of Gothic” - lead to William Morris, Arts & Crafts Movement
looked at nature vs. cities (capitalism)
“Unto this Last” - study of art and economics - use tools of art and industry to UPLIFT HUMANKIND

embrace the agony of personal growth

projects discussed (i.e. dragons he’s played):

1) EOS lipbalm
took on Chapstick (by Pzifer)
adopted Method’s design approach: “live with me” (vs. “buy me”)
lesson: avoid where dragon is strong, attack where dragon is weak

2) Solid Gold dog food
tasked with rebranding natural dog food with weird mystical packaging
influenced by Emilio Pucci - 60s fashion design
had to work with company’s existing illustrator - had to learn to work with him, not against
lesson: don’t slay your dragon; train it

3) Chobani = Modern Food Company
interested in real, natural food=
simple, natural, healthy, social, ritualistic, flavourful, traditional, rich in meaning, diverse, emotional (not purely functional), honest
current food system established by Napoleon - found a way to get “fresh” food to front line of war - design “contest” lead to invention of CANNED FOOD
canned food - functional food = 
pleasure speed
fresh preserved
natural imitation
flavour additives
diverse uniformity
taste shelf life
communal self-serve
Napoleon’s technique applied to world wars - post-WWII USA had extra canned food, so army rations were marketed to public as fast, easy - we are eating modern army rations
dragon = tyranny of FOOD AS FUEL

food will be next great movement / revolution - convergence of public health, politics and economics
unlike elections, we are casting our votes 3 times/day with the food we buy

Chobani is putting design at the heart of the food movement

Day 2 here.

Issue 31

I'm thrilled to unveil not one but TWO exciting new projects. I had the pleasure I writing two stories in Issue 31 of UPPERCASE Magazine, which both centred around the concept dear to my heart: design for the performing arts.

The first was an interview with Dublin-based film graphic designer, Annie Atkins, who is most renowned for her meticulous design work on Wes Anderson's film, Grand Budapest Hotel.

My other story focussed on the talents of Michael Gianfrancesco, who designs sets and costumes for the theatre at stages across North America. He is one of Canada's most sought-after designers, and has worked at The Stratford Festival for 13 seasons.

Many thanks to Annie & Michael for generously donating their time, and to Janine for these great opportunities to showcase talent of this calibre.

Check out my previous UPPERCASE contributions here.