Let it snow

A new winter-themed chalkboard for Mike and Kelly.
Want a custom chalkboard? Please get in touch!

The Making of Thanks

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how I made this year's Thanks cards, which are currently available for purchase in my shop. As with many of my projects, it all starts with several hand-lettered sketches (above) which are narrowed down to my top choices. From there, I scan and begin the clean-up process in Illustrator.

Here's a look at the sketch vs. the finished version. Notice the differences?

Then, I transfer the reversed image onto a lino tile and begin carving.

Add a little ink, and...

VoilĂ ! The finished pieces!

Pick up your 4-pack of these handmade Thanks cards for only $20 in my shop.

Thank YOU!

The Making of Pretty and Witty and GAY!

Here's a bit of process work for the recent "Pretty and witty and GAY!" print I created for Buddies in Bad Times annual Art Attack auction. The print is available for purchase on either black or white in my shop.

With the help of friend and screen printer extraordinaire Paul Dotey, we were able to achieve a seamless 6-colour gradient using a special "split fountain" technique. Photos below.

Here are the final prints. Pick up your limited edition copy in my shop for $50.

The Making of the 2014 Holiday Cards

As you may have heard, I released my new Winter collection last week. I thought it would be fun to show a bit of my process work for my 2014 Holiday Cards (currently available for purchase in my shop). Above: the original concept sketch, and below: some of the hand-lettering work, the working Illustrator layout variations, and a peek at the screen printing process.

And here are the final cards! Pick up the 4-pack in my shop for only $20. Limited quantities available!

Swash & Serif

Proud to be one of the co-curators for the first annual Swash & Serif group typography show. Opening reception 7:00 tonight at Black Cat Gallery (2186 Dundas St. W.)

See you there!

Design Thinkers 2014, Day 2

1) Richard Turley
Senior VP of Storytelling, MTV (previously: Bloomberg Businessweek)
"Let's Talk About Me"
  • "Typography can change the world!"
  • on bad clients: "the worse I made it, the more they liked it…"
  • while at Bloomberg Businessweek:
    • Helvetica – hating it and loving it at the same time
    • using – and breaking – the grid
    • constant state of reinvention – question everything
    • balance of serious and funny – can use this to manipulate readers and make them think differently

2) Steve Vranakis
Executive Creative Director, Creative Lab, Google
"Making Technology Matter, and Using Technology to Drive Creativity
  • "must be brave & kind" - listed in a Google Creative Labs job posting
  • make design matter
  • coding = a creative discipline
  • developers = artists
  • code / poetry = right words in the right order
  • break the conventions / structures
  • *importance of PLAY
  • on DevArt:
    • a global art show – all work created completely with code
    • inspiring the next generation of artists
  • DevArt participants:
    • Karsten Schmidt – outcome more important that authorship
    • Varvara + Mar – code is the soul of machines

3) Annette Diefenthaler, Ellen Lupton & Lawrence Zeegen
The Future of Design Education

Q1 What is the most important trait(s) for students leaving college / entering the workforce?
  • AD
    • one core skill more important than multiple - single skill permeates through portfolio
    • don't pretend you can do everything
  • LZ
    • not skill sets, but mindsets
    • must be able to embrace new thinking – looking for innovators who will push the industry forward
  • EL
    • don't duplicate / copy others
    • "nobody's going to be everything"
Q2 What is most important: critical thinking or technical skills?
  • EL
    • there should be no division – skill set and mindset should be integrated
  • AD
    • students must be adaptable and be able to teach themselves, or know how to acquire the skills they need
  • LZ
    • importance of learning both high tech and low tech (analog techniques), as well as learn from each other
Q3 How do you teach less-skilled students (the 90% "non-stars")?
  • LZ
    • educators are responsible for teaching the entire gamut of students, from all skill levels and backgrounds
    • strive for better, not best
  • AD
    • must question metrics – not just about graphic design "hard skills"
    • things to consider:
      • how is the student inspiring / challenging the discipline / industry?
      • how the student having an impact on his / her community?
      • how is the student able to communicate / inspire / teach others?
    • ultimately, educators must embrace diversity of skills and help break down barriers
Q4 Should software / technical skills be the core of design programs?
  • EL
    • critical thinking is more important that software knowledge
    • "teach spelling AND poetry in tandem" - always with an element of FUN
Q5 How important is coding fluency in a world where students are expected to be multi-disciplinary?
  • AD
  • students must have "digital fluency":
    • able to use but not necessarily produce
    • ability to tell stories with existing apps, platforms, tools of visual distribution
Q6 How do you teach students to be "resourceful"?
  • EL
    • make students work within constraints, units, specific parameters – teaches problem solving
    • resilience creates systems that can change
    • design is the most basic form of literacy for both designers and non-designers
    • empower students to do good - either at industry/agency level, or within their community
  • AD
    • time = money; make students execute projects in time constraints
    • find ways to "get to amazing" within 24 hours
    • ("or at least pretty amazing" - EL)
Q7 What are your thoughts on design departments who are changing the course descriptions from "Graphic Design" to "Communication Design"?
  • EL
    • "I will go to my grave as a graphic designer!"
    • "graphic design" connotes discipline, long standing traditions
    • "communication design" connotes business, marketing, PR (yuck)
  • LZ
    • "graphic design" doesn't adequately describe the tasks any more
Q8 What are the constraints of a 3-year design degree? What would you add/change?
  • LZ
    • too insular
    • gap between real money / real time
    • need to connect graphic design with everything else
  • EL
    • too much focus on self, homework, etc.
    • add communal spaces to create a studio experience, encourage peer-to-peer learning, which is invaluable
    • also, make all classes electives…
  • AD
    • most classroom spaces are terrible – feel too "school-like"
    • learning / working environments affect how we think, act, and the quality of our work

4) Ellen Lupton
Curator, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum + Director of Design MFA Program, MICA
"This is your Brain on Typography"

  • narrative storytelling plays a key part in experience design, product design & graphic design
  • story = "whole action of a certain magnitude" - Aristotle
  • narrative is satisfying
  • Vonnegat's story diagram of ecstasy & misery
  • design adds stories to life
  • effective, satisfying uses of narrative in humour:
    • misdirection / deception
    • rule of three
    • delayed answer
  • we crave conflict and the humour that and resolves it – catharsis + cathexis

5) Charles Adler
Co-founder, Kickstarter
"Stories from Vast Fields of Creative Independence"
  • 90s – art had been industrialized, industry was handcuffed by the mainstream
  • early 2000s – new power of the internet: to subvert industry
  • *rules were meant to be broken
  • rules are often temporary
  • it's okay to question everything
  • don't be afraid to ask WHY

6) Erik Spiekermann
Creative Director, Edenspiekermann
"Keeping the A**hole Factor Down
  • "I make sh*t"
  • poster: "Move fast and get sh*t done."
  • life's too short for kerning
  • get rid of redundancy!
  • on Helvetica: "nothing wrong with it, but nothing right with it either"
  • formula for how many books one needs: n+1
  • don't work WITH a**holes; don't work FOR a**holes
  • important to have an agile design process – be flexible

7) Jessica Walsh
Partner, Sagmeister & Walsh
"Creative Play"
  • "player" = a person who plays
  • work should be PLAY
  • contrary to the thought that play is wasteful, it actually:
    • prepares us
    • allows us to practice our skills
    • allows us to fail with fewer consequences
  • play shapes the brain
  • play is a state of mind
  • play deficit can be as detrimental as sleep deficit
  • play's "flow state" is the ideal state to innovate
  • Rules for play:
    • you must have confidence to FAIL
    • you must have dedicated, uninterrupted TIME
  • [quote from poster: "Not everything will be okay, but some things will."
  • play by your own rules
  • constraints are good for play
  • fight for what you believe in
  • *Sagmeister & Walsh only present one solution to clients - take it or leave it
  • *get off the computer and MAKE SH*T
  • do works that feeds your soul, not your ego
  • *acknowledge when work becomes a burden
  • "In the particular lies the universal." -James Joyce
  • re: pleasing everyone "if no one hates it, no one really likes it"
  • pay attention to what you like to do when no one is paying you
  • when in doubt, RISK IT
  • make less pretty crap, make more stuff with heart.

Day 1 here.

A huge thank you to Janine at Uppercase Magazine for this amazing opportunity, and to Design Thinkers for offering the press pass to this event. Thanks!


Design Thinkers 2014, Day 1

 I was honoured when Uppercase Magazine asked if I would like to attend RGD's annual Design Thinkers conference as their correspondent for the second year in a row.  As the Roving Reporter, I was able to soak in 13 incredible presentations by some of the world's most influential designers, typographers and innovators. It was two days full of invaluable insights, and I am excited to share all the notes & wisdom that inspired me.


1) Andrew Deitchmann
CEO & Co-founder, Mother NYC
"A Well-Designed Idea"
  • "have fun and make a living – in that order"
  • importance of convergence – keeping one's mind open
  • leaders need new skillets
  • ideas created by:
    • detectors – through purposeful exploration
    • alchemists – those who follow instincts
  • novelty is NOT sustainable
  • always work with good people
  • big ideas vs. rich ideas (rich is better)
  • "pragmagical"
  • on well-designed ideas:
    • highest common denominator
    • are culturally additive
    • authentic
    • flexible / iterative
    • not intimidated by the big players
  • *Make the complex simple & joyous!

2) Todd Waterbury
Executive Creative Director & Senior VP of Marketing, Target
"Belief to Behaviour"
  • language is what you believe
  • 21st century literacy = coding
  • diversity – best when one field of interest informs the other (and vice versa)
  • "Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees." -Laurence Belcher
  • use skills to unlock new potential
  • discipline fuels the best creative thinking
  • *de-familiarize the ordinary
  • best ideas & experiences = the inevitable + the unexpected
  • "One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak." -G.K. Chesterton
  • best work rooted in empathy, broad thinking & making connections
  • on Brand:
    • belief --> behaviour
    • clarity of beliefs
    • the cumulative experience(s) of the client
    • both powerful & fragile
    • can be built, can be taken down
    • important to monitor changes & adapt
  • on Strategy:
    • comes from sacrifices & hard choices
    • rooted in courage, clarity & conviction
    • ability to say yes to one and no to ten others
  • *Choice is abundant, attention is scarce
  • owned media vs. earned media:
    • owned = topical & temporal
    • earned = presence with purpose
  • *ask yourself "What could it be?"
  • 5 principles at Target "goods doing good":
    • Emotional – open heart, open mind
    • Useful – challenge complexity, simplify the everyday
    • Democratic – intended for everyone
    • Insightful – details just as important as bigger picture
    • Purposeful – for the greater good

3) Sibylle Hagmann
Founder, Kontour type foundry
"Intrinsic Character"
  • interest in post-War Germany / GDR (German Democratic Republic) typography & typographers
  • importance of context – the role environment plays 
  • TypoArt (foundry):
    • influenced by this political / economic system
    • culturally unique context
    • limited materials of socialist system forced creatives to experiment (drawing, painting, calligraphy)
    • had to comply with socialist party
    • managed to preserve (and create) identity / cultural heritage

4) Aaron Draplin
Founder, Draplin Design Co.
"Tall Tales from a Large Man"
  • was told "you're not going to make a living in design"
  • "defy the f*cking odds"
  • interested in "creating things for regular people"
  • still surprised he "got away with it..."
  • "don't forget the power of your mouse finger" to help the community organizations
  • on success Field Notes: "You can do this."
  • design as trade, not trend
  • "quit ripping off Dan Cassaro" – create something NEW!
  • go junking – inspiration waits in a world of "dead things"
  • on worrying: " Get cosmic." – think about the bigger picture and what's really important. At a universal scale, "we have no idea what's going on." Chill out.

5) Erik Spiekermann, Aaron Draplin & Richard Hunt
"The Future of Typography"
  • the best typography happens when craft meets intellect
  • "The only thing I know about the future is that it's ahead of us." - ES
  • typography has to live in different environments
  • "Type is visible language" - ES
  • learn, learn and keep learning
  • anything is possible...
  • in your design, give the same amount of attention to your typography as you do to your images – own every character
  • software is not going to do the work for you
  • priority: make it work (don't make it look cool)
  • if you need help, ASK (before you finish) – know who knows
  • *constraints are useful
  • find magic in mess – use something old to make something new
  • type should be type, lettering should be lettering
  • always think "what's the BEST way to do this?" and then do it!

6) Debbie Millman
President, Design Division, Sterling Brands, Design Matters podcast
"On Rejection, or How the Worst Moments of Your Life Can Turn Out to Be the Best"
  • *get past your fears and work through the discomfort
  • series of rejections, layoffs, setbacks, culminating in a slandering post on the Speak Up forum
  • took lemons and made lemonade - ended up writing for the forum
  • one closed door opens another – opportunity is everywhere
  • every time designers get together, there is opportunity to grow

7) Paula Scher
Partner, Pentagram
"All Design is Social"

*importance of PLAY

Day 2 here.


Winter 2014 collection

Just in time for the holidays, I am thrilled to share some new work available for purchase in my online shop. Queue the little drummer boy please (pa rum pa pum pum)...

1) 2014 Holiday cards – $20 (4-pack)

These festive, limited edition A2-size greeting cards were hand-lettered with Pentel brush pens, scanned, and screen printed by hand in Toronto using water-based red and metallic gold ink on pure white 100% cotton archival paper. Envelopes included.

"Wish with you A Merry Christmas!"
"May your days B merry & bright!"
"Do you C what I see?"
"The fire is so D lightful..."

Check out the making of the cards here.

2) Pretty and witty and GAY! – $50

This 9" x 12" limited edition was created specifically for the Buddies in Bad Times annual Art Attack auction, which helps raise money to support Canada's most exciting LGBT theatre. This piece was created using pen and ink, digitized, and then screen printed by hand using a special "split fountain" technique to create the unique technicolour gradient. Available on either black or white cotton archival paper.

3) Thank you cards – $20 (4-pack)

These A6-size greeting cards were hand-lettered with Pentel brush pens and lino printed by hand in Toronto using water-based inks on pure white and black 100% cotton archival paper. Envelopes included.

Gold on black
Gold on white
Silver on black
Silver on white

4) Two word truths #11: Help others – $20

The eleventh installment of "Two-word truths" is now available! You can pick up "Help others" in the shop for for $20. These 9" x 9" limited edition lino prints are based on original hand-lettering by yours truly. Printed in black ink on bright white 250gsm cotton archival paper.

5) Two word truths #12: Give back – $20

The twelfth and final installment of "Two-word truths" is now available! You can pick up "Give back" in the shop for for $20. These 9" x 9" limited edition lino prints are based on original hand-lettering by yours truly. Printed in black ink on bright white 250gsm cotton archival paper.

Here is the complete set of 12 original "Two word truths." All of these are available in my shop as well!

6) SALE! 2013 Holiday cards – $15 (4-pack)

These festive A2-size greeting cards were hand-lettered with Pentel brush pens, scanned, and screen printed with care by Kid Icarus in Toronto using water-based inks on 245gsm pure white 100% cotton archival paper. Envelopes included. Limited quantities remaining!

More photos and process shots here.

"'Tis The Season"
"Making A List"
"The Fire is So Delightful"
"Jingle All The Way"

Get a head start on your holiday shopping this year! Visit my shop to view the full collection, and please keep me in mind when making your gift purchases this holiday season. Commissioned work also available. And please don't hesitate to share my shop & services with anyone else you think might be interested.

Thanks for everyone for your incredible support this past year. Happy Holidays!


p.s. Thank you to everyone who contacted me with their interest in a 2014 hand-lettered calendar. I have been hard at work on a special calendar concept that should be ready in the early new year. Hint: it's the last calendar you will ever need... please stay tuned!