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Recently I had the privilege to take some of my acquired design knowledge and share it with a very special group of people (My Design Profs would be so proud). I’ve always had a small desire to teach ever since I left art school and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. My younger brothers teacher approached me to give a talk and short lesson on art and design and how it applies to the real world. I gladly accepted the offer and made arrangements to come up and spend an afternoon with the students.

Upon further reflection anxiety began to set in. I have no problem walking into a boardroom full of executives, marketing directors and creative types and pitching a design concept, campaign, brand identity or whatever other corporate collateral ones business may require, but the daunting task of entering a room of 10–12 year olds was frightening. Is it possible to capture a 5th graders attention for 3 hours, how does someone captivate an 11 year old on the topic of design, is it possible to back out of this? Call in sick? Reschedule or send a replacement? I figured the best way to tackle this assignment was to show examples of what inspired me to do what I do, if I could talk passionately about design maybe just maybe I could inspire their young minds to possibly go down the same road I traveled.

Some of my fondest memories of my time in school were those spent in art class, having the opportunity to visualize my uncorrupted imagination and using the mediums at hand to communicate my ideas visually, spending hours painting drawing and sculpting anything that popped into my head. One of the most beautiful things about being a kid in art class is the freedom and the lack of fear to do as you please. How I wish I could go back to those days.

Back to the task at hand, as I began to deal with the fear of standing in front a class room full of prepubescent kids, I remembered the words of my little brother, “ Can you please wear a T-shirt so all my friends can see your tattoo’s” I figured this would at least capture their attention long enough (as well as give me some playground street cred) to get through the introduction to my presentation. The structure of this presentation would be key to me surviving this afternoon. What are kids this age interested in? And how does that apply to art and design. Lets break it down. Because I’m technically still a kid at heart I tried to think of thing that attracted me to design and how it might apply to these little humans. I looked in to areas like video games, character design, architecture, industrial design, fashion, branding etc. I wanted to show the class how far reaching art and design can be, and how things that they see every day are touched by design. I was even able to throw in some art history and still captivate their attention, with the help of artists like Keith haring, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Milton Glasser, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Gaudi and even an appearance from the Bauhaus I was able to give these kids their first introduction into the world of design to their eagerly awaiting eyes. Surprisingly these kids were hanging on my every word, it was amazing. Looking back on it I think I may have even changed a couple career paths transforming future doctors and lawyers in to starving artist, illustrators and designer, welcome to the dark side my little friends, your parents will be proud.

For the second part of the afternoon I wanted to give the kids a little taste of what its like to be a designer. So I tasked them with a little project. I challenged them to come up with there own brand and company name possibly a tag line if they felt so inclined. Once the concept had passed the teacher and my approval, they were given templates to see their logos and branding in application. These templates included Hoodies, T-shirts, shoes, snowboards and Skateboard. It was absolutely amazing to see their little minds spill out on to the paper, with no restriction the class produced some fantastic results, these kids were naturals. Check out some of the results below:

In retrospect this was one of the most rewarding days I’ve had as a designer. It made me remember how great my job really is and how fun it can be. I think sometimes we take what we do for granted and don’t realize how impactful the things we create truly are. I’m hoping to make this field trip and annual thing. Hopefully I was able to at least plant a seed in a couple of the students in the class and show them the possibilities at their fingertip. Who knows maybe one of those kids grows up to be the next super star. Look out world I’m changing design one small mind at a time.

Day two of our captivity…

Today at the office was a very busy and eventful day! We started off with a ‘Smartshare’ meeting where we got the chance to learn some great creativity techniques that help to get your creative juices flowing. We went through a number of exercises, which were a lot of fun and good for a laugh when I realized that there were others that shared in my sense of humor! In the end after a couple of exercises, I learnt that I am actually creative! Who knew?!!

Afterwards we got a chance to sit in on a meeting with a potential new client and the CEO Ryan Townend. I have to say this was the highlight of my day getting a chance to see Ryan work his charismatic charm! And the only thought I had afterwards was, that if more businesses had the chance to listen to Ryan, they would understand the importance of a good marketing campaign and how beneficial it is for a company’s bottom line. It was really a great experience getting a chance to see how everyone at William Joseph is so incredibly dedicated to helping their clients succeed.

I also had the opportunity to experience a food truck here in Calgary for the first time, and I have to say the food was incredible, which was surprising to me since I was expecting it to be a lot like food you would find at the fair every year.

After one more meeting in the afternoon and some other tasks around the office, it has been an amazing learning experience, one that is above and beyond any classroom experience I have ever had. One thing I have really taken from today, is the fast pace work environment/industry that all the staff encounters on a daily basis, and all I can say is WOW! Their ability to work on multiple projects, all with different deadlines, and budgets is enough to make my head spin! Yet they handle the stress of it all as if it were the most common thing in the world and I respect the heck out of that!! – Intern1 aka Lacy

Consumers are like dogs

No, this isn’t one of those “blame everyone else because my marketing isn’t working” rant. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As marketers, we tend to forget one of the most fundamental rules in delivering our message – tone of voice.

A friend of ours has been taking her dog to obedience classes  and is quite proud of the progress they’ve made together. Yet there is one significant factor that is not allowing that success to translate to the pup’s behaviour at home – at least not all the time – our friend’s partner speaks with a relatively raw Scottish accent. So, when our friend commands the dog to, “Lie down!” everything works out just fine. But when her partner tries the same with her guttural treatment of vowels and slightly different emphasis of constants, the resulting, “Lah duuunne!” causes the dog to tilt his head sideways and whimper in confusion. As dogs are, he’s desperate to please, but just doesn’t understand these two simple words because the tone of voice is simply wrong to his trained ear.

As consumers, we are not so different than our friend’s dog. We too are often desperate to please (even if only ourselves). This desperation has trained us to search for purchases in our continual attempts to satiate our need to be happier, healthier, faster, busier, smarter, more attractive, bigger, smaller, more fulfilled people, spouses, friends, parents, children, employees, managers, sisters, brothers, teams, leaders and masters of our own destiny. Yet, we often avoid brands that might offer exactly what we’re looking for simply because we didn’t understand the message. Our brains reject the marketer’s effort to reach out and connect with us if we’ve don’t hear the right or expected tone of voice – the words are never processed and the information that the marketer wanted us to know is never absorbed.

Sometimes it’s because copy proofers have reworked a sentence so many times that it has lost all the personality that the copywriter originally intended. Or we’ve “scaled it back a bit” because we haven’t given the client enough credit as being open to pushing boundaries and exploring new approaches. In this digital age, it’s often because we tend to be so focused on the functional applications of our interactive elements that we forget that they are actually communication channels first. Or that the 140 characters we’re limited to force us to abbreviate every word we want to use, eliminating any chance for nuance and context. OMG LOL.

Whatever the reason, no matter how sophisticated the strategy is or how innovative the implementation is, the effort is for naught if the “ear” of the audience isn’t understood well enough throughout the planning and creative processes to ensure we speak to them in a tonal language they understand.

So remember our friend’s poor dog as you develop your next marketing effort, and remember that it’s not necessarily the words you choose that will carry the day as much as it is the tone in which you deliver them.

Stirring the Pot

You might have seen in the news a spot of bother over a particular ad running for an Edmonton hair salon…We won’t get into the issue other than to say that creative sometimes rubs folks the wrong way and you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences as the “owner” of that piece.  We’ve encountered a bit of this recently (although with a significantly LESS provocative advertisement) and we’ll admit, we were surprised at the outcome.

When we opened our Las Vegas office, we were inspired by the old Vegas, vintage noir that comes along with the nickname Sin City – and out of this – our Lady Luck is B!tch ads were born – and not only ads – we put her on a 10 foot tradeshow display!  Originally running in tradeshow publications, the ad encourages businesses to seek professional help for their marketing woes and NOT to leave their marketing to chance.  Our Lady Luck even won a Colour in Design award from How Magazine.  But then we tried to run it in real life publications….

We submitted the ad to be featured in a Saskatchewan magazine to help us promote ourselves to new clients in the local market. The publisher refused to run the ad, because of the perceived negative tone and connotation. We still thought that the ad was important, well-delivered and even classy – so we negotiated with the publisher to create a second, more demure version.  The ad will run in the magazine’s next issue.

We also submitted the original ad to run in a well-respected Las Vegas publication that was a great fit for its message — an annual feature of the city’s advertising and marketing firms. Who better to embrace the message of playing your luck than Las Vegas?  Some of the editors at this Sin City publication were concerned that the content was too racy (for VEGAS??); but, after the head editor’s personal walk to see the publisher, the ad has run in its original format and was released this past Monday.

Coincidentally, in the midst of all these issues – we actually got a call from a prominent Alberta business publication with a REQUEST from the Editor to run the original ad in question - with a link to our own website where it was featured!  The magazine even offered its back cover placement.  Imagine our surprise!

What do you think?  Are we safe or is Lady Luck REALLY a B!TCH?


Shelf Appeal – Part 2 Packaging

Last time we saw how wineries have tapped into the influences of packaging and how some companies now target the less savvy wine drinkers with non-traditional approaches to wine labels. Most of the time, if you don’t have a specific brand in mind to purchase, packaging can make all the difference – brand loyalty and packaging go hand in hand. Bringing your company’s flavor and personality into your packaging can make the difference between becoming a trusted brand or just another item on the shelf. But, packaging can also be tricky to update once you’re an established brand, how do you maintain your loyal customers and attract new sales with added appeal?

Some brands have managed to do this well, while others have fallen short. On my recent visit to the liquor store I noticed updates to one of my favorite drinks. Known for it’s decorative embellishments and round shape Chambord Royal has recently updated their classic bottle. They were able to come up with a new and modern look that has the some of the same luxurious appeal as their old packaging.

Although less embellished, the new look is just as fancy and classy. I’m glad to see that the bottle shape was cleaned up and the gold plastic embellishments on the bottle have been removed. The updated, sleeker letters and gold patterning have brought modern shelf appeal to the brand. Chambord has now been elevated to with the same ultra mod appeal that the martinis they are mixed in have.

Another good example of packaging elevating it brand is Cabo Wabo tequila.  Priced to compete with the mid to high range tequilas, Cabo Wabo has refined their bottle and added some shelf appeal, helping it stand out from some of the tequila bottles they are shelved alongside. They were smart to keep small subtleties of the old packaging but the new changes are sure to attract some new attention and sales. They have elevated the brand with a more sophisticated cleaner type choices and bold label colors. It is interesting to note that they have also made a distinct choice to totally refine the look of their highest end tequila going for a very classy look of a liquor decanter, further driving home the message that this sipping tequila is not to be shot with lime and salt.

Other great examples of updates to packaging can be found in the new Kraft dinner boxes and the overhaul of the Bath & Bodyworks signature line. Each of these companies were sensitive to their consumers and were well aware of their brand and how far they could go with a new package. Some other established brands were not so successful and learned the hard way that packaging changes can have significant impacts when consumers are not ready for it.

Although well done and definitely eye catching, Tropicana’s new packaging was not well received. It was reported that the sales of Tropicana dropped by 20% and their competitor’s sales rose during the time the new package was released. The new look took away the one iconic image Tropicana owned that no other company could compete with. Tropicana simply became another glass of juice and not the closest thing to putting a straw in an orange. Getting rid of the image it had been using for decades proved to be too much for consumers. Tropicana reverted back to the original brand look prior to their re-design within a month of the new packaging release.

Real time branding mishaps like this prove that consumers are strongly influenced by packaging. Change can be good but is not always accepted, at least not in one big step for some established brands.

Some sites related to this blog:



Shelf appeal – Part 1 Wine

I know I’m a victim of it – buying one product over another purely on the packaging or brand name. Many brands have been keen to this for a long time. The visual impact and perception of a brand is key to its success. Grocery stores have been well known to charge a premium to brands that want to appear at eye level on their shelves for this very reason. Packaging designers try to make their products stand out in the shelves to compete for your attention and ultimately gain your buy in.

Liquor packaging is a great example of this. I’m not a wine connoisseur and I’ll admit, I take packaging into consideration when picking a new wine. A lot of times my deciding factor on which wine I pick and which wine I don’t pick may boil down to the label and if it has one of those award medallions. Sometimes I choose just based on how I feel about the label… (I know some of you fancy wine drinkers are gasping.)

I’ve noticed that some wine brands have gone away completely from trying to look the part of a serious winery and are out to make a statement. There are many people like me when it comes to buying wine and wine makers have taken notice. If you’re in the $15-20 a bottle there is a big gap in the bottle look and presentation of the brand.

The Show, Voga, The People’s Wine are great examples of brands that forget about being the traditional winery. They target the “non stuffy” wine drinkers and opt for packaging that is bold, fun and stands out on the shelves amongst the traditional wine labels.


It is nice to see wine brands that stand true to their brand in an industry with long traditional practices. I’ve even been fooled by wine labels that go the other way and do a good job looking the part of an established winery. Faux medallions that appear like the wine has won some awards have swayed my purchase. Upon closer review when I got home I saw that it was just some clever ploy to get wine consumers like me to buy their product, it worked. Clearly the wine industry is tapping into the many consumers that are not wine savvy and are paying attention to how they label and market their brand to embrace this type of consumer.

Some Blog Inspiration

I’m glad to see that the world of blogging has opened up the gates to communities of people who come together to inspire and share ideas and knowledge. I’ve often wondered why certain people are hesitant to share knowledge, after all the world has not gotten to where it is if knowledge and information was not shared. In the spirit of sharing I thought I’d pass along one of the blogs that I visit for some inspiration. is one of the blogs I like and has anything from interior design ideas, hand made goods, DIY projects and recipes. I’m always into making hand made goods and renovating and this is the perfect spot for all of those things. The Before and After section is always a great place to see how other people have transformed spaces and items.

This blog is dedicated to package design and shows all kinds of new and award winning packages. I love to see how design can make an impact on a 3D space. The award winner for 2011 Best of Show was the Puma shoe box/bag and it is a great example of smart design that is both practical and eco friendly.




For all those print lovers out there here is a blog that features all those things that will have you swooning over that 110 lb. cover stock. and wishing you had your own letterpress.

Hope you find some art inspiration on these pages.

Boston Pizza’s unique hockey angle . . .

I read an interesting article in the newspaper about Boston Pizza.

Starting this week, the Vancouver Canucks will play the Boston Bruins for the Stanley Cup. First game is Wednesday.

To show support, 62 Boston Pizza locations in British Columbia have modified their branding to read “Vancouver Pizza”. The word “Boston” is stroked out and a hand written font with “Vancouver” has replaced it.

In my opinion, this is a great marketing campaign. Not only does it create attention and generate media coverage, it’s timely, clever and relevant to those living in BC. It shows community support and pride and will no doubt encourage people to come to the pub/restaurant to watch the game.

Great work Boston Pizza!
(I mean Vancouver Pizza)

THIS WEEK WITH PANDA: The Heads of State

Ok. So… here at William Joseph we have decided to task ourselves with a little bit of blogging on top of our never ending billable work (Blah! I know right). Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been racking my brain as to what I wanted to write about, and what of importance do I have to share and contribute with the so called blogosphere. That being said I think it’s only fitting that the creative Team share creative work, and let’s face it this blog is lacking when it comes to visual interest. So like I do everyday here at William Joseph my mission is to make this blog pretty or at least post pretty pictures. There will obviously be method to this madness. These posts will posses some sort of over arching theme whether it be inspirational visuals, up and coming artist or the ever popular brand collaborations we see sprouting up on a day to day. Not too worry though everything you witness after the jump will some how loosely tie back to what it is we do here daily in the bowels of William Joseph. Basically these post are a little insight into the things that interest me and hopefully in the end, interest you.

Like most of us here at WJ I spend a great deal of time online combing blogs and visiting my favorite sites which sometimes lead you on fantastic tangents into unexplored arms of the information super highway. These are the gems that I intend to share with you. Back to the task at had. It’s time to be inspired.


To kick off our weekly (maybe monthly) dose of inspiration I’m going to take it back to an all time favorite duo of mine (Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers) The Heads of state. Working In the digital realm you can easily get lost in the clutter of the internet and all it beholds, so for the purpose of this post I’m going to take it back to the old school and get back to the roots of traditional media. This extremely talented duo that like to refer to them selves as “a garage band agency” has been around in some form or another since 2002. In a nutshell these guys produce amazing silkscreen poster art for a roster of clients that would make any designers mouth water. Ranging from agency heavy hitters like BBDO to indie bands like Wilco, Modest Mouse, the ever familiar R.E.M and the super brand some have come to recognize as Starbucks. As I may have mentioned earlier they got their start creating beautiful silkscreen gig poster and band merch and have now emerged as a full service mom and pop shop.


In my opinion, and of course this is just one small mans opinion; the strength of their design is in their ability to keep things simple. Simple is beautiful, their use of derivative shape paired with genius typography and sharp conceptual ideas constantly knocks their designs out of the park. The Heads of state color pallet has almost become a part of their brand Identity. These muted palettes add volumes to the designs and show the power of a limited palette and the beauty of the lost art of printmaking. Ok, ok, I know enough with the word lets get to the good stuff. I think below you’ll find a nice selection of some of their work. I would love to share it all with you but that’s what the link is for >> Feel free to peruse their site and hopefully you enjoy their stuff, as much has I have.




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