Thursday, December 31, 2009

Designers on Fonts

This typography documentary will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand the world of font design. The presentation features notable people who have invented type that is ubiquitous today.

Very good reference available on itunes for download.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Friends and Photographers

Fred Cattroll’s craft is recording great images of great people His collection of First Peoples images rivals the Smithsonian. Much of his professional focus has been recording Canada’s Aboriginal culture. We’ve had the good fortune working with extremely talented people these relations have opened the door to great adventure and experiences. Fred’s collection of work can be viewed at his online interface.

great photographers great photographers great photographers great photographers great photographers

Ian Diamond

The last year took on new meaning when the leadership of the Cree Nation mandated our organization to record in Documentary Film the History of the James Bay Northern Quebec Cree from the year 1975. We brought together a group of professionals. Ian Diamond was first introduced to me through contacts that knew of his brilliant work and professional photographic abilities.

Dealing in visuals is about striving for the highest possible production values and sourcing content that has timeless quality with strong composition and brilliant lighting. We insist on ensuring the level of work along the value chain phase toward executing designed products for clients is kept at optimum levels.

Ian’s photography easily meets this criteria His signature is a rich collection of northern images diverse and magical. Ian is partnering with us to bring the documentary to the screen. Through his guidance and counsel we’ve been taken to locations as guests that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible. He has offered insight and helped us to gain a better appreciation of the unique attributes of the northern territories and the people living in the James Bay region. Ian has accomplished this through stories and great photographic images. Click on the images to see more.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Algorithm Design Express

Talking about management and how design is an axiom to achieve competitive advantage harks back to the famous line by Thomas Watson of IBM who famously said, "Good design is good business."

A recent book I read on this subject makes some profound observations about the function of design. The “big idea” within the pages is that design today has emerged as a primary component within organization management and structure.

Case studies are offered including the classic examples of course Apple and the iphone market tsunami, Mcdonalds and Target Shopping Centres. Three major enterprises in the USA that use design as back bone to their corporate ethos. Design is a prime construct of their brand evident in all aspects of product lines and user touch points and experiences.

The essence of the book from my review is the formula offered. Readers get a walk through on how new ideas that constantly emerge in business either get embraced and grow or dismissed and written off. After all business is about making rulings on opportunities and avoiding red herrings. Red herrings can be dressed up to appear like opportunities they may attract precious time and money. They may use energy that is better invested elsewhere. Red herrings that take hold in the organization and channel focus have a downside risk.

The three stations of Organizational Management with an underlying design function.





Ideas come through the door (often in multiples) daily the larger the organization the greater number of stakeholders and constituents the more ideas, opportunities, red herrings and business concepts show up for rulings. This becomes an issue of governance for the organization about the determination of what gets support and what doesn’t. These ideas are like buses. Some pass some stop some are milk runs others are express lines. This notion of what to choose and what to dismiss applies to individuals and the paths we follow as well as enterprises.


Defined by Wikipedia:”A heuristic method is particularly used to rapidly come to a solution that is hoped to be close to the best possible answer, or 'optimal solution'. ...”

Once a decision is made to proceed with an idea the metaphorical bus proceeds into the heuristic phase of business management. This is likely a cost to the organization in investment dollars, people, capital expenditures or other resources. At this stage of the journey the ruling has been made to proceed so upside gains or downside risks aside the bus has departed the station.

In the innovation business we deal with a broad spectrum of opportunities that each require their own unique heuristic. We need to be agile and avoid rigid systems that don’t align with our clients aspirations. Experience, great people and great design support building the best alternatives to ensure value gets driven to the client. The more transparency on what the unique heuristic is in support of the clients goals or aspirations the greater the partnership with the client. Design is central to effective heuristics. In my experience the best design solutions result from great partnerships with clients.


The heuristic phase of organizational dynamic often presents complexity. For some organizations executing on heuristics in the interests of advancing the corporate goals is a rewarding lifetime focus. The goal working within the design business is to attain an algorithm for growing the business. The algorithm is a specific set of instructions for solving a problem. Organizations that have moved past the heuristic and implemented algorithms to drive forward generally succeed and have enormous growth potential.

Check out the link The Design of Business! The Author also wrote " The Opposable Mind" another great management read.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Making the Complex Clear

Le Corbusier was the famous French modernist architect. His Savoy house in the countryside outside of Paris is a classic example of how he reduced the form of structure to just essential components. The house design was purposefully structured with no extraneous elements, no decorative motifs nothing that would add embellishments. Le Corbusier’s design philosophy focused on minimalist ideas and elimination of any extras.

He believed that a house is a machine and as a machine the house should not be laden with any elements that otherwise do not support the machine function. He drew these conclusions analogous to how aircraft are designed and built and pointed to how the cockpit of an airplane is fit up with only functional and working controls, instrumentation and features that support the aircrafts performance. The exterior of the aircraft design structurally could not have any additions or parts that were simply for show this after all would impact on how the plane performs. Parts that didn’t contribute to engineering flight on the interior or exterior of an aircraft would not be considered. Le Corbusier questioned why parts would be put on a house if they didn’t contribute to functionality?

We have had the good fortune acting in our client’s interest developing an entire range of aircraft solutions. We’ve produced an arsenal of brilliantly engineered online learning modules celebrating aircraft within National Defense’s asset inventory. Access has been the operative word for this reason. For most people getting “up close and comfortable” with a Globemaster or a CF18 Fighter Jet, a Helicopter or some other defense aircraft asset isn’t an option. Having these great interactive 3D Max. modules online is meaningful. They're educational overviews about aircraft features that define for everyone complex information that is made easy to understand.

Making complex information easy to understand or removing extras that don't support ease of access or performance all contribute to the business of design leadership.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Typography design' query

typography judging panel

Dave from British Columbia asks...
...I just had a Corel advertisement pop up on my interested and started reading, which lead to a link to your company and you, being the designer. I don't want to waste your time, but I've been trying to search for an answer to a 'design' query that has been bothering me for a long time. Your company has been designated as one of the best in the country for design, so I am approaching you and putting my trust in your knowledge and experience. I read that your company diversifies, and includes signage as well as smaller forms of advertising.
I am one of the designers for a sign company in Oliver, BC. and we often have requests for billboards, sometimes a large as 10 feet x 32 feet, which are viewed from a considerable distance, sometimes 500 ft - 800 ft away. Can you tell me if you've ever come across a definite design rule, that states whether CAPITAL letters are more legible from a distance as opposed to Upper and Lower Case letters used in conjunction with each other? A lot of the time I believe capital letters have been used with false understanding, just because they are all larger in height, yet they are all square in shape basically. I'm wondering, by contrast, if the diversity in shape of Upper and lower case letters produces more clarity? Do you know if there has in fact been any studies done on this? I hoping you can set me straight. I would like to offer my customers the best information I can muster so that I can effectively design their signage with better knowledge. I hope to hear your side of this, and perhaps you might even know of a 'source' of literature or web site to refer to on this question. I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

Thanks Dave for the great question in response here is a thread to follow ...

from Typophile forum...

Not exactly billboard related, but road sign:
Response to follow once gordongroups esteemed panel of typographers give their rulings..Creative Director Leslie is proven that text set in upper and lowercase letters are easiest to read as our brain recognizes the shape of the word rather than reading each letter individually। Billboards are most often scanned quickly as the viewer passes by so it makes sense to make it as easy as possible to take in the message by setting text in upper and lowercase letters। An exception to this would be if there are only 2-3 words set in all caps to convey a particular tone...Senior Designer Kelly Read - Lyon I think the real issue is the amount of type you are using and how fast you need the viewer to understand it. Billboards usually need small amounts of type and fast comprehension. U & LC will always be easier and faster to read. Going with all caps in small doses can add impact though, should the design call for it (as Leslie says, 2–3 words or so).

I also don't think size of type or its distance from the viewer factors into the question of U & LC vs. caps. The designer should set the type at a size that is readable in either case, whether it's a billboard that is 800 ft. away or a printed piece that is 2 ft. away.

Thanks very much....that adds a lot of clarity to my 'mind' over this matter. Appreciate your time on this...the whole design crew.

Dave Veach
Graphic Designer
Outreach Neon Ltd.
Oliver, BC.,

the thread continues from TYPOPHILE a great forum for typographers ...

Not about the typography but the content:

6 words - 6 seconds

7 words - 7 seconds

That’s an old billboard design adage.




10.Dec.2009 6.30pm


When designing signs I find that lateral space is usually at more of a premium than vertical space for text.

All-caps, at the same nominal size might well be more legible, but U/C characters are generally wider and, excepting ascenders, taller and therefore occupy more area per glyph.

Try setting your text in upper and lower case, then all-caps at the same nominal size, then in upper and lower case, increasing the size until it is the same length as the upper case sample. Then walk away from your samples and see which one becomes unreadable first.



Paul Cutler

10.Dec.2009 6.40pm


Indeed russellm, when I’m doing billboards I print them out at tabloid size, tape them to a wall and get about 10-15 feet from them to judge legibility.



Friday, December 4, 2009

Design On!

Book design for clients is another discipline that we engage in at gordongroup. Over the years a number of important books have been produced these past projects stand out in retrospect as highlights from the project collective of 22 years.

Peter Dorn a book designer from Queens University was my book design Professor during college years. This was an early touch point and an important foundational focus on the fine art of book design. Throw back to 1985 a great friend and business associate Professor Michael Gnarowski was the General Editor of Carleton University Press. He and I enjoy the odd pint to this day and I celebrate the fact that Michael holds the coveted longest client relationship status at gordongroup. Books have been Michael's passion and to his credit he has enshrined many notable titles for important people who require support, commitment, tenacity and knowledge navigating through the publishing trade labyrinth. Michael's love of books is evident in his library and his leading expertise in Canadian Literature. His enterprise Golden Dog Press operates from his magnificent home in Kemptville Ontario. Before I realized it I was on a book design trajectory working with Michael at Carleton University Press. These were early days entering the book design pathway.

We produced the Canadian Centre for Early Canadian text series, numerous academic authored titles and other interesting subject matter over the course of many years. Two important titles funded at the time of the millennium were seminal reference in the form of coffee table books. They included a historical retrospect on The James Bay Northern Quebec Crees and a second history title on The Supreme Court of Canada. (Without my knowing at the time the Cree History book "I Dream of Yesterday and Tomorrow" was the precursor to a major 4 episode documentary film production currently underway today at gordongroup)

Both these major projects stand today as records of our book publishing expertise but more rewarding was the people we met under engagement to produce the products. Two people come to my memory who have now past on but during the brief period I knew them they enriched my life being in their presence working together with them on book design. While engaged with the Grand Council of the Crees a gentleman Bob Epstein played a central role helping us document Cree history. Elders, leaders, storytellers and others from Cree society made unique contributions and gave their perspective to create the manuscript that was eventually published. Bob an incredibly engaging man I recall had a remarkable sense about exploring and digging into subjects to better understand and learn. He impressed me as a great educator.

The Supreme Court book was another brilliant opportunity and intensive study on Canada’s judicial system. I was introduced to Malek Karsh who brought his collection of period black and white photographs from The National Archives for our clients to review and select for their publication design layout. Malek of course was Yousef Karsh’s brother. His diplomacy and gentle personality embraced everyone he met in the Tax Room within the Supreme Court Building. I knew him only by his work previous to meeting him in person. His genius photography today remains legendary he was the founder of Ottawa’s Tulip Festival. Both these great people made a lasting impression on me I'm privileged to have known them. These millennium books designed for our clients bring memories of great relationships and rewarding times in the understanding business.

Kita Szpak one or our senior project managers within gordongroup recently published her inaugural children’s storybook. “Your Special Wherever You Are” The book has great illustrations throughout and engaging prose. This new and great book is a testament to the talent and intelligent thinking that people who come to our organization bring on a daily basis. Publishing has some down side risk today to Kita’s credit she got the book off the Press’s and out into children’s hands. An admirable accomplishment!