I've been working with my friend Donna Holesworth, designer and creative director at Zinc Creative, on the branding and messaging for Platform — the new innovation centre opening in Calgary's East Village in 2020.
We proposed "Platform" as the name because the space will offer tremendous support for inventors, innovators, and startups. Also, for the train platform connotation, with its East Village location (at 9th Avenue and 3rd Street SW) being parallel to the rail lines and directly above a C-train light rail transit line.
Unexpected Expenses was a 2016 campaign launched by a group of concerned citizens and community groups to raise awareness about financial literacy in Alberta.
Transit and online ads drove people to the website, where Albertans learned they could tweet about their own unexpected expenses for a chance to have those costs covered for them.
The site was populated with a live stream of tweets, as well as links to help people become more financially literate.
Good evening. It was a profound pleasure to work on these projects for the estate of Sir Alfred Hitchcock. As copywriting goes, this is a career high point SO HIGH you can see the entire internet from up here.
While designer Drew Ng updated the silhouette logo that Hitchcock himself originated, we collaborated on a series of ads and products for a brand book that would inspire prospective licensees of the Hitchcock brand.
Then I wrote alfredhitchcock.com, collaborating with designer Dan Parry. There are two randomly queued intros on the site — one with music, the other with a narration. Personally, I love the narration, because who better to introduce his website than Hitchcock himself?
During the US presidential election, Dissolve wanted help promoting their video This Is A Generic Presidential Candidate.
Channelling the hollow promises, vague politics, and overt patriotism established in that video, I wrote this series of in-character quotes, styled as graphics Dissolve could post to their social media channels.
I like to think of this project as "the most fun you can have while everything goes horribly wrong".
The folks at FastCompany's Co.Create website ("a daily exploration of creativity in the converging worlds of branding, entertainment, and tech") saw the 60-second Raiders of the Lost Ark video I did for Dissolve and asked if we'd like to team up to create a game for their audience.
We pitched them a twist on Dissolve's Scenes You've Seen series — the "Game Edition" — where you would watch three short sequences of clips, guess the movies they represent, and then name the one actor who starred in all three films. As a bonus, one film in each set would be a Fall 2016 blockbuster.
Naming things requires venturing into a special hell containing all known words and coming out the other side with just a handful of perfect words... from which a client will see a particular word and think “I cannot imagine it being called anything else.” Here's a selection of the great projects, products, and companies I've named so far.
In November 2016, after two years of deliberations and public voting, The Royal Canadian Geographical Society's magazine Canadian Geographic announced that it was nominating the gray jay as Canada's national bird.
Fans of the adorable bird applauded the choice, while others cried foul about the choice of bird and the spelling of its proper name. I don't care much for politics, but this is one issue I can get behind. And so, the Team Gray Jay propaganda machine spun to life.
I started working with Dissolve as a creative consultant in Fall 2015, collaborating with their in-house marketing & creative teams to build brand affinity and market their collections of stock footage & photography.
These are just some of the print pieces and videos I wrote during that time.
Pop Quiz Show is a multi-player, multi-device trivia game where one person hosts and everyone else gets a buzzer. Stephen Peasley and I had the idea while sitting on the rooftop patio at Uppercut, talking about how phones littering tables in modern social settings could be put to good use. Why not connect them with each other to create a table top game?
This was also an opportunity to produce an animated commercial for our app. I wrote the script and Dan Parry designed and animated it. We sourced the voiceover from Vox Talent, who we used previously for our Retro Type Films at Veer.
Pop Quiz Show was designed by Uppercut's Dan Parry, and coded by our friends Kyle Langille and Ronny Fenrich at Decoder. The game launched with twenty 100-question trivia packs, half of which Stephen and I wrote. I sourced the rest from a rogues gallery of freelance writers that included my friends Russell Sherrin, Jhyl Loughlin, and Jon Parker.
Like naming, tagline writing is one of my favourite kinds of branding projects to work on. It's an opportunity to explain what a company does or what a product is, and to establish a brand's personality at first glance.
I was hired by a real estate focused agency to help name a concept community that Calgary homebuilder Jayman Homes was planning — a multi-complex development built around a central recreation centre — on the shores of Calgary's man-made Mahogany Lake.
The client wanted a name that would honour their founder, Al Westman, and ultimately chose one I suggested: Westman Village.
I am now faced with the temptation to move there and remind my neighbours, at every opportunity, that I named the place.
Planet of the Apps was a promotion for This Is New, intended to draw a crowd of app developers to use the website's promotional services. I scripted the animated short, which was conceived and produced in collaboration with the ever-talented Dan Parry. The call-to-action invites participation with the question “Does your app rule?”. Everything leading up to that is just terrific fun.
Elaine Huba was launching a line of organic spicesand recruited me to contribute a tagline for her new company and names for the individual spices.
As a trainer of personal trainers, Elaine wanted her spices to appeal to diet-conscious fitness enthusiasts seeking to liven up their protein-heavy routines. The tagline that had the right tone for this audience was: “Healthy, Delicious & In Your Face”.
For the flavours, she wanted names that had the same amount of sass and gusto as the tagline. I provided three complete sets and Elaine chose her favourites, shown here.
Illustrator Amanda Schutz and I used to play a game where she would draw something and I would write for it, or I would write something and she would draw it. We called it Red Kite because that's what the first one was about. Below are a hundred or so of the spoils. Can you guess who went first each time?
Uppercut is the creative agency I co-founded in 2012 with other former members of Veer — after that company was sold and our office closed. We needed a new company, so we started one upstairs in the same building. I led the naming of the company and wrote the endlessly scrolling manifesto that served as our website for two years. We won Anvil Awards for both the identity and website.
My favourite project for Veer, 22 Tall Type Tales is a book of curious, rhyming stories set in the typefaces that inspired them. I wrote each rhyme in the tall format and font, revising and experimenting with the size and content of each line. You can download the book here if you'd like to read the entire thing.
Typography is fascinating in the same way as architecture, and the average person has the same limited understanding of both. In 2011, I wrote a trilogy of short animated films about typefaces to make the art & science of type more accessible. The style of the films was inspired by retro science films, like Frank Capra's Our Mr. Sun (1956).
In 2005, I was working in downtown Calgary as part of a corporate communications team with my friend Ameera. A decade later, Ameera hired my agency to rebrand her family's hot sauce business' online store. I pitched Hungry Volcano (hungryvolcano.com) and the family loved it. Now there are plans to extend the brand beyond the store, to its own line of hot sauces.
Fairgoods' founder Xerxes Irani was originally going to use a Frank Gehry quote on this pocket square. But after looking into licensing for him (and discovering that it would be a costly process), I offered up one of my own truisms — I'm always outside on the inside. — a souvenir from living, working, and playing in the wilds of Alberta and British Columbia.
The quote (do you call it a quote if you're the one who said it?) was hand-lettered by 16-year-old Italian designer Mark van Leeuwen.
What better to adorn your wall than a big, bright reminder that films should be enjoyed — instead of languishing unfinished on a hard drive or unwatched in your Netflix queue? Created as a giveaway for This Is New, the Films Should Be Watched poster is 24" x 36" and features a bold message knocked out of a 5,036-word rambling essay I wrote about movies.
This Is New was a website where indie creators of films, books, goods, music, and apps could shamelessly promote their new work to reach new audiences. I conceived and pitched the start-up in April 2013, secured funding by year-end, and we launched in 2014 with a dedicated team.
As creative director, I worked with lead designer Dan Parry and lead developer Stephen Peasley to build the website and all of the brand's marketing promotions. In the first half of 2015 our efforts drove traffic from 1000 monthly visits up to 40,000.
With Uber getting a mixed welcome in Alberta, law-compliant ride-sharing competitors have started launching. Leading the way as a safer, more comfortable alternative is Edmonton-based TappCar.
I collaborated with Curio Studio on these ads for TappCar's Edmonton launch in early 2016.
The basic game behind this app was coded by Kyle Langille in the time it took him to watch Skyfall. It was a stick figure dodging stick trees on a stick-board, until designer Dan Parry and I sat down for a story meeting.
A few hours (of conversation, followed by a few weeks of work) later) and the game had become Mythic Mountain — where hot-tubbing mythical creatures escape a backwoods maniac, and collect as much leprechaun gold as you can on the way. Insane and fun.
Also, I currently hold the world records for distance AND coins. Try your luck when you download the app.
I wanted to make something Stampede-related in 2012, and the schedule at Uppercut opened up just enough for us to make Stampedisms. It went viral locally, with coverage from local TV, radio, and newspapers, plus a tweet from the Stampede itself. There are 50 to read, but here are 10 to get you started.
Of the many print pieces I worked on during 6 years writing for Veer, this is one of my favourites to share. It was quick and fun, and the writing runs the gamut from lovely to weird. Featuring great stock photos, surf etiquette, bears, and the design stylings of Justin LaFontaine.
I teamed up with designer Donna Holesworth from Zinc Creative for this direct mail piece from Veer. Our goal was to send something remarkable that would hang around in offices as a conversation piece, instead of being headed straight for the recycling bin, like so many catalogs.
We loved the idea of a custom jigsaw puzzle as something you would keep rather than recycle, and we sized the box so that it wouldn't even fit in a normal garbage can. The puzzle was a hit, with weeks of buzz of teams stopping work to assemble to puzzle and get the special discount code.
Months later, our sales reps were spotting the puzzle box on shelves in agency offices, and you can still to this day find a dozen in circulation with jigsaw collectors on eBay.
Fairgoods founder Xerxes Irani asked me for a phrase befitting the cover of a notebook that would be hand-lettered by Positype's Neil Summerour, printed on notebooks by Vancouver's beloved Blanchette Press, and then hand-painted by a dozen of artists and designers making each book unique.
From the five options I provided, Neil chose "Strokes of Genius".
This project teamed me with designer Jon Wood for a brand book that promoted opportunities for companies wanting to license actress (& 80s sex symbol) Bo Derek's name and likeness.
When Veer co-produced Gary Hustwit's 2007 documentary Helvetica, I had the opportunity to work on some of the film's promotional materials. The gem of these, for me, was the headline I wrote announcing the world premiere at SXSW.
The ad, which was used to promote many screenings that the premiere, features body copy written by fellow Veer alum Jon Parker.
One of the giveaways at screenings was a two-sided notebook featuring a quote from designer Massimo Vignelli on one side (hint: he hates Helvetica), and a cheerier version of the quote I wrote (with Massimo's permission) on the other side.
When This Is New launched, we needed as much attention as possible to jumpstart the site's traffic. Zero traffic is zero fun. My idea was to generate local traffic by burying an actual treasure chest worth $1000 somewhere in Calgary, and then sending out daily clues to help people find it.
Not only did traffic spike to hundreds and then thousands of people per day, but we were on the evening news twice, and were able to partner with the good people at Village Brewery to include a bonus clue in 3000 boxes of their new Brunette brew.
In the end, a very nice couple solved some key clues and located the chest, half-buried in the tree line of Calgary's Roxboro Park.
This notebook trio is a small gem from the vault of Veer products and promotions I worked on with designer Drew Ng. Designed to house your Thoughts & Plots, Notes & Notions, and Schemes & Dreams, these sets were offered as gift for spending at least $79 on fonts at Veer during Fall/Winter 2010.
The art of persuasion meets the craft of typography in the Dharma Type collection, containing over 400 fonts by designer Ryoichi Tsunekawa. I wrote propaganda posters to sway, nudge, and woo typeface buyers into purchasing these affordable reinventions of 20th-century propaganda, advertising, and hand-lettered signs.
Concorde Group is a hospitality company operating more than a dozen bars and restaurants in Calgary, Alberta. I'm a frequent customer, so it was a genuine pleasure to be invited to write profiles and web content for Goro + Gun, Double Zero (Downtown and Chinook), National (on 10th and 17th), and Anju — plus some ad concepts, branding for a house wine, and a press release announcing their new National on 8th location.
The Very Secret Order of Creatives Understanding was a successful affinity campaign for Veer. A secret society for creatives, SO SECRET that everyone was already unknowingly a member. You're a member too, so feel free to grab your own PDF of the Member Handbook (5.4MB).
The centrepiece of the campaign was the Member Handbook, a direct mail piece (approx. 200,000 mailed) containing the society's philosophy, rules, and rites of passage – seven difficult riddles that, when answered, could be redeemed for discounts. A limited edition t-shirt was produced to help members to hide in plain sight.
From 2004 to 2008, Veer released an annual summer activity book for creatives. When I started working there in 2006, my very first line of copy for Veer was "You sought the serif?" for that summer's answer key.
The following two summers I flexed my puzzle prowess, and then as summer 2009 approached, our marketing department announced there wouldn't be budget to print an activity book that year. Cue the rebellion!
I got a few designers on board, then the entire team, and produced the first PDF-only edition. Over 100,000 people downloaded it.
2Bit Shop is an online store selling graphic tees featuring pixel-art pop culture references. Designer Dan Parry and I thought it should exist and one week later, it did. The shop was a 2013 Digital Alberta finalist for Best in E-commerce. It was defeated and we cried to the point of dehydration.
Clockbusters is a game that Dan Parry and I created for Veer, to showcase royalty-free stock photos. With 3 photo clues and 60 seconds on the clock, the challenge is to name each movie before time runs out. Shortly after launch, over 2 million people had played the game and its sequel.
Transcend is a coffee shop in Edmonton, AB that makes the world's greatest vanilla latte. My friend Amanda Schutz was doing some design work for them and enlisted my help for some conceptual and merchandise ideas. The resulting "Drink Up" campaign included kites & hot air balloons on the coffee cups, flying cars & doomed baristas on t-shirts, and a short rhyme destined for other hard goods.
Welcome to Truth Country. A roadside attraction on a rural stretch of the information highway, where the nearest diner serves 7 different flavours of pie chart.
We'd just finished a nightmarish infographic project and this is how we unwound — with a self-promotional piece full of completely arbitrary and animated info-tainment.
The only safe pun is a painfully self-aware pun. To promote CSA Images at Veer – and as an homage to the perforated Valentine's Day cards of elementary schools past – I wrote fifty of the most unforgivable puns I could think of and trimmed the list to the cards you see below. Stacks of the cards were sent out the week before Valentine's Day, so recipients could hand them out to friends and coworkers.
What better way to market a typography company called Canada Type, than by digging deep into Canadian culture for type sample fare? This microsite was equipped with parallax scrolling, revealing each new message as you scrolled through the landscapes.
Veer had a recurring annual publication called The Summer Activity Book that customers looked forward to. In 2008, I was paired with Drew Ng for the new iteration.
Inspired by our studio's recent creation of two design-themed vinyl toys — Megabyte and Full Bleed — we struck on the idea of inventing 7 more characters, and to give a select 200 customers an enhanced version of the activity book inside a faux cereal box, complete with the fabled "toy inside".
As a follow-up to Stampedisms, Stampede 101 was a piece of self-marketing for Uppercut that celebrated the 101st anniversary of the Calgary Stampede.
Quiz questions posing offbeat food and safety scenarios would scroll by as you answered them, accruing a score in the background and culminating with your percentage chance of surviving the upcoming rodeo event.
I've written many things for many projects and many products, but few come as close to anecdote-worthy as these ads for The Original Turducken.
If these ads don't make you want to eat the matryoshka of meals (that headline was rejected), at the very least this is evidence that I can help you sell pretty much anything.