I was recently invited to George Brown College School of Design to participate in a curriculum development charrette for thier new proposed degree in Branding.
The charrette brought together 29 participants, made up of faculty, industry, alumni, and students. Teams discussed everything from the name, brand, and elevator pitch for the degree, to the knowledge, attitudes, and skills of graduates, the structure of the four-year curriculum, and the course content and projects.

Institute Without Boundaries Toronto International Charrette
The IwB hosted the annual Toronto International Charrette from February 26th to the 29th. There were 180 student participants that came from all over the world including Portugal, Italy, Denmark and France. The focus was on economic development and job creation for the Iveragh Peninsula located in the Southwestern part of Ireland in County Kerry.
I was invited to participate in the annual IwB Charrette as an industry advisor. It was a privilege to collaborate with students, faculty, and industry experts in exploring innovative solutions for complex issues and building towards the notion of a resilient city. The images below are from “Balancing Continuity & Change Iwb International Charrette.” handbook. Follow the link to learn more about this creative, innovative and inspiring  program.

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RGD Creative Directions Conference 2016
RGD’s annual career development conference for emerging creative professionals and those looking for fresh perspectives on the industry.

Join me in an intimate group as I lead a discussion on a project through the entire process for creating it – from securing the client, reviewing the creative brief, brainstorming ideas, presenting concepts and producing the final project. Get a true understanding of what it takes to create work in the real world.

Saturday March 5, 2016
Harbourfront Centre, Toronto


I was recently invited to speak at George Brown College School of Design to aspiring design entrepreneurs. These students are focused on designing and prototyping a product, exploring new technologies and acquiring basic entrepreneurial knowledge and skills. My lecture was on branding and sustainability in package design. Professor Connie Wansbrough leads an exceptional class of future design entrepreneurs. Thanks go to the students, Connie and the rest of the faculty at GBC for the warm reception.

Tuesday November 10, 2015,  1 pm
School of Design, 341 King Street East, Toronto

 Evaluation Committee Member of the RGD Evaluation Committee 
I was recently invited by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers to participate on the RGD examination board as an exam evaluator. RGD is a terrific resource for professionals at any stage of their career.

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Design Thesis End of Year Awards 2015
School of Design, George Brown College
It was my sincere pleasure to help judge the Design Thesis End of Year Awards. Excellent submissions and great creative displayed by 3rd year design students. Congratulations to all the students who participated and to the faculty for providing direction and support. Job well done!
Exhibition is open to the public on Friday April 24, 2015, 10am – 6 pm,
School of Design, 230 Richmond Street East, Toronto

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RGD Creative Directions Conference 2015
RGD’s annual career development conference for emerging creative professionals and those looking for fresh perspectives on the industry.

I will be reviewing portfolios at the Creative Direction Conference on Saturday March 7th 2015.

Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St


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I recently shared my thoughts and strategies with RGD in the latest Insights newsletter.
What strategies can you recommend for responding to client feedback that you don’t agree with? (i.e. is it better to try and compromise or persuade them to come around to your way of thinking?) 
Often, you may feel you are in sync with your client and have all the answers covered, however being challenged by client feedback is perfectly acceptable. I recommend keeping the lines of communication open throughout the design process so that you build trust with your client. As a designer, you bring strategy, design direction, expertise and knowledge to the work. Collaborating with your client is an important ingredient to a successful project.

What are the most challenging experiences you’ve had at client presentations and how did you solve them? 
My most challenging client presentations are typically ones which include a large team of client representatives from different company departments including product developers, merchandisers, sales, and senior executives. Communicating my design concept to this diverse group can be a challenge because each individual is seeing the design solution/concept with their special interest in mind. In this situation, I need to be able to deliver my overall design concept to the client and also anticipate the specific interests of the individuals in the room. Customizing the presentation and using imagery and key words to ensure everyone can relate the design concept to their own individual interest is a good solution.
In your experience, what have been the most effective methods for talking a client out of a bad idea? 
Clients rely on you to share your expertise and knowledge and provide strategic design direction for their product. An experienced designer can immediately recognize a bad idea. It is the designer’s responsibility to effectively communicate with his/her client the reason the idea is bad, citing examples of similar concepts that failed and why. An effective method of talking a client out of a bad idea starts with creating an environment open to discussion and collaboration.
Are there strategies you employ to ensure you and your clients are on the same page?
The goal as a designer, is to understand the client’s product and to be skilful and confident enough to start anticipating their needs. My approach is to build trust by being an authority on the services I am providing while being open enough to recognize value in another point of view. By creating an environment that allows for open and constructive discussion, communication continues to flow throughout the design process and the client and designer move forward on the same page.

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I am pleased to announce my participation on the judging panel for the upcoming Vertex awards.
The Vertex Awards are the only global competition devoted exclusively to the art of Private Brand package design. The awards are judged by a highly esteemed panel of industry experts from around the world, and awarded based on Creativity, Marketability, and Innovation. 
In preparation for judging the annual Vertex Awards, I sat down with Christopher Durham to answer 5 questions about Private Brands, package design and differentiation.
1. What was your first memory/experience of Private Brand?
My experience with private label began as a young designer working for Loblaws, Canada’s largest retailer. At the time, Loblaws launched several well known brands including “President’s Choice”. The President’s Choice brand earned trust and loyalty among Canadian consumers and has since evolved from food products to many other consumer products. This experience provided a solid base for my professional career as a package designer.
2. What does the future of retail owned brands look like?
It’s important for retailers to understand their target audience and consumer needs. This has become an increasingly difficult task as changes in the marketplace continue to grow at a faster pace. Finding a balance between brand consistency and an ability to adapt to quickly changing consumer needs will be necessary for a brand to stay relevant.
3. How important is strategy to the success of a Private Brand?
Strategy is paramount for the success of a private brand. A private brand often competes in the shadow of a national brand which dominates a large segment of the market. A successful private brand identifies a specific niche in a category and applies strategic package design. Important factors for any private brand are brand identity, value and consistency.
4. What role should design play in solving retail problems?
The role of design is to help a private brand ‘talk’ to the consumer. Visually, the design should be impactful and strive for uniqueness in the marketplace. Effective design helps to build a product’s identity, evoking emotion while conveying messages of necessity and function. A private brand can be successful when these elements work in harmony and are applied to a great product.
5. What advice do you have for retailers trying to take their brands to the next level?
There are many elements that work in concert to create a great brand. Taking a brand to the next level however, requires authenticity and consistency. Authenticity is remaining true to the convictions of the brand. For instance, if the essence of the brand is focused on value and price point and recognized by consumers as such, then it’s important to continue with that path to avoid consumer confusion and uncertainty. Consistency is continuing to deliver what was originally promised, ensuring the consumer’s expectations are met time after time.

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