Keeping sharp while things are slow…

They say the secret to success is not waiting for good things to happen to you, but to go out there and make things happen for yourself. In light of this fact, I have taken the last few rather slow weeks, to produce a nice back catalogue of #fictionalbeerbrands to pull out of my back pocket in case I land a short order alcoholic beverage packaging concept job. I started off with ten 12 pack bottle cartons, mostly done with Illustrations rather than go my usual route, which would focus heavily on Photoshopped composites. Not that I have anything against that sort of thing, I love it, but what I am trying to do is show range. You can only show range, by getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new and different. Below I will post all ten, plus two more items, which are 24 bottle cartons, that are recreations of a brand from my past. #Packaging isn’t my primary focus, but it has become a vehicle for concept ideation, which is something I now really, really enjoy. My first love will always be print advertising, and using Photoshop, heavily. I might take these items a step further and complete some 3D renders of them, and make the companion bottle and a line extension into 355mL or 12 Fl. Oz cans.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Should you like the look of any of these, or wish to pursue some options for your own brewery please feel free to reach out to me at:

Ready for 2016

So here we are a couple of days in and two of my family’s birthdays are done and accounted for. The final projects of 2015 have been all wrapped up, and the Christmas decorations have been packed up and put away carefully for another year. Now, since it is the last day of the Christmas holidays before reality is due to kick back in, we turn our attention to Monday. Seeing as how I am self employed, and I don’t pay to advertise, and work primarily off of people I knew from previous jobs, and the associated connections I made, I feel it is worthwhile to once again let you all know what is available to you from my Graphic Design business GreatWall Studios: Graphic Design.

In my LinkedIn profile, you’ll notice that I have worked most ardently in the Beer (alcoholic) beverage industry. I will now name drop the breweries and companies I have done design work for : Evolution Design works, Molson-Coors, Moosehead Breweries Ltd, The Boston Beer Company, The Twisted Tea Brewing Co, The Bruce Ashley Group, the C & C Group, Heineken, Dos Equis, Creemore Springs, Estrella Damm, Shepherd Neame, Paulaner, Hop City Brewing Co, Mill Street Brewing, Rickard’s and Boris Beer to name the largest portion. For these companies I have created can and box packaging, logos, design and layout of copious sell sheets and ppt templates, apparel, and retail displays. Working with so many different brands, I am well aware of possible restrictions via Brand Standards and Guidelines.

I also have production experience, where having a creative eye can make the transition of your product from one size packaging to another that much smoother, as I am paying attention to not only the legal requirements but to the overall composition of the piece.

I also am available to do concept work for packaging; anything from cellophane bread wrappers,  pet food packets, to beer cans & bottles, and their associated labels, cartons and trays.

I am also able to produce 3D carton renders, and bottle and can renderings.

I am also available to produce Catalogues, (of various lengths), and  Flyers,  Posters/Infographics, Logos, Print Ads, Web Banner Ads (Static & Animated), Fleet Graphics and Vehicle Wraps, Illustrations and Photoshop Composites.

I however don’t do back end web development, and I do very little multi-media (video editing) at this time. I did six or seven “Win a Grand A Day” video spots for Moose Light in late 2014, set to music, with pop up text and that was that.

I work with companies from both the East and West coast, so I am very comfortable working via e-mail, telephone or video conference calls.

GWS_Can Product Advertisement

5 Year Anniversary

A few weeks ago; October 6th, 2013, I reached a bench mark at my current position that I initially didn’t think was possible. I have been a full time graphic designer for Moosehead Breweries Limited | The Premium Beer Company for five years and counting. This is something I consider to be an achievement, for a few reasons. The first being a rather funny anecdotal experience.

When I first interviewed here back in September of 2008, I met with two Marketing professionals who were looking to begin a pilot project for bringing in as much design work in-house as they could, as a cost savings measure, and as a way to ensure more overall cohesion in the materials being created. (**Both marketers and the VP at the time are now no longer with the company). During the last portion of the interview process I met with the VP of marketing here and the first words out of his mouth were “You know Marketing is a tough business, there can be a lot of turn around, two years is a long time here”. Two years? I thought to myself, that isn’t a very long time to drop what I am doing and come aboard here, only to have to continue the job search 24 months later, if that. But I was young, and hopeful and was thinking about time in traditional terms, not Marketing Department terms. After a few weeks in, I came to understand that in fact two years was a long time, and in agency terms it was a lifetime.

We’ve managed to cover an awful lot of ground at Moosehead. Being the entirety of the Art dept for 3.5 years was a tough, but ultimately fulfilling task.Since then I’ve managed to grow the dept by one, and added in an alternating GD internship which is open to college applicants in southern Ontario. As a unit we cover all of Canada, the United States, and a few far flung points around the globe (mainly Singapore, the UK, and South America). We’ve tackled everything from Billboards and fleet graphics, to labels and cartons, to story boarding web commercials and event video loops down to customizable POS items for accounts across the country.

So many great people have passed through here, and I’ve collaborated on some really wonderful projects and brands. I’ve learned so much, and have been afforded a chance to break new ground and test ideas of my own. I’m thankful for the 5 years I’ve had, and I look forward to as many more!


4667 note worthy projects and counting as of Nov 4th, 2013.

Searching with my good eye closed…For Inspiration in Design.

Some days this ingenious song lyric (Chris Cornell via Soundgarden) is how I feel about finding inspiration for new projects. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my day job, and one of my hobby’s is graphic design.

Now that’s a pretty big umbrella statement, as (GD) has a multitude of facets, and I am hardly a guru in all of them. Like they say, a jack of all trades is a master of none, so I’ve had to pull back on my desire to learn something useful about every single facet of graphic design and focus instead on a core group of skills that are near and dear to me. But at its heart, (GD) is still about producing artwork, perhaps not “Art” but commercial art nonetheless. No matter how hard I try I don’t ever feel like an artiste. Even though I make 100% of my living off of producing quality images, logos, compositions, type set pages etc etc… To me I don’t feel like an artist. I may well be more artistic than the average bear, but I don’t dress all in black, nor do I walk about covered in paint/ink/chalk, nor do I wear a beret or act particularly bohemian. (I know that is a fairly stereotypical account of what an artiste is, but it’s a hard image to break inside my own head). I’m also a pretty shallow person (in mind set) I’m not all that concerned with symbolism, reading between the lines, undertones or subtext. I’m… for lack of a better turn of phrase; blunt. Like a grey cinderblock. Perhaps because I have eschewed the preposterousness of pretension I feel like I’m not an artist. I also have very little creative control over the substance of what I produce, except for where the item(s) are for myself. Artistic integrity is a luxury I can’t afford at this stage. Not to say that some things don’t rankle my bones, and make me spitting mad, but my job is to produce what others have asked for, in the format they have asked for it. Perhaps those high level agency types know what it is like to be able to walk away from a project over “creative differences” or “artistic integrity”. I don’t quite have the weight to throw around like that just yet.

Back to my main point, which is, searching for and finding inspiration. A real creative spark. I personally have no formula to follow, no checklist to run down in order to find that spark of life which will turn an average idea into something that really gets people talking, or creates a very visceral response. I am not even all that superstitious, so I don’t have the luck to believe that wearing the same socks, or hat or sitting in the same chair will bring that feeling back. So some times that fabulous little spark finds me, and some times I do what I can without it.

So then, what does searching with your good eye closed mean? I don’t actually try to look at stuff with my eyes closed, that’s preposterous… well unless it was a tactile object meant to be experienced, touched, interacted with, rather than just observed… but you hardly close your eyes and touch a poster (scratch & sniff excepted here). It is a whole lot like reading a page while not paying attention to it. Your brain is reading the items, but the words flow in one eye and out the other (I almost said in one eye and out your mother, but that’s another Soundgarden inside joke). You sort of know you read the words but you didn’t take in all in, you just weren’t all that present while you read it. You were on a sort of distracted auto-pilot. Then you have to go back and actually re-read it again (This idea isn’t new, by any means. Any sociology text book or phycology text will have a far better explanation of this than I will ever put down in words.) But what I mean is, there are a whole lot of times when I am searching for inspiration under time constraints, and rather than soak up the nuances of the research materials I’ve gathered for a project, I’m glossing over them and missing that … that, I don’t know, just that “THING” that jumps out at you, akin to a mental domino in your brain that falls against something else and begins to snowball and before you know it your synapses are firing like mad and a picture is forming in your head, and you just start pouring work out onto the page. That excited rush of ideas crashing over you in waves, some of them so fast and furious you don’t even have the time to get them out onto the page before they have slipped out of reach again, but you have flashes of them still, which you cling to and work off of. If I’m lucky a few of those little snippets are enough to bring the idea back into my conscience thought  as a whole idea and I can take it even further. Other times I’m left with parts of a good idea, but have to really work to unify them, or pull them apart and use them piece-meal elsewhere.

In order to be (oh god, I am going to say this, Ugh) “open” to finding inspiration, I need to really take the time to look, and see what is in front of me. Not just view it absently, but really take the precious time to not watch the clock, not be consumed by the deadline, and just look, think and brainstorm. Sounds really hokey, and wishy-washy I’m sure.  But it happens to me, I get so tied up in the technical details that I don’t take the much needed time to really look and see. I have to just keep reminding myself to come back to it with fresh eyes, and positive outlook.

But, you say, even when I have the time and am really aware of myself and my subject matter, there is no guarantee that I will find the inspiration I seek. Yes, sadly that is true. I have no real insight into helping anyone else with this same issue. But perhaps you are taking a breather right now while reading this. That might be all the help you need.

I always feel just a little bit better after putting things down on paper.


MH Snowboards available through Amazon

Here’s something neat that I didn’t expect to see. Some of the Western Market snowboards I designed with Don Burns are up for sale on I guess that’s a good sign if people are willing to pay $200 – $300 bucks for some of my handiwork. Some elements from the design came from Russell Branding & John.St as well.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


PS. I’m also getting ready for the GFN’s show in Guelph Ontario tonight. It’s going to be a blast so come out if you can. Bands go on at 9:30pm inside Van Gogh’s Ear, on Wyndham St (South End).