…little did we know that within six years George Bush would become President of the USA, then promptly vomit into the lap of Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazaw at a state dinner.
In 1992, Moshe Safdie’s great ellipse was announced the winner for the design of the Vancouver’s new main library and was reminiscent of an ancient Roman amphitheatre. Of the 7,000 citizens who submitted remarks, approximately 70 percent favored the ‘Colosseum’, as the proposal was dubbed.
The new Mike Harcourt NDP government repealed Bill 19, the Industrial Relations Act, ending a period of bitter labor relations in the province, and Baseline had a client list of corporations, local businesses, institutions, political party’s, BC Government Ministry’s that fed our team of six with work and a reasonable payroll.
There wasn’t the crowd sourced sites we see today, offering logo’s at $25 a pop, or designed collateral for $250, or websites for $500. The web was still slow and in its infancy, the question then was… “do I really need a website?.”
Back then we need only capture 1% of the market to maintain our business operations (rent, phones, computers, etc) and pay a reasonable wage and benefits package to Baseline employees.
We had emails and faxes, but not an ftp site for quick delivery of art files – couriers and diskettes where the order of the day. The skills we acquired over the previous decade to produce design for print gave Baseline the ability to build not only a strong client base, but also long partnerships with some of the top print and display suppliers in town and across the country. They looked forward to our phone calls for print quotes. Lavish 4-colour plus jobs, were considered the cream but effective design for 2-colour where equally in demand due to cost constraints. Hi definition limited digital print was still a little way into the future and the experience and accrued knowledge to produce stunning work for lithographic printing was considered a high skill. Designers needed years of working with print and paper to fully realize a quality finished product.
Gaining new clients required temerity, lots of phone calls, constant reminders through effective direct marketing and a fully stocked, quality portfolio with the added ability to present that physical book with confidence to new people on a very regular basis. Competition was fierce, but estimated job costing from various design studios would not vary wildly and of course the proof of capability was in the portfolio and past experience.
Vancouver still had – in 1992 – a relatively healthy mix of head offices, mainly resource based, but large in scale and capability. Baseline was lucky to have established a strong relationship with one of the large wood and pulp corporations, Weldwood of Canada, and go on to enjoy a ten-year relationship with this corporation. The largest – both in money spent and marketing communications value – was the annual report. Typically a 24 to 28 page 4-colour designers dream. Each year had to not only cover the legal financials but creatively provide a front end story of the year in a captivating and illustrative way. Aligned with this document was the Weldwood Environmental Report, again a 24 to 28 page document, requiring a unique creative and on-time-on-budget production for delivery to employees, government agencies and investors.
Throughout the rest of the year Weldwood would produce internal employee newsletters, Human Relations documents such as a benefits packages, public relations pieces, new plant identities, custom retirement packages for senior staff, advertising for local and international markets and sales tools. In short, as a small design house, having one of these corporations as a client created a wave of creative work throughout the year and along with a roster of other mid-size and smaller clients needs we were kept busy.
Much has changed both in the delivery of targeted messages, product sales and corporate branding. Print is no longer King and the global reach of the Internet has forced smaller design houses to rethink and retool how they will continue to enjoy and pursue the creativity of graphic and communication design. It’s an incredibly fascinating new world that evolved very quickly, no time to sit back, we all need to run and keep up, at least as long as there is electricity and the net doesn’t go down for more than a week.
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