This couldn’t have happened!

Moments when real paying jobs don’t present themselves I try to keep busy using the wonders of the tools at my disposal to create graphics and commentary. As little as 20 years ago, we didn’t even dream these programs would become so widely available.

The following series “This couldn’t have happened” I concocted using photo’s taken on a trip to the Boeing museum in 2005 and various holiday shots in Europe taken over the last 4 years.

Germany Air Force, Etrich Taube, 1910. (Click to enlarge.)

The first demonstration of Photoshop that I attended was during our transition from traditional, marker layouts and pre-press to digital design and production in 1989. The people presenting the workshop had, of course, state-of-the-art equipment and excessive amounts of added memory and RAM – which during the 80’s and 90’s was very expensive – to show off the early wonders of this new tool.

Western Air Express, Stearman C3B, 1928. (Click to enlarge.)

What took them 30 minutes to demonstrate the programs capabilities using masks, paths, multiple layering, transitions, etc, we would later find take us inordinate amounts of time to replicate on our newly purchased SE30’s. But I was mesmerized by the sheer capability and promise of this new technology that we decided an investment in more memory and more importantly RAM would become an excellent investment, which paid off within a year of operating in this new, technologically driven work environment.

United Airlines, Boeing Air Transport 80A-1, 1928-30. (Click to enlarge.)

Many of the clients we’ve worked with over the last 20 years have come to rely on our skills in the use of not only Photoshop but also Illustrator and InDesign (I loved Quark for it’s heavy weight typographic tools and preferences). Print dominated then and now the web is driving us to adopt – with the same creative zeal – programs such as Dreamweaver, GoLive, Flash along with custom coding to round out our skills for today’s communication and visual challenges.

USA – Air Force Lockheed M-21, 1964-98. (Click to enlarge.)

Today almost anything can be made to happen, how high we fly is only limited by our imaginations.

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Do newsletters resonate?

During our 25-year history we’ve been lucky enough to have strong associations with clients from many sectors: non-profits, governments, private companies and corporations that have engaged us to design and produce their newsletter as a part of an overall communications strategy. Some have lasted years others have fizzled within 12 months due to lack of resources and/or commitment.

Of course, I’m going to defend all the pieces we’ve been involved with as being initially well thought out, designed and engaging to the core readership, whilst compelling to those  involved in producing content, motivated and engaged to move onto the next issue.

Looking at our past has given me some insightful opinions about what works and what doesn’t, not merely from a design perspective but from a commitment to ensuring your newsletter (online or in print) has resonance with a given audience. During our early years when working with corporations like Weldwood and NGO’s like The Red Cross and First Nations Family and Childcare Workers Society or more recently with colleges such as The BC College of Social Workers. Newsletters only have meaning for their audience when they can be expected. It’s rather like your own personal habits when wanting to get the latest news from a local or national newspaper. You expect  consistency and a timely produced publication with current and engaging content, in print or online.

The following are a sampling of the newsletters we designed for print and those we have recently (within the last 6-years) designed and produced, providing our clients with a CMS driven (Content Management System) which then publishes and distributes each issue via an email database. David Lach, our senior web developer, also designed a pdf generator for ease of printing these documents.

A broadsheet 4-fold newsletter and the employee yearly response guide. (click to enlarge).

  • Weldwood of Canada’s Dialog, which we designed and produced for well over 8-years, was an employee driven communication tool providing them with updates on: safety, company wide mandates for improved performance, shareholder information and more importantly, individual and group achievements within the communities they operated. The marketing department never missed a deadline and every year we were asked to design and produce an employee survey for feedback on Dialog, and other employee incentive packages ensuring these products had merit and reasonable return on investment. This newsletter was a success and served the readership well, becoming a crucial part of the Weldwood culture and PR/HR program. Weldwood of Canada Ltd, was acquired by West Fraser Timber Co Ltd, December 31, 2004.

Talking Stick 24"x12" 8-page broadsheet. (Click to enlarge).

  • First Nations Family and Childcare Workers Society’s, Talking Stick newsletter covered issues of interest to the workers who were the society’s members. This publication lasted about 24-months and was first published in 1997 to applause from its readers. Talking Stick, written by core executive members and edited externally by a freelance writer, would have been more successful had the executive delegated more of the initial research and content provision to the external writer. The core executive were inundated with personal day-to-day work and realistically could not adhere to the grueling additional work required for research and writing of this planned 4-issue a year, broadsheet newsletter.

InStep and BCCSW 8.5" x 11" 12-page newsletters. (Click to enlarge).

  • College of Occupational Therapists of BC, InStep and the British Columbia College of Social Workers, College Conversation are both 12-page newsletters whose audience are the respective College registrants. We redesigned InStep in 2006 and College Conversation in 2008. In both cases they were to be published 4-times a year. Similar to the issues faced by the First Nations example above, the pressures on the Executive Directors’ to provide core content and direction have impeded that goal and neither have managed to produce 4-issues consistently over a 12-month period.

Email, online newsletters with a pdf generator. (Click to enlarge).

  • BC Health Match, Advance and Recruiter eNewsletters, both designed in 2009 and more recently updated in 2011 as custom designed – David Lach was the chief developer – CMS driven publications which have been successfully published on a regular basis, due in large part to the organizations commitment to employ professional communicators to drive content. The Executive Director approves material, but isn’t involved in every facet.

I hope you enjoyed this blog, I’m always open to comments and look forward to your feedback on this and any other material we might publish. If you would like to contribute to our blog please don’t hesitate to contact us, or provide ideas for future issues.

All logo’s, photo’s, illustrations are copyright© registered® or trademarked™ by their respective owners.

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We had Apps for everything in 1985/86.

1986 provided me with the first large corporate logo assignment since joining Baseline in 1985. The tools and skills necessary to carry through successfully on this assignment seem antiquated now and were far less forgiving than the wonderful Mac and apps I use today. No command Z’s (multiple undoes), if you made a mistake, you simply had to try to fix it or start over.

 

(click to enlarge)

1986 tools and our design for the Miraclean and Alberta Plastic Logo identity. (click to enlarge)

Through review of this project – not the most compelling identity package I’ve designed – I wanted to demonstrate how much dexterity, knowledge and shear determination was required in the 1980’s to design a logo and produce the myriad of artwork required for all applications to print, vehicles, building signage, etc.  The visualization of these tools are a small sampling of the required skills  to effectively start and finalize a graphic design project from start to finish. Other professionals required in completing a similar project required; typesetters, stat camera operators, paste-up artists, prepress houses, all employing highly skilled individuals.

With the introduction of computer generated design and illustration, a seasoned designer now takes on most of the roles described above and more, using applications such as (but not limited to) the Adobe Suite, for print, display, multimedia and the web. The time it took to visualize concepts, present to a client via pdf, to final production on approvals has been so condensed you can’t begin to grasp that a simple identity assignment for a new company from start to finish would take at least two months in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Meetings at the beginning, through to the end of a project, would take up an inordinate amount of that time, sending a pdf and video conferencing wasn’t an option then.

Making minor changes to design elements essentially meant redoing the work over for a second time – from scratch in most cases – and lo and behold a typo within the body of a complex 4, 5 or 6 colour, complex brochure. Proofing was an absolute key to your survival along with appropriate hard copy sign-off from your client, at all stages, ensured that they too were diligent before moving a project forward to an ever increasingly expensive change.

Print and display production was very expensive in the 80’s and the majority of large identity packages where designed using one or two colours only. Logo’s had to work in basic black and white (as they still should today) and be equally effective in news print as well as 175 to 200 line screen high end lithography. Now with stochastic printing those limitations have virtually disappeared. News print technology has improved to such a level that 4 colour logo’s stand up well in most print mediums. Of course there are still challenges facing the designer when working with colour such as RGB and CMYK variables, interpretation across a much broader range of applications. But to have gained the broader freedom from the restrictions imposed as a result of line screen settings, and the liberation from cost prohibitive use of colour, the designer of the 21 century is only limited by imagination.

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Progressive Unions adopt design excellence.

In early 2002, Baseline was lucky enough to become involved with NOW Communications, one of Canada’s leading social marketing and advertising agencies, to help create some of the most compelling political campaigns for the federal and provincial NDP, coast to coast.

Manitoba Nurses Union identity and communications collateral. (Click to enlarge).

We have also been commissioned to work on numerous identity and communication packages for both local and national unions such as; The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, BC Teachers’ Federation, CUPE, IBEW, The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, The Manitoba Nurses Union, to name a view.

ETFO 2010 Report. (Click to review).

Baseline has helped NOW in creative strategic positioning for identity design, applied to extensive internal and external communication tools. We’ve provided design-lead for public campaigns applied to; billboards, brochures, power point presentations, websites and TV story boarding.

IBEW 2009 identity and promotional collateral. (Click to enlarge).

It has always been a pleasure to be called into the NOW office for a briefing and collaborate with a truly committed and fun group of people. Of course with a company name like NOW, I soon learned and came to expect tight deadlines, and the necessary collaborative spirit to not only deliver on time, but be prepared for a myriad of changes, tweaks and long days to meet their clients needs.

BCTF 2004 Campaign. (Click to enlarge).

All logo’s, photo’s, illustrations are copyright© registered® or trademarked™ by their respective owners.

“Ian has done many impactful pieces with us over the years. From still talked-about billboards to brochures you want to keep to total rebranding packages. I particularly like Ian’s approach to rethinking existing brands: he’s thoughtful, strategic and creative.”

Marie Della Mattia, President & CEO, partner. NOW Communications

“Ian is a creative collaborator who truly cares about every design he takes on. His work delivers strong images, emotional connection, and impact. He takes time to understand his clients and their needs. And he’s fun to work with!”

Maya Russell, Managing Director. NOW Communications

“On every project, Ian has always been on budget and on time. He brings creative ideas to the table that result in great final designs for our clients.”

Rupinder Kang, Director of Client Services.  NOW Communications

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The CEO is getting married!

We had worked with Pat Gaines, CEO, of LML Payments for well over 8-years, creating their annual reports, sales collateral, a revamped identity package and everything else their marketing efforts required during the early 90’s and early 2000’s.

The wedding invite. Click to enlarge.

In 2003 he and his soon to be wife, Carolyn Mosher, where planning their marriage arrangements and we thought it would be fun to offer our services as a wedding gift.

They were both avid Harley Davidson fans, having spent many of their vacations touring North America aboard the iconic touring bike. It presented a wonderful opportunity to tailor the invites, R.S.V.P.’s, thank you cards, way finders, etc, around their favorite pass time.

Wedding R.S.V.P.

Conceptually, we wanted to tell a small story through these wedding communication pieces and instill a graphic presence that would resonate with the romance of the Harley brand and the freedom of the wide-open road. After presenting an initial conceptual layout, they both got excited and introduced me to a photographer friend to capture the various shots required to convey the story.

This probably is going to be my shortest blog to-date, but wanted to share this little nugget of inspirational fun. Bride and groom arrive in their leathers and leave in full wedding costume aboard one of North America’s great icons. I hope you enjoy the visual presentation of the invites, R.S.V.P.’s and small stickers used on everything from table placement gifts to invites and return thank you envelopes.

Thank you card and stickers. Click to enlarge.

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The inaugural 1996 Canadian Cancer Society’s Diamond Ball.

In 1995, I was approached by the communications and marketing manager of one of our larger clients to volunteer Baseline’s time and skills toward the creation of a new fundraising initiative for the Canadian Cancer Society, B.C.
& Yukon Division
.

Baseline was very busy at the time, we were serving a long list of clients both large and small, just the thought of taking on an additional volunteer creative and production position seemed overwhelming. But when one of your larger clients makes a request, well you simply acquiesce and hope for the best, plus we felt it to be a worthy cause and an opportunity to give back.

A volunteer committee had been formed and we met to discuss the immediate communication requirements for the inaugural Diamond Ball’s identity and graphic communication requirements. This would become an annual event and over the following 15-years, would help raise millions of dollars toward cancer research.

“We are going to call the annual event The Diamond Ball” exclaimed the Chair. “We will need a classy logo, stationery package and invitation package aimed at the well-to-do who will be invited to this lavish ball and dinner. After being wined, dined and entertained, they will be asked to bid on lots of lavish items that volunteers will have spent previous weeks and months procuring from vendors of expensive services and supplies.”

Limited to a 2-colour (black and metallic gold) treatment.

The 1999 Diamond Ball, 2-colour, gold and black with two colour duotones. Click to enlarge.

During the mid-90’s print was still dominant and expensive. Our first order of business was to engage the help of a print supplier (volunteer) willing to donate their services, which the committee instructed I take care of. Always difficult to ask fellow professionals to donate their services, and even harder when you know design by a committee of volunteers will push for more. That larger client, I mentioned earlier, was influential in promising a particular printer we used on a regular basis, continued patronage in the future if they took this assignment on. It was the only carrot I had to offer by way of securing their commitment, and the domino game didn’t end there. The printer then had to secure agreements with paper manufacturers, other finishing suppliers and shippers.

The printer requested we limit the number of inks to 2, and chose a house-stock (paper) wherever possible (4-colour today is a fraction of what it cost in the 90’s). Armed with these known and established production limitations, concept and design could begin.

The actual logo presentation went well, with a choice made from 3-alternative submissions. We decided that a rich black and metallic gold (2-colour as dictated by the printer) would give the overall identity a distinctive flavour. When the printer saw what we had in mind – “We hadn’t allowed for metallic inks, just a flat pms colour, now we have to look at more expensive paper and…*!?*#!”, it was back to re-negotiating the necessity of our decision and with some cajoling they agreed grudgingly to metallic gold and black.

For the next three years, each theme would have to be thought about in terms of this limited use of 2-colour restriction, although print technology and more importantly, pre-press where moving quickly toward computer-to-plate which eventually would make the use of full-colour (4-colour) a more affordable alternative.

My poor print rep never looked forward to the call each April, where I respectfully brought up the subject of the next Diamond Ball project. But in 2000 the printer announced “You could move to 4-colour, but NO! addition of a metallic please”. With a little work at convincing the powers at the Cancer Society and the Diamond Ball committee, we embarked on a completely new approach, providing more flexibility in conveying each years theme with colour, colour, and more colour, what a liberation from a design and illustration perspective.

2000 Diamond Ball

Click to enlarge. The 2000 theme allowed us to utilize 4-colour, and on the theme approval we approached Tin-Tin, a young, Vancouver illustrator who agreed to help and she donated her talents and time for this event.

2001 Diamond Ball, 4-colour and metallic gold. Click to enlarge.

Baseline continued working for this worthy fundraiser until 2003 and after seven years we felt it was time a fresh set of creative minds should continue working on this yearly event. We thanked the committee for their hard work and dedication and have watched as the 2010 event marked the fourteenth anniversary, raising more than $5.5 million dollars since its inception in 1996.

“We received the invitations, RSVP card, bag tags and envelopes yesterday, and wanted to let you know that we are thrilled with them! They look absolutely beautiful! The colors are great, and the silver really shimmers in the light. Thank you so much for all your hard work on this.” — Lisa Lockerby, Manager, Special Events, Canadian Cancer Society

All logo’s, photo’s, illustrations are copyright© registered® or trademarked™ by their respective owners.

Click to enlarge. The 2003 Campaign

2004 Diamond Ball. Click to enlarge.

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BC Central Credit Union, planned a celebration of their service to the credit union movement…

…and in early 1993 I was approached by BC Central requesting a quote for a major book project, namely a major retrospective of their history. This book would chronicle a period between 1848 to 1994, authored by Ian MacPherson. It tells the story of British Columbia’s dynamic credit union movement and the role played by its central organization, BC Central Credit Union. I’ve included a PDF link of the covers and major chapter pages here, Co-operation, Conflict and Consensus.

Click to enlarge image. 4-colour cover for Co-operation, Conflict and Consensus.

This was probably one of the most challenging projects I’ve been asked to quote and work on during our 25 year history. Simple questions like; “How many pages are we talking about?” [hasn’t been completely written or edited yet] to “Who will be responsible for the visual research?” [good question] and “Who will ultimately print this project, who is the primary audience and hence how many copies will be needed?” [Don’t know about the printer, but the audience will be Credit Unions, Leaders in the Credit Union movement and Employees. Oh and we want a stylish hardbound and less expensive soft cover copy. Might be nice to have some customization on some of the covers for VIP’s]. “Do you have a budget in mind?” [No, we know what the author will be charging but the rest is why we’re coming to you – to provide a budget].

The logistics required for providing a reasonably realistic budget for design, production and manufacture were daunting. I requested the author supply the first rough draft to establish word count and how many chapters he felt would be required and did he have any knowledge about resources for prospective images to help tell the story. Ian pointed the way to the archives that he had been researching for months, so everything had been chronologically boxed by decade. He offered to go through the material with me once I had a signed agreement to start.

We estimated a minimum number of required books through the help of Gayle Stevenson, Manager, Publications, Ian Smith , Director of Communications, they were low quantities and the project had the potential of breaking the bank. I had established the book would likely exceed 200-pages based on the authors first draft. Eleven chapters suggested that would likely increase the page count to 211, “Oh and we will need an index”, OK, 222.  At the end of the day the book mushroomed to 290 pages.

It soon became evident that this was not going to be an affordable project for BC Central if we chose to print sheet-fed, which would provide the highest quality, leaving us the only other option web-fedyou know, newspaper and flyer quality at 100 dpi. In the early 90’s, Vancouver had one or two credible web-presses big enough and capable of handling this project. The soft-back covers, hard-back sleeves would be sheet-fed and the entire 290 page inside would run in 11 signatures 4 colour, over 1, and I insisted we had to run those pages at a minimum of 150-line screen or higher. After much discussion and I’m sure fear on the web-printers part, they agreed to do some R&D to meet the higher line screen request. I could now prepare the estimated budget, delivered to the powers in mid-1993, and they gave their approval to proceed.

The first piece of business, search through the archives for appropriate material that would act as the foundation for the visuals in the book. I spent weeks with the author and interns to collect boxes of period pieces that Ian MacPherson, author, would agree represented his story. I left with valuable box-upon-box of historical Credit Union Central archives. Many sleepless nights followed, not only in the fear of the building burning or an imminent earth quake destroying this irreplaceable trove, but what would be the most efficient, affordable way to record all this material for use in the book. Items such as newsletters, posters and other print ephemeral, dating back to the 1848 and the 50’s required extensive reconstruction as did photo’s of key individuals and groups.

David Lach, my partner agreed to the purchase of an Abaton scanner (desktop scanner) for a grand total of $478:00 (1993 dollars, you can do the maths) for the purpose of recording all the 2-dimensional and – I took a gamble – 3-dimensional objects, that later I’d manipulate in Photoshop on a Mac IIci. Long days and nights awaited. Initial scanning of hundreds of images and artifacts, logically storing and cataloguing the raw material, days and weeks of recreating damaged material and then finding a solution to represent this myriad of images in a creative and compelling way.

We prepared an initial set of design layouts for BC Central, providing options for the treatment of 4-colour chapter openers, typical black and white pages, covers, etc. This was a month of work, sleepless nights and a lot of prayer. The boxes of irreplaceable documents sat in my office whilst I tried to create logic from chaos.

Sampling of early chapters in the book. Click to enlarge

The initial layouts were received with great applause, everyone from the top executives to the communications department gave the thumbs-up and it would take weeks more of arduous work to create the 290 page document. Colour tests with the printer were required, editors were still perfecting the document, names used were being checked and cross-checked and I still had these boxes of irreplaceable archive images in the studio.

Samples of the last four chapters. Click image to review.

For those of you who have press checked a web job, you will know this had to be the most excruciatingly, stressful experience. The press really never stops, just slows a little, so that paper is still running, ink still being poured and you have to make decisions quickly, taking each form, folding them roughly and making critical decisions on the ink mixes. Fold, examine, move ahead and so on. At the same time Mitchell Press were running the sheet-fed covers in another part of the plant, and I was busy discussing foiling and bindery with another department. A thrilling end to an intense endeavour and the books were delivered on time, within the estimated budget and to the BC Central Head Office with applause, see below.

“With my copy of Co-operation, Conflict and Consensus in hand, I have to congratulate and thank you for a truly outstanding job – and for providing a level of service that went far beyond the reasonable.

The complexity of the project certainly exceeded expectations. And those of us who worked on it here at Central are grateful for the patience, flexibility and commitment to quality shown by yourself and others at Baseline. Despite delays and obstacles lurking at every corner, you produced a corporate history that we consider the best example of its genre. It’s beautifully designed with inviting graphics and values that actually encourage handling, browsing and reading.

The response from credit union and Central staff has been vocal and enthusiastic. Clearly, Central was fortunate in working with you on the assignment. Without your talent and dedication, I’m sure we’d have gone off track long before completion. I hope that you and the Baseline team are as proud of the book as we are.”

— Gayle Stevenson, Manager, Publications, Credit Union Central of BC

All logo’s, photo’s, illustrations are copyright© registered® or trademarked™ by their respective owners.

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A brave new world.

Click to enlarge. Work from the late 8o's early 90's.

Click to enlarge. Work from the late 8o's early 90's.

 

When I started this blog I really didn’t have a plan other than to chronicle the 25 years I’ve been in partnership with David Lach and the various members of our team at Baseline. Writing stories chronologically would be difficult, so I’ve allowed reminders of our past to form my content, such as the first real logo designed for Baseline, or our first really big gig – the Yeltsin Clinton Summit.

1989 saw the release of the Mac SE/30 and the emergence of what would become known – and hated, by seasoned, professional designers – as the era of desktop publishing. If you had $15,000 (the SE/30 alone was $6,500) in your wallet you could become an overnight graphic designer, typographer and publisher, and it was the beginning of the end for the traditional train of experts who expertly prepared traditional artwork for the print and display trade.

We now competed with people who charged anywhere from 25% to 50% less than our established hourly rate for design, typesetting and production. We had to become marketers, relying less on the ability of the Yellow Pages to bring people to our doors. Smaller company’s, our traditional bread and butter, flocked to the emerging desktop publishers, we had to find new ways of attracting the larger more sophisticated customers if we were to survive.

I bought my first business suit, essential back then if you where going to show your book and expect business and corporations to hire you. Letters of introduction were mailed and backup phone calls made a week later in an attempt to set up that first crucial meeting. The portfolio was tailored for various audiences – today the website can be easily updated – and researched as much as possible about the new prospect – didn’t have Google then – before entering the offices of company marketing VP’s and CEO’s.

Over a 12 month period, we managed to bring in new regular customers who recognized the importance of well-tailored marketing and communication tools. Print was still King, and we worked long hours and weeks to provide this new Baseline client base with the very best we could produce with these new tools. Our clients included the resource industries and their suppliers, engineering firms, lawyers, consultants, First Nations and emerging industries. My first SE/30 soon became the new Macintosh IIsi and we replaced our expensive image setter with the Apple Laser Writer and started to outsource our film output directly to the printers.

We experienced 150 line screen 4-colour work, not a match on today’s stochastic direct-to-plate technology. We now enjoy value priced hi-end digital printing allowing for an affordable tailored marketing campaign to address various audiences, and of course, the new wave of social media bringing content to audiences to interact with. A brave new world indeed and all within the last 20+ years.

All logo’s, photo’s, illustrations are copyright© registered® or trademarked™ by their respective owners.

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1992, was a leap year and…

…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.

This is a limited edition. Click on image to enlarge.

This is a limited edition.

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.

click to review

Weldwood Annual Report 1999. Click to enlarge.

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.

Weldwood Environmental Report and Poster

Weldwood Environmental Report and Poster. Click for larger view.

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.

Weldwood operations identity work.

Weldwood operations identity work. Click for a larger view.

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.

All logo’s, photo’s, illustrations are copyright© registered® or trademarked™ by their respective owners.

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The year was 1985, the last recession.

Our 1983 first logo

Our 1983 first logo, click to enlarge

1985, Vancouver witnessed; Rick Hansen, beginning his round-the-world Man in Motion tour in a  wheelchair, Mike Harcourt was Mayor of the city, the rapid-transit system SkyTrain, opened and design work began on Canada Place the future Canadian Pavilion for Expo 86 and we where experiencing a terrible recession – nothing like 2008-2010 – and I was invited to join Baseline as a graphic designer, at the time a 12 member cooperative, typesetting and production house.

Baseline was located on the second floor, in what was known as the old Harry Hammer building, an unappealing slab concrete structure, where walking up the flight of stairs was faster than waiting for the elevator to access Baselines cavernous, 1200 square foot space. Uncovered concrete floors, unpainted concrete pillars, an uninspired 1970’s paint scheme and the hum of what was at the time state-of-the-art Agfa phototypesetting equipment, a stat camera and darkroom, paste-up stations with home-made light tables and not a great deal to inspire a young graphic designer, other than the professional and incredible skills of the typesetters and other equipment and knowledge required to produce design for print back then.

Baseline had a very rudimentary identity and limited marketing material to sell our services in what was a very competitive Vancouver market. Clients consisted of book and magazine publishers primarily, individual designers, and the odd small business or service provider. A few of these clients required minimum design work, certainly not enough to keep a young and determined creative designer challenged and gainfully employed.

So a few months into the job, I set about convincing the other members we needed a unique identity, a general brochure/typesetting style guide poster and a professional stationery package for attracting new clients. We had to convey good design skills, technical capabilities and the dexterity to handle all aspects of work for print or display and hopefully a pay cheque for all, commensurate to all the new clients we would draw to our door.

So Baselines first identity (colophon) was born, a combination of typesetting, hand drawing – using rapidographs – solid paste-up skills and the ability to test the artwork at all the necessary sizes using the stat camera. We did a small market test with existing clients, internalized changes and alternatives as a team and finally sent our print ready artwork, via courier, to press with a prayer.

All the marketing items, double-sided, single fold business cards, stationery, poster and brochure would be printed using 3-pms colours plus black, an expensive affair in 1985. I slowly added larger and more rewarding design assignments, fully utilizing our internal capabilities and always proudly handing out my unique business card when the opportunity presented itself.

Clouds were brewing though, and the advent of what derogatorily would become known as desktop publishing started to creep into view as the next big thing in the graphic design and production business. That will have to be another blog, but it dramatically changed Baseline from being a 12-member, multi-talented company to two members, David Lach and Ian Bateson, to ponder the adoption and huge learning curve the new fledgling desktop technology would demand of us, if we wanted a part of the brave new world.

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