Tag Archives: graphic design

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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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 new millennium, 2000-2010 what a decade.

Click for a larger image

In 2000 the BC NDP, under the leadership of Ujjal Dosanjh, released a budget of confidence only to be defeated in May 2001, a sad day for families, unions, health care workers, teachers and young workers in this province, and one that over the next decade would see huge erosion of parliamentary democracy in Victoria. Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan where left alone to argue and defend alternative policies to the Campbell autocratic style of government.

Baseline was proud to help NOW Communications in the design of the BC NDP communications political campaign back then. It was to be one of many NDP Campaigns across Canada we would work on with bold and innovative design to communicate their respective messaging.

November 23, 2003, Carole James was elected leader of the provincial NDP and in the 2005 provincial election, Carole James surprised many supporters and critics alike with a very strong electoral showing, winning 41.52% of the popular vote (a 19.96% increase from the 2001 election result) and 33 out of 79 seats in the Legislative Assembly.

Fast forward to the 2009 elections and again Baseline was proud to serve NOW as the lead graphic design studio, providing the NDP with; a fresh identity package, new and reinvigorated campaign branding and a comprehensive communication package applied to everything from buttons to a full bus wrap, which by the way won an award.

Over a ten-year period, we have designed NDP campaign identities for Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Federal NDP. We have enjoyed working closely with NOW Communications and have contributed our design skills on behalf of their many clients identity packages, print collateral, advertising campaigns and web designs for Unions, NGO’s and political parties.

So as 2010 winds down this month it will be the start of another decade, 2011, and we at Baseline wish everyone success in their dreams, plans, and the work we do for social justice continues.

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


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The 1993 Yeltsin-Clinton Summit.

It was April 1993, the first formal meeting between Yeltsin and Clinton, to further United States and Russian cooperation on many bilateral issues. The intent of this historic Vancouver Summit was to form the groundwork for a declaration pledged by the two sides to uphold “a dynamic and effective United States-Russian partnership.” Canada was to act as host under the then Federal Conservative party and then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Baseline was approached by Corina Acheson a senior sales rep at Benwell Atkins, now with Hemlock Printers, with the opportunity to partner on a bid to design, produce and print the graphic identity and collateral for this event. They won the bid and by default we were thrown into an initial two week design frenzy, first to provide initial layouts for the identity of the event and subsequently design and produce identity applications, style and layouts for; delegates (journalist in the main), and dignitaries welcoming packages, programmes, backdrops, signage and day-to-day communication pieces.

The latter, day-to-day communication pieces, presented the largest challenge back in 1993. No internet connections, no FTP sites for quick delivery of files between writers, design layout artists and press, no quick pdf proofs and on demand colour digital print capabilities for proofing or direct-to-plate stochastic printing. Every step required a physical time consuming process to accommodate these steps to final product. The courier business flourished and each of those five days ended at 2:00am.

Whilst I feverishly took charge of client design requirements, the look and feel of all the collateral, my partner of 25 years, David Lach, took charge of sourcing an appropriate cyrillic font for the Russian language editions, prepare appropriate style sheets in Quark for the anticipated 110% larger French translations and the same for the 120% increase in character count for the Russian. David was also busy preparing an offsite Baseline office at Canada Place to process the daily input from the English reporters, coordinate the French and Russian translators, and put in place a means to trafficking all this activity back to home office for typesetting, proofing and plate-ready film output, ready for delivery to Benwell Atkins for imprinting onto the pre-printed four colour templates.

Each day’s events had to be reported, typeset and printed as a finished newsletter within 12-hours and delivered to all delegates by 6:00pm in front of their hotel rooms.

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

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Baseline celebrates 25 plus years in the business of graphic design

David Steiner, Programmer, is missing from this shot.

4 of the five Baseline gang

This is our first blog, which will act more as an introduction to who we are, what we offer and how we hope to make this site a place of interest with observations in general and tips from our 25 years plus history of working as graphic communicators.

Our history began in the days of marker layouts, rapidograph art, phototypesetting, light tables, paste-up, and the stat camera. We were a 12 member group, all specialists in preparation of “art for print” from designer, type setter, to paste-up monkey, the rather derogatory name given to what was the most important person and last step to the final camera ready art.

Fast forward ten years and I had the dubious honour of being given the first Mac SE30, three programs and the accompanying 300 page manuals, for each program to fathom, in time to meet a client deadline of one month (yes a month seems like a long time these days). The SE30 required a huge amount of patience and fortitude to operate, working in Photoshop on a file not much bigger than 150 mgs could afford you a 5-minute coffee break once you pressed saved.

There are still times when I personally look back fondly, but the Mac and the array of programs we have at our fingertips makes this business still very exciting.

25 years on, we are now a 5-member group, with specialties in design, programming and production for print and the web. Meet some of the people pictured. David Lach, Senior Programmer, Ian Bateson, Creative Director, Andrew Ware, Senior Production Artist, and Marian Lau, Production Manager, missing from this photo is David Steiner, Code and Programmer extraordinaire.

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

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