Explore the Canadian creative economy.
Discover the makers/companies behind Brand Canada.
Every year our creative industry produces a number of noteworthy advances by creative people who help to raise the status of design in Canada and beyond. Some might be well known; others are working to gain recognition. Their work is outstanding and we are betting that it will be worth watching them as this fresh year progresses. Our list for 2014 consists of: a pair of illustrators whose images are popping up around the world and elevating illustration to new levels; four furniture/product designers who are blasting new energy into the sector; an architecture studio that is blending social value, environmental smarts, and great design; a couple of design agencies whose work has elevated what advertising and marketing can be; and a fashion designer who is standing out in our growing fashion industry. This year’s list includes two mega design stars, but we are continuing to take some chances on our Designers to Watch list, highlighting emergent and thought provoking work. We hope you enjoy the it as much as we enjoyed creating it.
The Rise of Illustration and Image Making. Both Gary Taxali and Virginia Johnson have been busy, collecting a number of high profile clients and producing some memorable pieces including Taxali’s work with Cinelli (image above), Harry Rosen, the New York Times and the Canadian Mint, and Johnson’s recent collaboration with J. Crew and her successful line of textiles and home furnishings. Their work is helping to revive the illustration scene in the country, creating new places for it to be appreciated and seen. Both will be fun to watch as their careers expand globally.
Canadian Product Design is Getting Serious (and Being Taken Seriously). It may seem a little silly to suggest watching Oki Sato, whose work is already stratospheric, but a Canadian sensibility is driving his work and it is opening eyes and minds to what we are producing here. The indie scene is flush with talent and we have grabbed three from many worthy choices. Matt Kroeker has managed to produce a series of wonderful and memorable pieces, his industrial design roots marrying smart process with market understanding. Zoë Mowat and Jonathan Sabine have both emerged from the independent scene. Each has a strong and recognizable voice, design that is modern in DNA but packed with enough details to be unique and stunning. Sabine’s work, dusts off modernism, appearing to be easy and simple, a sense that the designer knew when to get out of the way and let the objects be themselves. Mowat’s work is highly individual with a lyrical and poetic style.
Small Architecture Creates Big Value. The large firms are continuing their usual city builds but the real action is happening in smaller firms, and superkül is one of the best. With a strong understanding of what architecture can be and how it can improve all parts of our lives, Meg Graham and Andre D’Elia are making big, green leaps into the future. Check out the recent Great Gulf Active House and their amazing cottage rethink.
Design Agencies Are Coming Back and Having Fun Doing It. The economic downturn shredded the ad business. Medium firms tumbled, large firms shrunk, but small nimble agencies, the smart ones, grew up and generated new clients by understating that digital is not a tool, but a way of being. Lg2 boutique in Montreal, whose lovely and clean aesthetic is seen in exciting packaging, print, and outstanding branding. john st. in Toronto truly gets new media, and has been creating award-winning campaigns that are fun, easy to share and create buzz and enthusiasm for an industry some thought might die.
It is easy to typecast Canadian fashion: toques, lumber jackets and lots and lots of plaid, but that is yesterday’s news. With a handful of big brands like Pink Tartan and Smythe Les Vestes producing global collections, there is room for smaller labels like Philip Sparks Fine Tailoring to emerge. Philip Sparks is a premium tailor whose men’s and women’s clothing lines are packed with fine detail, high quality fabrics and patterns, and a distinctive style. Every season is an evolution and we cannot wait to see what he has in store for us next.
See more of our past recommendations here.