In the Spotlight

Showcasing the leaders in Vancouver's design community

Union Wood Co — Studio and Workshop

Union Wood Company set its roots in creating high-quality handcrafted furniture from reclaimed wood. Scouring demolition sites and abandoned buildings for the best old wood, their designs are nostalgic of Vancouver’s forgotten industrial foundries, mills and docks. We are pleased to have Union Wood Co as a VDW(knd) Open Studio.

1 Design is / design can _______?

Design is meaningful in that it can make a big impact in a subtle way.

2 Why does it matter?

Design is essential in every society, its an expression of ourselves and affects the way we interact with each other and our spaces.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

Vancouver is a very new city and that’s apparent within the the design community, it helps foster the idea that anything is possible.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

Vancouver is home to many innovative and influential designers. Drawing inspiration from the nature that surrounds us helps to define our aesthetic and create a unique perspective.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

We love creating timeless products, with an emphasis on quality and simplicity. At the end of the day, we get the most satisfaction knowing that pieces built in our shop are ones the client will have for life.

Marianne Amodio Architecture Studio — Living Smarter is Better than Living Bigger

Marianne Amodio Architecture Studio blurs the dichotomy between the whimsical and practical features of architecture. They are primarily focused on finding innovative ways to to densify properties without losing the usefulness and feel of a single family dwelling. It’s thrilling to have such a relevant and original studio a part of our Vancouver Design Week network.

1 Design is / design can _______?

My son would say that design can change the world (see attached - his VDW card from 2 years ago). This might appear a trite view, but we do actually believe it.

2 Why does it matter?

Design matters because it subconsciously affects our everyday, from the smallest moments to the most profound.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

Our attention to the landscape, adjacent and beyond. It becomes inextricably linked to the work, as though it already began as a part of it. Also, while Vancouver design can play with the best of them on an international stage, we are still, in many ways, small town and homey.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

Easily, we can see that our values as a sustainable culture is having an enormous impact in how we build buildings in Vancouver. More subliminally, I think as a community we are a bit outliers; something slightly divergent from the norm.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

The work that we are doing with the densification of smaller lot properties is very exciting to us. Providing a home for several generations of the same family, or increasing the longevity of an existing building by adding density is rewarding work.

Kyle Thacker — Product Designer, Bench

Kyle Thacker is a Senior Product Designer at Bench. Since joining three years ago he’s worked on the re-design of the company’s product experience and has helped shape a brand that’s connected with thousands of businesses across North America.

1 Design is / design can _______?

Design is the connections between details.

2 Why does it matter?

A well designed product looks at more that just the object itself, it looks at how it affects the world around it. It’s these connections that allow designers to develop beautiful systems out of thoughtfully assembled details.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

Vancouver is thoughtful about how our environment affects our lives. This value system separates us from many cities, and encourages us to consider how our decisions affect our immediate space, and the community around us.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

There is a diverse range of perspectives in Vancouver which allows us to build a tech culture that isn’t only influenced by tech perspectives.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

I’m excited for the opportunity to change the landscape of entrepreneurship and small businesses. As a designer at Bench, I’m working on ways not only to remove the stress of bookkeeping from the lives of thousands of small business owners , but also to create products and tools to help them better understand their businesses and grow their passions. Being able to help people realize their passions, and support their ideas is incredibly rewarding.

Darryl Condon

Darryl Condon is the Managing Principal at HCMA Architecture + Design as well as the Immediate Past President of the AIBC Council. After 25 years of practice creating dynamic, engaging and effective spaces, Darryl is focussing on design that acts as a catalyst for positive change and on maximizing the firm’s positive impact. We are thankful he cleared time in his busy schedule for this thought provoking interview on Vancouver design, and are excited to have HCMA as a partner in Vancouver Design Week.

1 Design is / design can _______?

Transformative.

2 Why does it matter?

The challenges we face today, whether they be local, regional or global, are not linear. They require solutions that are best found in creative strategic problem solving coupled with meaningful community engagement. This is precisely what strong design methodology is capable of addressing.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

We are in a unique position of being on the edge of the North American continent, shielded by mountain range from the mainstream. We have the freedom to look both west and east for inspiration and influence and are able to fit comfortably in either context. Furthermore, the long tradition of socially progressive thinking in our region has led to a powerful blend of responsible design thinking.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

For too long we have been preoccupied as an exporter of raw materials. Increasingly, we are becoming an exporter of ideas. The world is fascinated with Vancouver, both as a place and as a social construct, and this provides a natural opportunity to extend this good will and fascination to our ideas and our creative impulses.It is only the beginning.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

What I am currently most proud of is the manner in which we are re-designing our firm with a focus on increasing our social impact. Through this process we are adding greater meaning to our work and being invited into new conversations and challenges. This is highly motivating for us. What excites me most about our potential impact is the opportunity to blend design disciplines in a way that both improve the results of our traditional design services and creatives new notions of what constitutes a design service. The world of design in continually evolving and we are in an exciting time of change. Vancouver is poised to play a key role in this transformation.

Martha Sturdy — Designer

Born and raised in British Columbia, Martha Sturdy has always been inspired and guided by the elements. Materials such as resin, brass, steel, and salvaged cedar find expression in her work. Her studio is participating to Vancouver Design Week(end) and will open it's doors this Saturday and Sunday.

1 Design is / design can _______?

Design is everywhere, but good design takes thought.

2 Why does it matter?

Creativity should be evident in everything that we do. I believe that a well-articulated space supports peace of mind, and peace in general.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

Nature and creativity. We in Vancouver have the essence of nature all around us – we have oceans, mountains, forests, mountains, sky, fresh air. Our environment influences everyone here to be more creative. I graduated in sculpture from Emily Carr University in 1978. Emily Carr’s President Ron Burnett also said recently that our beautiful local environment is a great influence on art students, making Emily Carr such a prestigious institution.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

Vancouver has an advantage – geographically it is far away from design hubs such as New York and Toronto, meaning it is away from these influences. In Vancouver we can design using our own unique ideas.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

I am proud of any time that I have influenced someone to admire and appreciate nature through my work.

Dylan Staniul — Creative Director

Dylan is the creative director of Burnkit, an exciting and innovative design firm located on Powell St in Vancouver. They like to say they are driven by ideas, inspired by technology and passionate about quality design. Vancouver Design Week is delighted to have them as part of our lineup this year.

1 Design is / design can _______?

Design illuminates the potential of a thing or idea.

2 Why does it matter?

To design is to improve. Go ahead and swap "improving" for "design" and "Why does improving matter?" becomes a rather silly question.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

The Vancouver design community is small and geographically isolated, so it inevitably looks outward. And it's young, so it's inclined toward the new. This provides an incubator effect with significant cross-pollination across disciplines — fashion, industrial, decor, architecture, tech. Burnkit takes inspiration from this wider group as much as from our fellow graphic designers.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

The outside world has a picture of Vancouver in it's mind (it photographs well, doesn't it?): It's beautiful, there are mountains and gleaming towers, it's progressive, it's casual, it's new. It's a superficial identity, but "beautiful, progressive and new" isn't the worst place for a designer to start from. Vancouver design that's made impact furthest afield often takes advantage of these notions.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

I'm proud of the successes we've had working with other design businesses that we take inspiration from including, Bocci, Reigning Champ, Herschel and Bing Thom, among others. Burnkit is fortunate that organizations choose us because of our approach to the work, rather than because we have experience within a particular industry. That's how we've had the opportunity to work with an amazing array of companies doing good things in their respective fields including the arts, technology, fashion, film, design, real estate, sciences, resources, law and education.

Renee Macdonald — Westerly Handmade Shoes

Renee Macdonald is the one-woman army behind Westerly Handmade Shoes. She strongly believes in keeping the magic of old world trades alive in our modern landscape. Every shoe is custom made for the wearer and Renee enjoys the process of creating bespoke, personalized products for every customer. Her unique studio is part of this year's Vancouver Design Week line up.

1 Design is / design can _______?

Design can make life more beautiful and more comfortable.

2 Why does it matter?

A well designed object serves it's purpose gracefully and fulfills the search for the 'perfect' thing. The by-product of this is lessening the accumulation of needless, characterless consumables.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

Vancouver's wet coastal climate fosters design that both stands out and holds up against the elements. There is level of practicality that needs to be woven into the construct of things.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

We are still a young city. As Vancouverites, we're finding our way in having influence further afield. In the process of this, there's a freedom to shape the form and function of objects to suit our needs.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

Using design as a tool to develop a relationship with the people and things around you is what I find to be perhaps the most exciting element of the creative process.

Derek Dix — Photographer and Creative Director

Derek is a founder and manager of the studio space colder°, and has been involved with many forms of design, video and photography. His passion lies in the ability for mediums to communicate succinctly. We are honoured to have colder° among our Open Studios this year.

1 Design is / design can _______?

Design is, and should always be a form of clear communication. Whether it be typography, photography, logos or iconography or even fine art for that matter, there are visual cues about the message and feeling behind it.

2 Why does it matter?

Design matters because the goal is to simplify the messages to be communicated. It is a vessel that message the most efficient way and then be digested by the viewer. I mentioned fine art above and that can be a bit muddy, but even if your message as the artist is about them struggling to communicate in that realm, it is still a message.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

Design based in Vancouver differentiates from the rest of the world I think due to our location having an influence on how people work and shape their days, weeks, seasons and years. We also are a very young city in a young country. This gives Vancouver the ability to grow and flex. Growing up here I find the outdoors an incredibly heavy influence on my thought patterns and thinking. While that is me as an individual, it is visible in many of the brands that are founded here as well.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

Vancouver design, working with many of the brands founded and growing in Vancouver are bringing a great visibility to focus on health, wellness, exercise, and the outdoors. This is a great trend to see rising globally or at least in western culture.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

Relating back to health, and being outdoors, I've worked in that field and doing some very fun campaigns focusing on getting viewers out to explore and utilize their favorite activities, and in turn returning that joy by putting back into the community. While the focus and locations were all based in British Columbia, it is the shared interest over the activity that helps it apply to a more international audience. Hopefully there can be more projects on the horizon to help people relate to what they do and put back in towards their communities, and also themselves.

Nicole Bridger — Eco Fashion Entrepreneur

Nicole was the first Canadian to win the international Eco-Designer of the Year award from Fashion Takes action in 2010, but she has long been on the forefront of innovative design in Vancouver. We are excited to have her supporting Vancouver Design Week this year.

1 Design is / design can _______?

Design is inspiration in physical form.

2 Why does it matter?

Creation is an inherent human need. We can lose sight of it's importance as we exist in the constructs of modern society.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

Vancouverites appreciate intelligent design. Design that is useful, beautiful in a more natural way, simple, sustainable and made well.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

We do not have old traditions of industry like other countries. It liberates us to create whatever we want. Therefore being able to lead in innovative design.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

Showing that it's possible to have an elegant, well made product that is made ethically and sustainably. I'd like this to become the norm for all business models.

D'Arcy Jones Architecture

D’Arcy Jones Architecture is a local, Vancouver based practice. They work on a variety of projects including modern houses, multifamily buildings, art galleries, renovations and interiors. We are honoured to have this award winning architecture firm participating in the 2017 Vancouver Design Week(end).

1 Design is / design can _______?

Design can be quiet or loud.

2 Why does it matter?

Everything unnatural that humans ever encounter was designed by someone: designed well, designed poorly, designed by a group, designed by an individual, designed for humanity, designed for institutionalization, designed for individuals, designed for the public, designed to last, designed to be trendy, designed flippantly, designed carefully, designed to save money, designed to flaunt money or designed to create value. This collectively creates our experience in the world, so design matters if we care about our experience or want to improve it.

3 What differentiates Vancouver design (from the rest of the world)?

Vancouver has a large proportion of designers who are not from Vancouver. This is unique, and creates a design culture that is outward-looking and tends to look for inspiration globally.

4 What impact is (Vancouver) design having?

Vancouver design has the greatest impact when it embraces regionalism, our grey climate, our nature and pluralism, stirring the pot to make something new.

5 What design impacts are you most proud of / what impact potential are you most excited about?

My studio works hard create inventive and interesting design that is neighbour-friendly, user-friendly and quiet. With our 430 House, the silhouette and structure of an unspectacular house from the 1980’s was entirely re-built inside. It is easy to drive or walk by this house and not even notice it, but at the interior we sculpted Vancouver’s soft grey light into modern and gracious spaces.

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