Author
Andrew

I’m very grateful to be living in this country called Canada, now celebrating its 150th birthday.

In my over twelve years of living here, I have found that the country’s kindness and warmth abounds and that, despite the generally freaking cold geographical climate, its friendliness gets expressed in many different and distinct ways. Mostly it’s in the conversations, populated with a lot of sorries, sureness, and substance. This friendliness is also embedded in the visual culture and history of the country, the shapes and symbols that together express the physical and psychic landscape we experience today.

While these lands have been inhabited by numerous peoples over thousands of years, Canada’s 150th makes it a relative baby among the nations of the world. In honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary, I thought I would share some personal and professional reflections on three important visual Canadian milestones.

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Fightin' Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, widely credited with inventing the web in 1991, recently received the Turing Award. The prize is basically a Nobel for nerds—and it includes a $1 million in funds courtesy of our friends at Google.

The early and sometimes goofy web that Sir Berners-Lee created is now a sophisticated, trusted and (sometimes hostile) reserve of information, ideas, and communities. We are blessed to have this wealth of collected information and connectivity and owe much to Berners-Lee and those early assemblers of markup and extensive system planning. As many programmers will attest, code is debt; behind the entirety of the web are countless hours of design and technical thinking and development that cannot and will not ever be repaid.

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The Purpose Project Recipe

Let's take matters into our own hands.

Manoverboard celebrated its 15th anniversary in January. While I’m not big on celebrating business-focused events, I am well aware that this is a milestone.

I’ve reflected upon this anniversary quite a bit, actually. Staying in business for a single year is hard. Doing it for 15 years somehow seems like defeating the odds.

But we did it.

And I’d like to think that the longevity has a little bit to do with giving away work.

I know that sounds counter-intuitive. It might even sound dangerous. But when I started the company in Brooklyn fifteen years ago, the dot-com economy had crashed and, in its wake, I saw an abundance of nonprofit organizations who were in dire need of design and technology services. My goal was to start a business that would help those nonprofits and, on occasion, give the work away for free or at a lower cost. That was the goal.
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clouds

The year 2016 was a year of forward motion for us at Manoverboard. We made great strides in our work, creating new strategies, sites, and identities for clients that are helping to solve some of the planet’s most challenging issues.

As a Certified B Corporation, we also made strides in conceptualizing, concretizing, and describing our social and environmental impact.

Like any small not-only-for-profit, there are challenges in creating and measuring that impact. We are not strictly a social enterprise, which typically provides opportunities to vulnerable or disenfranchised populations. We are also not a social impact firm in which our work directly influences the lives and livelihoods of the poor and economically disadvantaged. And we are not (yet) directly developing new solutions in the green economy, though we are strong advocates and users of sustainable technologies. Fundamentally, Manoverboard is a professional services firm and we have three direct means of creating and measuring positive impact.

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Designers and Despotism

ministry of science and culture

A number of designers have recently posted their thoughts about how we should respond to the potential emergence of autocracy. Mike Monteiro’s piece is particularly ranty and, as expected, simply great. My colleague, Spark Poster, wrote a Canadian-focused and thoughtful response.

As the founder of a design and communications firm and someone who is active in the design community, I put together a few ground rules for protecting ourselves and advancing movements. In the mid-1990s, I lived in Poland for a year and came to understand how traumatic Soviet and National Socialist domination was for that country. It had only been a short while since Poland had emerged from 55 years of totalitarian rule and the scars and stories were still very real. And designers and artists throughout Eastern Europe bore some of the brunt of the state. Many went to jail. (Sadly, Poland and parts of Europe are again undergoing a shift toward authoritarianism.)

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