Taylor Garries

Branding, Creative & Art Direction

I’m a Professional!


I had intended to join the GDC (Canada’s professional graphic design organization) some time ago. But life, and a frightening application process, kept me from making the effort until recently. While not impossible, joining the GDC at the professional level requires you submit yourself, and your work, to some amount of scrutiny. Enough at least to cause a few stress-filled weeks despite my self-confidence in my practice and abilities.

I’ve just received confirmation that I’ve been accepted as a Professional Certified Graphic Designer with the Alberta North chapter of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada. I guess that makes me Taylor Garries, CGD. Time to order some new business cards.

What is a CGD?

For practicing designers, including web and new media designers, professional design educators and design administrators with at least seven years of graphic design education and professional practice.

From the GDC website.


Open 9 Days a Week

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I am forever fascinated with the subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways that brands use to strike the right tone in their communications. I love seeing little bits of whimsy in what can otherwise be a sterile landscape. Surprise and delight, I often say, are some of the key elements for building a memorable experience and eliciting passion from your audience.


Michael Bierut’s Best Work


Michael Bierut is a star in the design world. When it comes to practicing designers, he might be one of the best known—and for good reason, too. While his work has received almost every accolade, honour, and mention that the profession has, it’s his insights into the practice of design that I enjoy the most. (His Creative Mornings talk about his clients remains an absolute favourite of mine.)

I stumbled across this at HowDesign.com. It profiles Bierut’s all-time best piece of work—a tremendously creative solution to the challenge presented by the project. Like anyone who has mastered his art, Bierut makes it look so simple and easy.


Well, I don’t love it


I’ve had to present creative concepts before. While it can be the most rewarding part of the project, often the experience is completely deflating. That’s why I was so taken with this article in The Province that recounts the moment Nike executives got their first look at the now-iconic logo.

When the Nike pioneers caught their first glimpse of the black, curvy checkmark, the graphic designer who created it waited patiently for a reaction.

Nothing. Then, “What else you got?”

Carolyn Davidson, pushing back disappointment that spring day in 1971, pressed on. One by one, she presented a handful of sketches. But ultimately the three men circled back to the checkmark, her favourite.

“Well, I don’t love it,” Phil Knight said at the time, “but maybe it will grow on me.”


Pepsi Mega Jug for Diabetes


I believe this came from KFC. I think about all of the people who worked on this endeavour: the person who came up with the idea, the designer who laid out the artwork, the sign maker/printer who created it, and the people who installed it. I think about them and wonder: Was the irony of selling massive servings of sugar-water to raise money for diabetes research lost on any of them?


Dealership Fails in Last Mile of Internet Campaign


Because I’m trying to sell my car, I wanted to know how much it’s worth. Many dealerships have a deal with car appraisal engine Kelley Blue Book, so that you can get an estimate on your trade-in on the dealership’s website for free. It works as a nice lead-generation tool for the dealership: I get a free appraisal on my car, and they get my contact info to try to sell me a new car.

As expected, I got a follow-up email. Here’s the body of the email, verbatim:

My name is Dale internet and sales consultant if you are wanting to sell or trade your Lancer please give me a call we are always needing vehicles that are in good condition and we pay top dollar for trades also I have a young lady looking for a car like yours so if I can help I will be happy to thanks talk with you soon

So, the dealership (one of the “big three”) spends time and money developing its brand and Internet strategy. They build a website and create YouTube videos. Everything is just right. And then this email gets sent out …

These emails should be scripted and polished. It would only take a few minutes to clean up this introductory email, so why wouldn’t the dealership bother to do it? This writing shouldn’t make its way out of sixth grade. What qualities does this email impart on the dealership’s brand?

… also I have a young lady looking for a car like yours …

Sure you do. Sure you do.

This goes back to what I’ve said a few days ago: Employees have the greatest ability to shape the brand.

Photo, We Con courtesy of Boeke.


Marketing with Lies

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I talk about lies in marketing often—probably because I find them so offensive. It’s a little bit like hating garbage, though: It’s not hard to find these things offensive.

I received this voicemail the other day. It is (for lack of a better word) a scam. I’ve been building websites and involved in search engine listings since 1996; I know how search engines work. The things said in this voicemail range from misleading to outright false. It sounds pretty convincing, however, and if I didn’t know better, I could probably be convinced to part with some money for this snake oil.

This reminds me of the Domain Registry of Canada, a similar operation that relies on misleading marketing and half-truths for its business model. I won’t get into its operation here, but if you Google “Domain Registry of Canada scam,” you’ll turn up plenty of write-ups.


Ron Tite’s Customer Service in the Digital Age


Ron Tite relates how his negative airline experience really took off. It’s a great story that is told perfectly and carries a lot of valuable lessons.

I actually got to see Ron Tite back on May 18. He was a tremendous speaker who talked my kind of language. I am just tickled to see that he has a ton more videos on YouTube; they are worth checking out.


Canadian Olympic Committee Rebrand


Brand New has a (typically) great write-up on the Canadian Olympic Committee rebrand, which is also fantastic.

The element of the rebrand that has me shaking my head in an I-wish-I-did-that manner is the mosaic that they created based on the maple leaf. A technique in identity design that I think we’ll start seeing more often, it will surely replace the current trend of designing logos with gradients.



Sometimes, People Will Believe Anything

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This picture—which is a hoax—has been making the rounds on Twitter lately. Brandchannel has a great write-up on this situation. Aside from the content itself being ridiculous (At the very least, why would McDonald’s alienate a large segment of the audience like that?), the phone number shown at the bottom is for the KFC headquarters.

What I find interesting about this is why people take it seriously. The main reason is that we tend to suspend disbelief when we see things like this online. We assume that someone, somewhere, has taken the time to verify this. We assume that because it exists, it must be true.

The other reason this works is that it looks legitimate:

  • The typeface looks correct.
  • Everything is lined up properly (with nothing centre-aligned).
  • The language sounds like it came out of a head office.

In fact, the only visual clues that suggest that this isn’t legit are the masking tape sloppily tacking the sign up and the odd margins (especially on the right side of the sign).

I’ve found that you don’t have to be a designer or a marketer to be pretty savvy about what looks like legitimate communication. People are very good at sensing when things just don’t look right, at least at a very low level. This is why the email scams are appearing more and more “legitimate” nowadays. It is also why it’s so important for your collateral to be designed to reflect your brand’s promise: your audience can sense when your materials don’t reflect your message.