3 Takeaways From Toronto DesignThinkers 2018

Back in October, our resident Graphic Designer Kevin Cascagnette (hey, that’s me!) had the opportunity to attend DesignThinkers Toronto, an industry leading conference put on by the RGD (Association of Registered Graphic Designers). More than 2,000 creatives participated in the event over the course of two jam-packed days. Forty-eight speakers dove deep into a broad range of topics, including “Augmenting The Everyday Through Design,” “NSFW: F*ck Your Office,” and “Interactions Speak Louder Than Words: The Role of Storytelling in UI Design.” The conference boasted design legends such as  Jessica Hische, Bonnie Siegler,Alex Center, and Michael Beirut (MICHAEL FREAKIN’ BEIRUT) talking about their careers, their triumphs, and their shortcomings. Simply put, it was a remarkable two days.

So how can I chalk up two days worth of knowledge into three main takeaways? With blood, sweat and gin, I will try (*pours gin*).

GIF of attendees and arrow pointing to Kevin Cascagnette at DesignThinkers Toronto 2018

Takeaway #1 – There’s a whole world of designers out there looking to collaborate, learn, and grow together.

When I first walked into the conference, I was struck by the number of people that were attending; there was a broad spectrum of design experience represented, everyone from young people studying design in school to seasoned pros looking for some fresh inspiration. It was amazing to watch a community form from this diverse group, with everyone excited to be among “their people.”

Over the two days, this collaborative group shared questions and tips and meaningful conversation, to the point that I learned almost as much from my fellow attendees as the keynote speakers. It reaffirmed a belief that everyone at Collaborative Haus shares: we’re better working together than working against one another.

Kevin Cascagnette, Diane Torlone from Toronto, and Suzie Djordjevic from Detroit

The conference also proved that designers don’t take themselves too seriously; the number of designer jokes certainly proved that (example: designers always wear black, so of course a sign was posted with “Look a sea of people wearing black” above the large foyer area).

Takeaway #2 – Think critically & cohesively before you design.

This one seems like a no-brainer right? It is, but the need to think critically & cohesively was also something that the conference stated repeatedly. As designers, we have to ask questions of ourselves and our clients that might be uncomfortable. We’ve all been in situations where we’re not on the same page as someone we’re working with, and we need to remember that to have a clear understanding of a project you need to align yourself through common frameworks and language to meet your goals.

An example of this is trying to explain the visual design of “trustworthy.” Using words and language can help us understand what “trustworthy” looks like to person A or person B. While person A or B might be able to agree on words that describe trustworthy, they may also be on different wavelengths when it comes to what a “trustworthy” typeface looks like. It’s through processes like setting up a t-chart and having our clients lay out different font choices on the chart that we’re able to better visualize what “trustworthy” or “dishonest” might look like. In the case of the t-chart below, we see that we can also have the other axis help us narrow in on other traits the client wants their logo to represent like the ability to be taken seriously. By designing with expectation and fail-safes in place to help ensure we’re all thinking critically & cohesively, designs begin to take form in meaningful and impactful ways.

Michael Bierut speaking at Design Thinkers TO 2018


Takeaway #3 – Stay Inspired.

By the end of the first session of the first day, I had already realized how inspiring the conference was going to be, and it honestly felt as though the entire design world was focused in on the streets of Toronto. In addition to the inspiration by being surrounded by like-minded people, many of the talks focused on how successful designers had managed to stay fresh. What was their secret? How do you keep making magic when you’ve worked in an industry for close to 40 years (MICHAEL FREAKIN’ BEIRUT)?

The answer is in many ways was to stay inspired. Josh Higgins,  Executive Creative Director at Facebook, said that “Art Inspires Community, Design Builds Community.” This quote helped awaken my mind to the fact that the art I had been admiring for years had a significant impact on my daily design work. The idea of searching for inspiration all around us can be a tired cliche but seems to ring true time and time again. These everyday inspirations are what fosters our creativity and challenges our perspectives.

Many of the speakers also spoke of personal projects that helped propel their creative thinking and expand their skill set. It was through these personal projects that designers were able to expand their network, improve their skill-sets, and understand what design looks like from our clients perspective. As Mitch Goldstein put it in his talk Unknowing, “I have started to understand more and more that my creative practice is not about knowing what I am doing – it’s about confidently not knowing what I am doing.” His philosophy of making for the sake of making has provided him with a myriad of creative opportunities both professionally and personally. Whether the project was playing with glue guns and Photoshop or working on campaigns, all of the speakers firmly planted in my mind the importance of “playing.”

Jessica Hische speaking at Design Thinkers TO 2018

Blood, Sweat, and Gin

To try and capture the entire depth of what I learned, heard, and was inspired by into three main takeaways was next to impossible. With some of that blood, sweat, and gin I mentioned earlier, I hope I was able to brush the surface just enough that you were able to get a sense of how valuable it was to me both personally and professionally. Thanks for reading.

Photos by Connie Tsang Photography for RGD

BONUS Takeaway

In addition to all of the takeaways stated above, there was also a trade show element to the conference where I was able to learn about cutting edge print processes that could take any of your print marketing to the next level,  so give us a call!

3 Takeaways From Toronto DesignThinkers 2018
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Spice Up Your Documents with these 4 Font Alternatives to Arial

We’ve all been there: looking at a letter, formal document, or poster with Arial staring back at us. Don’t get me wrong, Arial is a great font, it’s tried and true, and gets the job done. But at the end of the day, sometimes we’re looking for more than “getting the job done”, and that’s when our Alternatives to Arial come into play. Another awesome aspect to these fonts? They’re all Google Fonts, which means they’re easier to use on websites, free to download, and easily available from the Google Fonts site. So, without further adieu, 4 Font Alternatives to Arial To Spice Your Documents Up:

  1. Poppins
    A stunning geometric sans-serif font that combines functionality with a touch of curvy fun. The Poppins family includes five weights ranging from Light to Bold and also includes the alternatives required for Latin language elements like é, à, and ç and so on. Originally published by The Indian Type Foundry in 2014 and constantly growing in usage, this is a great alternative to Arial.
  2. Raleway
    Raleway might look familiar as it’s one of the font families used throughout the cHaus branding and website. Once again, combining a functionality with an element of fun, Raleway is perfect for businesses that are modern but don’t take themselves too seriously. Initially designed to only include a light weight, the font was expanded to include 9 other weights. Some of the interesting elements of Raleway include it’s approach to numbers. While most fonts keep numbers in line with text, Raleway drops some numbers below the descender line (see Anatomy of a Character here). This unique element can be both a positive and a negative, depending on who you ask, but don’t fret, as there are more traditional number characters available as alternatives included in the font.
  3. Montserrat
    Increasingly growing as one of my favourite fonts to use, Montserrat has an understated coolness to it that combines strong Caps letters with a retro vibe. According to typeface creator Julieta Ulanovsky, the font was inspired by the old posters and signs of the Montserrat neighbourhood of Buenos Aires and brings back some of the type-styles of the early part of the 20th century. If that isn’t a cool enough reason to download this font, maybe the fact that it is available in 9 different weights AND has an alternative version with rounded elements to it.
  4. Roboto
    Probably the most “Arialish” of the list, Roboto has all the elements that make a typeface great. It’s versatile, it’s professional when it needs to be, and it’s easy to read. The one noticeable difference to Arial is that Roboto has a more condensed look to it. This can be handy when you have a lot of content, but not a lot of space. Roboto is the only font on this list actually developed by Google and was actually created as the system font for the Android operating system. Google has described the font as “modern, yet approachable” and “emotional”. While it can be tricky to feel emotion when looking at a font, give it a try. Another fun fact about this font is that it is currently used on the B Division line of the New York City Subway.

And there you have it, four font alternatives to Arial that are sure to breathe some new life into your everyday typeface battles. When you’ve had enough of trying to figure out which fonts to use though, feel free to give us a call. We’ll be happy to quote on your graphic design needs!

Font-Lover-Kev, signing off.

Spice Up Your Documents with these 4 Font Alternatives to Arial
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5 Design Trends You’ll See in 2017

The trickiest part of design trends is that they’re almost never new, just a resurgence of a design aesthetic that was made popular before. Let’s take a look at 5 of the trends that will be making a strong comeback in 2017.



If 2016 was the year of thin and light minimal sans-serif fonts, 2017 will be the year of serifs – ranging from slab to slim. These fonts offer class and elegance and when combined with the right graphics can still come off as modern and fresh. Who knew Times New Roman would actually come in handy?


While this trend was popular in 2016, it’s not going anywhere. It allows for a bold and clear message. The trick to this trend is not over-using it and finding other creative ways to include it in photos.


As more website & print designs are heading towards minimalist layouts, many designers and brands are trying to find ways to infuse personality and vibrancy into their brand which is why bright colours are making a comeback. Many brands are shifting towards gradients with very subtle hue shifts. Instagram’s recent rebranding saw the introduction of their gradient colour palette across their apps.


While this trend might not be as easily spotted from afar, you can be sure it is out there. Designs Rooted in Reality are essentially designs that pull the familiar textures and effects commonly associated with the real world into the digital world. This includes more paper and ink textures online, and even the imitation of letterpress and other old school technologies.



Partially connected to designs rooted in reality, you should expect to see more logos with hand-drawn elements this year. Hand-drawn logos and graphics help to convey warmth and authenticity and will be most popular with brands wanting to connect to a more youthful audience.

5 Design Trends You’ll See in 2017
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6 Smartphone Photo Tips to take Your Images to the Next Level

You would be astonished at some of the amazing and captivating images that are perfect for sharing on social media taken using nothing more than your iPhone or other higher quality smartphone. We have six tips on how to make sure you’re getting the most out of that camera in your pocket.

1. Change your perspective

Try getting lower, holding your phone over the subject, or looking at your subject from a different point of view than you normally would. Step back or step forward, never use the built-in digital zoom, as this crops your image, getting rid of precious quality and pixels. Shooting straight on can work too. Experiment to see what works best for your subject.

Tools on a wood table shot from above

2. Vary Your Subject

If you work in a flower shop, don’t just take pictures of the flowers. Take pictures of the florist creating an arrangement. If you work in a construction company, show the process of the build, your employees working, and even your tools or materials that you use every day. These in action photos create dynamic imagery that won’t become stale over time.

An artist working on his next creation3. If the image is too dark or too light,   tap the screen to adjust exposure

Tapping on the screen where your subject appears will ensure the photo exposes for that portion of the photo. You can manually adjust the exposure to find the sweet spot by dragging up and down after you’ve tapped on the screen.while taking a picture of a globe tap on the screen to adjust settings

4. Use your volume button

Pro tip alert! You can use your volume button to snap the shot. If you’re holding the phone horizontally and want to increase stability, clicking the Volume Up button on the side of the phone works as a shutter button.Turn the phone sideways and use the volume buttons to shoot the picture

5. Let there be light…Not flash

Your photos will turn out better if you have more light in the image. Using natural light will give you the best results; turning on a light will certainly help with your results as well. Of course, flash is required when it is dark outside.

Plants near a window shoot well in natural light6. Don’t shoot in square mode, or with  a filter on

Shooting in square mode or with a filter already turned on limits the ways you can use your photo later. Shoot without a crop or filter on, and you will have the freedom to add those effects later while preserving the original image.

Plate of food shown half as original shot and half with applied iphone filter

– Kevin Cascagnette • Photographer + Graphic Designer

6 Smartphone Photo Tips to take Your Images to the Next Level
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Creative Design & Website Accessibility

As an Accessibility Specialist, I often hear comments from graphic and web designers that the new Ontario legislated digital accessibility guidelines limit and restrict their creativity. Many graphic designers appear to feel frustrated, angry and unaccepting of the AODA and WCAG 2.0 Level A & AA guidelines. In Ontario we’re entering a new online landscape that is throwing a different set of challenges at the digital industry.

Creative Design & Website Accessibility
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The Right Program for the Right Job

When professional designers get together they can argue for hours about which design program is the best.  Each designer has their favourite and it will quickly become their go-to program for almost everything. A designer may find one easiest to use only because they are most familiar with it.

Adobe ImageWhen it comes down to it though, every program is built for a reason and no one program can do it all.  A designer that offers a variety of services should be proficient with numerous programs. This article explains well which Adobe products are best suited for certain jobs. If you tend to always use one design program, it’s probably worth a read. It may open your eyes to why it’s worth keeping up with even your most hated design programs. Read Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign.

At Collaborative Haus we most often use Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Fireworks. Each is important to create the right solutions for our clients.

Collaborative Haus Marketing is a full-service marketing company in Ontario serving Midland, Penetanguishene, Barrie, Orillia, Parry Sound, Toronto, and surrounding areas. We’re a group of committed, honest, creative and knowledgeable professionals determined to build solutions that help your business succeed. We believe small, medium and big businesses deserve the same caliber of professionalism, quality of service and exceptional results.
Contact us today! Our first meeting is always free!

The Right Program for the Right Job
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