"We wanted to do something to challenge ourselves on a number of levels," explains Rod Roodenburg, Partner at Ion. "Sure, we wanted to create something that was visually compelling, but equally important was the content and message. This was an opportunity to influence social change and develop a discourse about some of the things that concern us every day at a personal level."
Ion was introduced to Flash Reproductions and Wayward Arts through an industry connection. "My partner David Coates had been in contact with Susan Corbeil, Director, Specification Sales at Veritiv who provides the paper, while I had just finished judging the UVU Design and Print Awards. She connected us thinking we might be a good fit," says Rod.
After brainstorming different ways to approach the counterculture theme, the team came up with the concept of 'off-grid living'. To better understand the topic and collect content for the issue, Ion collaborated with Phillip Vannini, Jonathan Taggart, the Gasper family, Ash Bigdeli, Erin Sage and many others.
"It became a massive research project for us, and we are grateful to all of the contributors. The project expanded throughout our network of resources, embracing friends and contacts from near and far," says Rod. "What we discovered, and what we hope people will take away from it, is that off-grid living is a socially connected and environmentally responsible lifestyle choice. It’s not kooks in the woods. It has a high cool factor and it can be found throughout our social structure. More than anything else, it's a philosophy of living."
The issue uses a number of unique technical printing techniques including the application of silkscreen, spot colours and spot varnish. Rod points out the irony of using Yupo, which is a synthetic material, in an issue about 'off-grid living', but emphasizes the importance of creating a piece that would endure and could be passed along to others. "It also combines well with the thin stock we selected for superior opacity and printability with minimal weight, making for efficient shipping. Plus, it's fully recyclable."
The smoothness of the printing surface increased the level of detail in photos and imagery used in the issue, for which Ion used a simple design approach. "We wanted to convey a sense of raw energy and simplicity on some of the spreads. The cover shows this approach well, combining a simple and intentionally naïve illustration of a power bar plugged into itself on a perfectly flat yellow background and fluorescent silkscreened abstract type. This graphically captures the nature of off-grid living, where minimalist elements are combined to maximize resources with the smallest footprint possible."
To coordinate the research, writing and artwork for the project, Ion conducted weekly meetings at the studio and connected with collaborators remotely using Basecamp, email and by phone. "We also went further afield with a trip to the gulf islands and collected information and artifacts throughout the region in Metro Vancouver and beyond," explains Rod. "We brought the eclectic content and graphic styling together through a robust but flexible grid and consistent use of working fonts and typography."
On the project overall, Rod and the team at Ion express their gratitude and appreciation to Flash Reproductions for providing room to be creative with their approach to the topic. "What struck us most of all was that this was truly a passion project for Flash and Veritiv, as it was for us, and they were willing to take the journey with us as far as we wanted to go. It’s a rare opportunity these days and it demonstrates the power of creativity and what you can do with some imagination and the desire to do things differently. Even the ads we designed for Flash and Veritiv were left to us – so obviously we chose hamsters to express the untapped energy source of the future and driving force behind Veritiv’s success."
Support was provided by writers and editors Lynn Sully and Ward Stendahl at Inscript, plus Adam Rogers and Paul Joseph, principal illustrator and photographer respectively, and other contributors of content and imagery noted above. Designer Keith Martin supplied the killer moth photo which was then combined with a styled photo by Paul and cleverly assembled with design and typography by Ion designer Vanessa Ding, who also illustrated the Winnie the Pooh spread. Ion partner David Coates, Keith Leinweber and Rod Roodenburg, with intern Adam Flynn, took on content development for the various stories and spreads, and art directed or created illustrations and photography.
About Wayward Arts
Wayward Arts is a monthly publication printed by Flash Reproductions, with paper provided by Unisource Canada in conjunction with their mill suppliers. A different design firm is invited to curate each issue, changing the design, layout, colours, mood and paper to reflect their interpretation of the year’s over-arching theme.