Design Industry Insights from Northern Ontario
Studio123 Partners
Nico Taus RGD, Creative Director at Sudbury design firm Studio123, shares insights on the current state of the design industry in Northern Ontario, including the challenges, benefits and recent developments.


Describe the current state of the design industry in Sudbury.

Simply put, the industry in Sudbury is oversaturated. With a population of only 160 000, there are a dozen companies who offer design services, and a countless amount of low-level design suppliers who offer the service part-time beyond their regular 9-5. There are also several regional design firms throughout Northern Ontario who compete for larger Northern Ontario contracts from North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie. Sudbury tends to be behind the times by about 5 years, so converting static websites to responsive websites is currently the most in demand service and has been for the last several years.


Traditional design services like branding and print design continue to be in demand. App design/development is often requested due to the popularity of apps, but there aren’t many companies who are yet willing to invest in the higher cost of developing apps. SEO services are becoming more and more popular and clients are generally more concerned with ranking higher than their competitors than the quality of their creative or communications. They are willing to pay more for online marketing and are generally less concerned with design as they don’t necessarily realize the importance of design as a business tool.



In comparison to 10 years ago, companies are investing more and more in design and marketing due to increased competition and due to the advent of social media marketing.


Over the past few years, what changes to the industry have you noticed most in Northern Ontario?

Due to the growing popularity of low-cost DIY design builder websites like Squarespace, as well as numerous crowdsourcing design service websites, the competition is becoming fierce. Clients understand the benefit of getting custom work done, but often settle for template builders or crowdsourcing services for affordability reasons. 


On a more positive note, the ever-evolving world of social media marketing has created new marketing avenues for clients and new revenue streams for design agencies. For example, video marketing for social media output, gif animation marketing, Instagram marketing, Periscope marketing, Snapchat marketing, lifestyle marketing and content development for social media are all services that were non existent only 10 years ago. Developments in Virtual Reality, Facebook live, Facebook 360 and others will totally revolutionize our industry and create new and exciting marketing avenues for clients.



Why do you work in Sudbury, considering the geographic location and your agency itself?

Sudbury has always been our home. We feel passionate about making our city a better place. There are many benefits to living in Sudbury—with access to over 130 lakes within our city limits we are able to enjoy both an outdoor, and urban lifestyle. Sudbury has a vibrant arts scene (visual arts, theatre, music festivals etc) as well as a strong bilingual culture. Sudbury is home to Canada’s first architecture school in over 40 years and a small, yet burgeoning design culture is emerging. Due to the remoteness of Northern Ontario, Sudbury has become a regional hub for both Education and Health, bringing in people from across the North. We have developed our own culture and economy without depending on proximity to larger cities. This allows us to be a big fish in a small pond.


Studio123 is a creative agency rooted in beautiful Northern Ontario. Founded in 2013 by Rob Roy, Nico Taus RGD and Christian Pelletier, Studio123 has rapidly become one of the most prominent communications firms in the North. We create the customer experience — from the brand they love, and the marketing pieces they touch, to the digital world where they interact.