City Design Tour: Halifax
Greg Dubeau RGD, Freelance Graphic Designer and Instructor at NSCAD University, shares the design experience of his city, Halifax.

What makes your city’s design scene special/unique?

Halifax is a very entrepreneurial city. I think it has to do with our “East Coast Hospitality”. In particular, how kind and supportive we are by nature, as well as our long history of trade and commerce. Everyone and their dog has at least one side-hustle they’re working on. It’s an inspiring environment to be a part of and compete in because there’s such a cross-disciplinary approach to design. Rarely do you find a graphic designer who identifies only as a graphic designer. There’s always another creative outlet that plays support to their work, whether it’s hiphop dance, interior design, leatherwork or podcasting. The work being produced always keeps me interested because it’s so diverse and outside of what you’d think a typical solution would be to a problem.

Is there a place in Halifax that inspires you as a designer?

The bar! But you have to say it like you’re from Atlantic Canada, so you’d say “the burr”. So much of “East Coast Hospitality” has to do with comfort and sharing good times, so usually everything you do will eventually lead to some sort of food and drink. Frank Chimero has a great quote—he wrote, “The most important things happen around a table. Food, friends, discovery, ideas, work, peace talks and war.” And I tend to agree. The friendships and partnerships I’ve made with Halifax creatives are usually forged on the slick and sud-covered tables of downtown Halifax pubs, patios and cocktail bars. A short-list of my Halifax favs include: Bar Kismet, 2 Crows Brewing, Stillwell, Little Oak Bar, Highwayman and The Split Crow.
Is there a design project that stands out for you as emblematic of the local design scene?
There’s a pretty cool design partnership going on right now between small local breweries and freelance designers/small studios. Dose Media are illustrating some wild cans for Garrison BrewingPaul Douglas from Melon Design recently rebranded the entire fleet for Propeller and Alex MacAskill from Midnight Oil Print & Design House is making some artistic choices for 2 Crows Brewing Co and their crazy-weird brews such as the Sauvignon Blanc barrel-aged sour with lemon and elderflower. Like, wtf is that? I assure you that beer and can are a pleasure for both the eyes and the taste buds.

What do you wish Halifax had that designers would really benefit from?

We need more events that bring graphic designers together. I have zero problem cold-calling people I admire and asking them to meet up for a coffee or a cocktail, but I feel there are some creatives who would benefit more from a group setting or event. An annual Halifax event for graphic designers would go a long way to build our community, create networking opportunities, become inspired and celebrate our unique design culture.


Are there any challenges that designers in your city face?

Halifax, in many ways, is in the midst of an identity crisis. Of the Atlantic provinces, we are the hub of business and culture; however, in comparison to the rest of Canada, we are an outpost that’s nice to visit in the summer. It gets confusing because half of Halifax clients think we’re big, while the other half think we’re small. This creates an inconsistent professional climate for both creatives and clients because expectations are rarely aligned. There are no set local standards. For example, professional rates and credentials are routinely scrutinized no matter the size of a client’s business or breadth of designer’s experience.