Career-View Mirror with Stuart Ash RGD Emeritus
RGD Emeritus Members take a look back at their career journey prior to retirement and share their experiences working in the Canadian design industry. Next up, Stuart Ash RGD Emeritus.
As a very young and new designer, Stuart, working for Cooper & Beatty, submitted a design concept for Canada’s Centennial symbol. The symbol, a stylized maple leaf, constructed from 11 equilateral triangles, representing the 10 provinces and the Northwest Territories (the accepted geography of Canada at the time), was picked out of the two submitted by the design firm. This launched his career.
Image: Courtesy of StuartAsh.ca
Shortly after the success of the Centennial symbol, Stuart started a design firm with Swiss designer Fritz Gottschalk. The international firm, eponymously named Gottschalk + Ash International, was centred on strategically-focused design.
What keeps you busy now? What are the outlets for your creativity and skills now that you’re retired?
While I am formally retired, I will always remain an active participant in the design community. I continue to offer guidance and insight to local community projects, as well as consulting on broader initiatives. One’s eye for design never retires. Outside of design, I’ve been tremendously involved in golf and sailing — a completely different mental challenge from design.
What were the biggest changes to the industry or practice of graphic design over your career?
I was fortunate enough to witness the evolution of design throughout my career. One of the most important advancements for design has been the adoption of brand identity into corporate business strategy. Placing the visual identity of a company at the forefront has resulted in design sophistication and investment, which, in turn, has made the role of the designer more prevalent and far reaching.
What were the greatest successes or accomplishments in your entire career?
My career has been incredible. I’m very proud to have contributed in meaningful ways for projects around the world, throughout the years. However, to me, the greatest accomplishment has always been the opportunity to work with a very talented group of designers, interacting with them throughout the creative brainstorming process. Sharing ideas and collaborating with the design community is what I’m most proud of.
What was the greatest lesson you learned over your career?
For me, design has always come from a simple idea that has resulted from a clear analysis of the problem. All of a sudden the solution just appears in front of you as a simple idea. I recognize that this is a very unique way that I view design, but leading with a simple, yet elegant solution has always been the most compelling design choice.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far since you’ve been retired?
Keep your mind and options open. Retirement is just a new phase and with it come new opportunities for your mind.
Is there any advice you could offer to a senior designer considering retirement?
I’ve found great fulfillment in contributing my skill and ideas to projects within my community. Like I mentioned previously, your design eye will never retire. Find ways to stay engaged with the design community as well — who knows what is yet to come!