The Word Project 2
Agency: Kaldor Brand Strategy & Design
I dreamed up the Word Project on my very first day on the Kaldor team. It was the first work day of the new year, and we wanted a fun studio project that would push us creatively. Ever a writer, I suggested words: I would choose a word and write a story that represented that word. Then a member of the design team would create a visual representation of the word and story. Never in a million years did I imagine that the words I chose would be created using mustard, sawdust, flowers, flour and meat substitutes. And I definitely didn't expect how frequently a laser would be involved. Below, four of my favourite stories from the Word Project (and the gorgeous graphics that accompanied them).
I’m a proud resident of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I moved there a year ago when I was offered a suite in a housing cooperative. I was delighted; my parents, less so, particularly when I told them my address — two blocks from the notorious corner of Main and Hastings. An intersection that we used to drive through on childhood visits to Vancouver; where my mum would tell my brother and me to lock our car doors.
In my year living in the Downtown Eastside, I’ve seen — and heard, and smelled — some alarming, uncomfortable, and disturbing things. Drugs, domestic violence, the sex trade, mental illness: all up close. But I think the most disturbing thing I see regularly isn’t the behaviour of my neighbours, but that of people visiting. The degree to which people visiting this neighbourhood can treat its inhabitants with sneering disrespect — or disregard them completely — is what makes me saddest.
If, while rushing down that ‘sketchy’ block between their favourite boutique and the hippest new microbrewery, these interlopers were to look around a bit — to really look — they would see something remarkable. You can’t spend more than an hour in the Downtown Eastside with eyes and ears open without noticing what an obvious sense of community the neighbourhood has. It’s palpable. The people are friendly, and polite, and eager to connect. Everyone knows everyone — not just their names, but their stories. And oh, the stories that exist there. They’ll humble you and enlighten you and break your heart.
I don’t mean to diminish the significant suffering that exists in the Downtown Eastside, but rather to point out that with the bad comes the good. And to avert your eyes from the bad — the sad, the disturbing, the unsightly — means missing the good too.
I’ve always been a storyteller. We all are, really, us humans. They say there have been civilizations that never used the wheel, but there’s never been one that hasn’t told stories.
I just happened to be someone who always liked to write my stories down. In pastel-coloured Hilroy notebooks as a second-grader: plotless tales that consisted mainly of describing and naming a family’s numerous pets. Then on my Grandpa Ed’s typewriters (he had many): slightly more sophisticated accounts of girls who experienced disasters the night before they were set to star in the school play (!). Then mystery ‘novels’ on my dad’s early laptops, which were massive and heavy and prone to overheating (the laptops, not the prose). After that, it was embarrassingly misguided teen romances — also on my dad’s business laptop, only these ones I felt the need to password-protect. One of those teen romances, which I printed and distributed to my friends, is sure to surface one day. I blush at the thought.
Fast-forward fifteen years, and I am one of the fortunate few who gets to do what I loved as a youngster as a big part of my day job. I get to tell stories for a living.
down (adj.; n.; adv.; v.; prep.)
Down is one of those words with about a thousand different uses and meanings. You can be knocked down, brought down, shot down. You can get down on the dance floor. You can double down on a bet, or get a down — or a touchdown — in football. You can down a drink, or lie down beneath a duvet made of the finest goose down. To be down for something is to be willing to do it (interestingly, to be up for something means virtually the same thing). To feel down is to be sad. Life has its ups and downs.
Of up and down, the latter is (hands down) the more negative of the two (see: “Our WiFi’s down”). Not so in mountain biking — a pastime that is the talk of the Kaldor studio at this time of year. In mountain biking, you endure grueling ups in order to enjoy exhilarating downs, again and again and again. A couple of weekends ago, Paul and Tristan competed in an Enduro mountain-biking race in Pemberton, where they repeatedly spent two hours or more climbing punishing trails. The payoff: less than 15 minutes in descent. To me, that ratio sounds thoroughly unappealing. But to Paul and Tristan and Conor, those downs are worth all the ups in the world.
I’ve just passed the two-year anniversary of my repatriation to Canada. Of getting kicked out of Australia and sent back to Canada — not quite kicking and screaming, but nearly. I had spent about two years Down Under, studying, working a little, but mostly enjoying the mecca of food and festivals that is Melbourne. And the coffee! Oh, how I miss the coffee.
But I didn’t have the right passport, and ultimately I had to leave. I didn’t want to do it, but it was the right thing to do. Having spent my twenties flitting about, it was time to put down roots somewhere, and ideally that somewhere wouldn’t be 14,000 kilometres from the most important people in my life. I waited until the last moment — twenty-six days after my visa expired, and two days before I could get in real trouble for violating its terms — and flew back to Canada.
It was hard. I still miss Melbourne all the time. But after weekends like the one just past — spent climbing mountains overlooking the incredible Howe Sound — Vancouver seems a pretty decent place to put down those roots.
It’s got pretty good coffee too.