The Word Project 3
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).
Words have generally accepted meanings — the venerable Oxford English Dictionary and its (lesser) equivalents tell us what those meanings are. Meaning, pronunciation, origin: all there, in black and white. But then there’s what words actually mean to us — the meanings that words take on; their connotations in three-dimensional life.
Recently those meanings sparked a conversation between our team and a team we’re collaborating with. Thrift. The way thrift was described, to me, was wonderful: closely tied to the prairie farmer, who made do with what was available to him. He solved a problem in the most elegant way possible with the resources at his disposal. He was sustainable before DiCaprio made sustainability cool. He wasted not, and wanted not. This image reminded me of a couple of wonderful men I’ve known: romantic types. First, my Grandpa Ed, himself a prairie farmer, who could use the parts of an old typewriter to fix his lawnmower. Second, my favourite journalism professor, who taught us that the best writing is writing with thrift — writing that does the most with the fewest words. Something that I aspire to, but (you may have noticed) continue to struggle with.
But in society, thrift has adopted a meaning that is anything but romantic. It’s been tainted by the Sally Ann, by Value Village. By our ‘shabby chic’ (but mostly just shabby), cobbled-together university furniture and sweaters that never quite lose that smell. It’s come to denote cheapness.
A good word, spoiled.
blank (adj.; n.; v.)
Don’t ask me how it’s already September. It seems I was just writing about school letting out for summer, and just like that it’s back in session. No matter how old I am, or how many years separate me from my school days, I think I’ll always have a bit of a pang at this time of year. It’s not so much that I long to return to school — 19 years in a classroom is plenty, thanks — but rather what this time of year represents.
Newness. A blank page. A fresh start.
It’s loading blank, crisp sheets of loose leaf paper into stiff new three-ring binders. It’s freshly sharpened pencils with pristine pink erasers, and pens whose caps have yet to be chewed or lost.
Evidently, my love for this time of year has nothing to do with school, really, and everything to do with stationery.
They say that smell is the sense most closely tied to memory. Something to do with the olfactory bulb, apparently. Whatever the biological explanation, my own experience suggests that the two are absolutely, irrevocably intertwined.
Some medicinal smells take me right back to getting stitches on my head when I was seven. Certain colognes are strongly tied to certain ex-boyfriends. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can call to mind the smell of my grandparents’ beloved, long-gone home or my parents’ old Volvo station wagon. For a second, I can actually smell it, twenty years later.
And petrichor — the scent of rain hitting earth — has a more general association: summer. During a Vancouver winter, rain is too commonplace to really notice or appreciate the smell. But in summer, after a long hot stretch, those first drops of rain hitting dry earth smell a bit like magic. In my early life living on the Prairies, the smell promised a thunderstorm (something all too rare in Vancouver). During my Okanagan years, it meant potential relief from wild fires. And in Vancouver, it gives permission to take cover for a bit — to give myself a short break from hiking, biking, and adventuring, and to spend an evening indoors, windows wide open, with a good book.
A smell so wonderful should have a lovelier name, don’t you think?
And this, the very last Word Project we ever did. It was an effervescent masterpiece, involving an aquarium and a bunch of Alka Seltzer.
Somehow, inexplicably, it’s silly season again. Time for too many eggnogs (and glasses of wine… and whiskey sours… and pints…). Time for too much everything, really, except maybe vegetables and sleep and extra room in one’s pants.
Last week, we at Kaldor celebrated the season of excess with… an evening of excess. Two years in a row we’ve gone to Chambar and been well looked after by the most baby-faced of sommeliers, whom we (okay, mainly I) have affectionately referred to as Doogie. The reference is (of course) entirely lost on him.
Kaldor celebrations are always topped off with the same tradition: high-low. Each of us identifies the high point and the low point of our year at Kaldor. It’s always surprising and amusing and touching. We’re often a little tipsy by the time we get to it, which makes it all the more interesting. It’s my favourite Kaldor tradition… tied, perhaps, with Kaldor Day.
As the Kaldor team winds down for our holiday break, we wish you a Christmas and new year filled with the highest of highs.