Memories of early logos

I was looking through some old photos recently and came across some shots I’d almost forgotten about. I’d gone to school in Kamloops, and started my freelance design career there as my work started getting seen and known throughout the community. I’d been fortunate enough to create for a number of nightclubs, a tanning studio, an auto body shop, restaurants, a ski and snowboard company and many others – with no idea of where it was all going.

It was always a thrill to see a poster or sign that I’d created for another business up around the city. Eventually I was asked to help create logos for new startups, and it immediately became clear to me what an incredible honour and responsibility this was.

One of my existing clients had decided to open a new business at the local ski resort, Sun Peaks. It was to be a “soup bar”, that would serve up to 9 different gourmet soups daily, and appeal to the upscale, on-the-go crowd of the resort. We had several meetings, I did my research and went through my processes, eventually creating the approved logo. The owner was happy, I sent over the files, and carried on.

Spoon Soup BarA few weeks went by and I needed to go up to Sun Peaks to meet with another client. As I walked through the resort, I chanced upon the logo I’d created, now made real, physically right in front of me with freshly fallen snow resting upon it. It stopped me dead in my tracks, and I stared at it for a long while. I watched resort visitors walk past, some glancing at the sign I’d made, some even looking, pointing and going in. I’d created the icon that would represent this business and everyone that worked for it, and here it was, collecting snow and looking right in place alongside the multi million dollar hotels and other trendy shops. Suddenly, I was infatuated with the art and science of logos. 

Spoon Soup Bar is long since gone, but it will always stick with me as one of the first logos I created. No matter how many I am fortunate enough to create, it will always be an honour and an incredible responsibility.  A logo is never just another paycheque – it’s about helping bring someone’s dream to life, and that? That should always stop you in your tracks with wonder.

This Ambition Crew went to Market…

This past week we were able to revisit a career rite of passage for a lot of people – working retail during the Christmas season. We were invited by A Little Taste of Country (shop online with them here!) to help decorate their location in Calgary’s newest destination market, Granary Road, and to assist with guests for the Market’s VIP event. This was exciting because we’re big fans of A Little Taste of Country (seriously, try the iced honey – or the pickles. Have you had pickled garlic before? The all natural jam is incredible too… Wait, where was I?)   – and also because it’s always great to have the opportunity to meet new people. Spending time on the action-packed floor of their space, observing how Market guests approached their location, the way staff interacted with those guests, and how people spent their time in A Little Taste of Country is always valuable. For us, however, it was also a really incredible honour to be asked to be their brand ambassadors during a VIP event. Local media personalities, politicians and other esteemed guests were all in attendance at Granary Road and we all wanted to put our best foot forward. Continue reading

Zen and the Art of Customer Service, Part II

Like a lot of people, this time of year can really affect me if I’m not careful. The dreary weather, the too-few hours of daylight.. On more than one occasion I’ve considered swapping hemispheres to cheer up through the winter months!

grumpy_calvinA few days ago, I found myself in a funk. The weather and some personal things had all ganged up on me, leaving me in an incredibly grumpy mood. Fortunately, I’d had a massage therapy session booked for that day so I was at least appreciative of that. Grumbling my way through the cold, grey day, I walked in to my therapist’s office and was immediately greeted by their receptionist. For a moment I was the only person in the waiting area, so we chatted for a few moments until it was time for my appointment. I didn’t think too much of it, and a few minutes later my therapist came to bring me in to the room. A few minutes and some elbows through my ribcage into my session, I was having another chat with my massage therapist / psychiatrist. Continue reading

“Ambition never rests.”

All across the continent, it’s a long weekend and people are enjoying their days off. People are at beaches, out camping, doing all the things they didn’t manage to sneak into their summer before now. It’s a time of happiness, sunshine and smiles – and here I am, at my desk, working. I am happy about this.

For those that work an hourly gig, or punch a clock and spend half their working hours watching that clock, I get it. But we’re building something here, and when it means I get to put in some extra hours to take the company to the next level – I’ll happily do it. This summer I took a week away from the office to go surfing. I took exactly zero days off for this. In the mornings I would work and catch up on emails, in the afternoon I’d surf, and in the evenings I’d check in again to see if anything pressing required attention. Not a bad way to spend a week, really.

“Ambition never rests.”

Just now, I called a client to check in on a couple of projects. He said to me, “It’s the long weekend! Don’t you ever take a day off?” I replied, only lightly joking, “Ambition never rests.” He laughed and said this was definitely true.

Some people are happy to work their nine to five and forget about work the second they punch out – and that’s entirely fine. Some people dream of building their brand into something known across the world and put in incredible hours to make it happen – and that’s entirely fine too. Do what makes you happy, and do what makes you go to bed at night with a smile on your face and excitement for tomorrow.

What’s your goal? What makes you happy? Leave your comment in the section below!


Toronto Raptors unveil new logo

The Toronto Raptors announced their new logo for next year’s season this week. Almost immediately, the Brooklyn Nets (who eliminated the Raptors from the playoffs last season), tweeted their thoughts about the logo:
“.@Raptors Looks familiar”

Now why would they say that? Let’s take a look:

Now, granted, there’s only so many different ways you can draw a basketball… but maybe Brooklyn has a point.

What do you think? Is the Raptors’ new logo too similar, or is this a coincidence resulting form each team using a long-standing formula for circular logos? Or, is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Post your thoughts below!

Stop. Breathe.

Every now and then I’m guilty of letting myself get so busy I not only don’t see the forest for the trees, I usually wind up walking face-first into one of those trees.


It’s easy enough to do, and for a chunk of the time that it happens, I’m usually happy about it. It goes like this: I realize I am Very Busy and immediately make a list of things that Must Be Done Right Bloody Now Or Else, prioritize and get to them. Of course, as I am furiously working away, emails arrive or someone stops at my desk with something they need help on and then there’s that to think of and this Project We Forgot About that was needed yesterday and that other thing for the meeting tomorrow and….

..and suddenly it’s not even the end of the week, it’s the Monday of the following week and my head is still spinning and I’m going 300 miles an hour in every direction possible.

Stop. Breathe.

Confession: I love being busy. As a business owner, busy equals making money. Back when I was an employee, busy meant I was necessary. Busy meant I was doing my job well and was being given more trust and responsibilities.

When I was given my first big break, I took on every challenge and opportunity I could get because I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I deserved it. I ended up working ridiculous hours, often putting in 12-16+ hour days to try and handle everything. As you can imagine, this isn’t the best idea when your job is to be creative. One day, in the middle of a management meeting we were all brainstorming for ideas. I was running on zero sleep and was making my list of things I needed to catch up on when one of the managers came up with a great idea. The company president looked at me and said “I thought you were supposed to be the creative one? Why is he coming up with the good ideas?”

It was barely a half-serious comment and we all carried on exploring the idea, but it had cut me to the quick. I had wanted to say “Because I was the only one here until after midnight 3 nights this week while you all were sleeping!” – but knew there was nothing to be gained by that. The person who had made me stay that late was me. I realized that working such long hours had become a vicious circle: I wasn’t at full capacity and so I needed to keep going longer to get the work done. I was a race car running with one cylinder down, not taking the time to hit the pits for repairs and instead being slower and slower on every lap.

I shut down at 5 o’clock that night alongside everyone else. Went home and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t work that weekend. I returned to the office on Monday and before I opened my emails or answered the blinking voicemail light waiting for me, I took a moment to breathe. To focus on what I wanted to accomplish. To think forward through my current projects and also think big picture for a moment. I made some notes and then waded into the task lists waiting for me.

Several years later, I still remember that moment clear as day. While I am always grateful to be busy, I do my best to take some time every day for myself. I schedule my workouts in the middle of the day as a time to step away and free my mind. This means I work later in the day, but it’s a conscious choice and one that works for me. It’s important for all of us to remember to be able to take a step back every now and then.

I’d be interested to hear from everyone – how do you deal with being too busy? What is your recharging mechanism, and do you allow yourself time to do it?

What’s in a slogan?

I suppose that like a lot of people, for a long time I didn’t really think too much of company slogans. For sure, I bought them up like crazy for brands I thought were cool, but that was about as far as my thought process went.

My first real exposure to slogans (or tag lines, if you prefer) came in the mid 2000s when I was working with a music and dvd retailer called play. We had three retail locations and were very well known to the devoted music or home entertainment audiences in the two cities we were in. However, if you had no idea who we were… well, you had no idea who we were. Our logo was a rectangle with rounded corners, the word play in lowercase letters and a green triangle to the right, like the play button on most electronics. Our slogan (which had been developed before my time) was “See it. Hear it. Play it.” It sounded cool, but for a brand trying to gain a bigger footing, it didn’t work. Why not? Well – does that tell you in the slightest what the company was about, or what we sold? On more than one occasion we had customers enter our store asking if we were an arcade, an appliance dealer (I still don’t know how that made sense), or part of an unrelated company from Eastern Canada. Eventually it was decided that we should create something new, beginning my interest in slogans.

The slogan I created was “The music store as independent as you are.” – and my goals for it were this:

  1. Clearly define what we sold. Music store. Check.
  2. Separate ourselves from big box stores, identifying our independent nature, which as a music retailer allowed for greater flexibility in bringing in unknown or underground artists, and not just the big superstars.
  3. In identifying ourselves as independent, we also associated ourselves with our customers. Who wouldn’t want to be thought of as cool and independent?

Okay, so, a little cheeky, a little precious, perhaps.. but it worked. Our customers liked the new slogan, and people seeing our store bags or other materials for the first time away from our stores were able to identify who we were. This slogan also had the great benefit of being an excellent radio tag – I closed all of our radio commercials with it. We knew it was working when we were signing up new customers to our customer loyalty program and they would comment “So you guys are really independent?”

Since that time, I’ve been honoured to have worked on many logos and slogans for both new businesses and those going through a rebrand. Sometimes the owners haven’t even considered a slogan, sometimes they don’t even know where to start… which ironically enough, was where I was when I started Ambition.


Too close to the forest? Perhaps. I was taking a number of business courses to help get my grounding, and we were discussing elevator pitches, slogans and branding. I ground my teeth. I had ideas for everyone else in the room – classmates and instructors – but for my business? Oh no.

Eventually I created “Connecting businesses to their

target markets and reconnecting people to their passion”. Say THAT three times fast. Yes, it said what we do – from marketing to creative coaching.. but.. let’s be honest: Ugh.

The instructors said that it was fine (in their defence they couldn’t really linger on me for too long – there was the rest of the class waiting), but I wasn’t happy at all.

I held off putting that slogan on anything. I knew what the rules were; I knew what a slogan SHOULD do.. and I broke the rules. Entrepreneurs, dreamers, business people.. they all have something in common: Passion. Drive. Ambition. How do you find out what moves someone? Ask them.

What’s Your Ambition?

I tossed that old clunky slogan so fast it didn’t even have time to hit the bottom of the digital trash can. Forgot about my elevator pitch. THIS is it… and it works because people love to talk about what excites them, and I love to hear about it. I frequently get stopped when wearing my company shirt with this logo across the back by complete strangers who want to tell me what their ambition is – or to ask me what the shirt is about. It’s awesome. Whether someone’s passion is making the fanciest doodadwhatzit gadget on the planet, or they’re in business because they love business (read: money) – we can help.

What’s in a slogan? Whatever, as a business owner, you want to put into it. It can be an integral part of your brand and marketing materials, or it can be ignored as an afterthought. It’s your brand, your dream. Now, tell me… What’s Your Ambition?

– Jason

Authenticity for sale on aisle three

The Christmas Season is once again upon us and advertisers are in full swing for your attention and your dollar. To the left, Santa is pushing new cars, to the right a flock of elves are telling you which brand of clothing must absolutely positively be under the tree.

Christmas-themed ads are everywhere we go.. some strictly promoting their product or service, a few attempting to balance a holiday greeting while spreading brand awareness. This is all fine, so long as it’s genuine. Have a holiday-themed sale and promote the heck out of it – no problem. Spread your company’s well wishes to everyone and raise your brand awareness – also completely fine. However, whatever you do, invest in it completely and ask yourself – is this a message you’d feel okay with telling your grandma?

During American Thanksgiving, I saw a tweet that absolutely floored me: A generic “Happy Thanksgiving”, followed by a shortened link. That was it. No description of where the link went, no effort put in to use up the remaining 100 or so characters of their tweet. This company wouldn’t be so insincere, would they? My curiosity got the better of me.. I had to click on the link. Please, surprise me. Please send me to a custom holiday card or greeting to put a smile on my face and let me go about my way. Please, don’t be The Twit That Tweeted..

Sigh. Twits indeed. The link had sent me to a page listing some of their products. Someone had taken all of 8 seconds to add an extra line of red text under the price on a few items to show that they were on sale. Nothing more.

I closed the page, more than a little disappointed with the whole experience. This was like giving someone an unsigned Christmas card, still outside of the envelope. “Hey. I thought about trying.. but……. Here.

Had they put even the slightest bit of effort into their message, things would have been a whole lot better. Imagine this: “Happy thanksgiving! For the next 48 hours we’re holding a special sale on widgets and gizmos. Click *here* to see. Enjoy your weekend!” Hey. Awesome. You’ve shared a greeting, told me of your sale and wished me on my way. I can handle that. Then, clicking on the link leads to a page where you’ve spent, oh, an hour creating a custom design for your themed sale, again making me feel more welcome and like you perhaps give half a damn about the experience your customers have with you. Nice. Instead you give me someone selling designer watches from their coat pocket. No thanks.

I suppose we’re lucky in that we’re not selling a product or special service over the holidays. We don’t have to stand on the corner, yelling louder than the next guy why our doodads are better. We’ve been working on Christmas materials for our clients since October (which made for some interesting office playlists), but we don’t have to take part in the whole seasonal rush. As such, please take it with all of our sincerity, from everyone at the Ambition Team and all of our extended families… Merry Christmas.. And don’t miss the SALE SALE SALE on thingamabobs over on aisle three! (Joking!)

Be excellent to each other.

 – Jason
Founder at Ambition