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Into The Wild

26 Jan

This time last year I was preparing to finish my last year of design school. While most days were spent worrying about project deadlines and final presentations, I also remember being clouded by thoughts regarding what I was to do once I was forced to leave this comfy nest called art school. Where will I work? How will I get there? Where do I start?

A year later, now three weeks into my role as Art Director, I thought I’d look back at what I’ve learned since then and see if I can’t share it with the next crop of students. Having just gone into the wild – here are a few tips that worked for me and a few more I didn’t get the chance to try.


Often times people would say to me “Victoria is so small that all the good design jobs are taken”. The way I see it, the smaller the town the easier it should be to stand out amongst the crowd. So before you decide to pack up and move to that neighbouring metropolis, remember: you have to ability to make a mark in your small town, too. Find out exactly what your dream job is and make it your goal. Stay optimistic and keep focused. The unfortunate reality is that as time passes your competition will slowly drop out of the race. If you manage to outlast you’ll start to move up the ladder.


Don’t sit idle between dropping off resumes. Do something to get your work noticed. Start a design blog and post local content, re-design your school newsletter and offer to maintain it, pitch your designs to companies you admire. Take a chance and don’t be afraid to be shot down. Sure you could get rejected, and at first you probably will – but if you’re lucky you might at least gain a pro’s insight regarding your work. While these ideas might not get you paid, they’re all are great steps towards growing your portfolio with real world experience.


Don’t stress this one. Networking will come naturally, if you’re here reading this blog then you’re already doing it. Because most jobs aren’t advertised, networking can be your best bet to get your foot in the door. Consider a student membership to the Graphic Designers of Canada. Your local chapter has dozens of social events each year. Why not start by volunteering to check coats or take tickets at an event? These events are meant to be fun, so relax. Nobody’s there to interview you, try to have fun and enjoy yourself. Your personality should be on show, not your portfolio.


Get to know any potential employers in your area. Navigate your way through the company, introduce yourself to the staff, find out what the mood around the office is like. Now the fun part – don’t just tell potential employers that you’re creative, show them!  Go a step further by customizing a package based on what you’ve learned. Put aside the typical resume. Try a website, video or DVD portfolio.


Now is the perfect time to start seeking out internships, scholarships and awards. Internships are your best bet for work right now, it’s how mostly all designers start.

Check Applied Arts, Communication Arts and Adobe for student awards. They’re a great way to get regional and even worldwide recognition for your work. Another benefit of the GDC is that they’ll do much of the work for you. A student membership gives you access to up-to-date job/internship postings, scholarships and awards info.

Get yourself a website to showcase your work but keep it simple, and remember when it comes to a portfolio it’s always quality over quantity. Be sure to replace old pieces with new ones as your skills progress. And if your web skills aren’t up to snuff yet, there’s plenty of easy-to-use portfolio sites out there. Try Behance , Carbon Made or Cargo Collective.


You’d be surprised what opportunities that might arise from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t want to access all three. Each one is different, so learn which to use for particular content. They’re a great way to engage with people, and give them a reason to follow you. Share unique content specific to you: your opinions, your portfolio pieces, and discussions that you’re taking part in.

Thanks for reading, I hope that helps. I’ve included my icon pack for download if you’d like them for personal use. For now you can get to know us @YourCopeland. We love students.


Creative problem-solving for an over-crowded planet

17 Jan

Problem: shortage of affordable space for hotel and dormitory accommodation in Hong Kong.

crowded buildings in Hong Kong

Solution: space age capsule pods complete with WiFi, TV and a pull-down privacy screen with an image of the earth.

interior of Hong Kong capsule pod

row of Hong Kong capsule pods

I’m not sure how that earth image will help you get a good night’s sleep but it photographs well.

The makers of these steel and plastic, fire resistant pods claim that their model is the progeny of the cross-breeding of existing Japanese pods with astronaut cockpits.  I want to therefore call them cockpods, but I know I shouldn’t.

They will rent for about $30 a night, a fraction of what you would pay for that grotty room in Tsim Sha Tsui, where the walls have been decorated with the guts of mosquitoes and the spittle of generations of slobs.

Aside from the space-terror feel of this creative solve (I’ve seen Alien too many times), they will probably prove popular with students and tourists, and could very well solve another critical social issue in Hong Kong – the housing of the poor.

The pods are a vast upgrade on the dehumanizing steel cages, which slumlords have rented out to the disadvantaged for half a century.

Poor living in cages on Hong Kong

(Cage apartment photo courtesy of Global Sociology. Pod photos courtesy of Galaxy Stars.)

Called out by Foursquare

10 Jan

Admittedly, I was a little high-strung about my first day at Copeland, which might explain why things went the way they did.

Monday morning came and I got myself out of the house with plenty of time.

As I trotted across the street to get my bus, I wondered why the streets were so quiet, but I got distracted and the thought blew away. With plenty of time to spare I had a pleasant morning walk to get a coffee before work. Save for me and the two baristas, the café was completely deserted. I scooped up my coffee and in a way that I hoped looked casual, walked to Copeland, arriving at 8:30 sharp.

The gates were locked. The lights were out. No one (other than the Johns driving past, looking at me like I was a hooker who had wandered into the broad daylight) was around. There was nobody anywhere.

I waited by the side of the building for 10 minutes before texting a friend. The abridged version went something like “WTF?!?” I lingered outside under the surveillance camera for exactly 15 minutes until the leers and increasingly bad weather became too much.

But I couldn’t just leave. What if someone finally came right after I left and I was that person who didn’t show for their first day of work? There’s no way I’d let that happen. Back to the café to kill time.

Fifteen minutes later I was back at Copeland HQ to find that the gates were still closed. So I did what any girl would do in this situation:

I called my Mummy. Mums know.

Monday January 2nd was a stat holiday! That’s where I went wrong.

In my defense, I have been self-employed for the last 5 years. I don’t take holidays like a normal person. Even after I figured it out I was still anxious about leaving.

Mummy talked me through it, like in Speed where Jeff Daniels talks Keanu though disarming the bomb under the speeding bus.

I did leave eventually and came back on Tuesday prepared to pretend it had never happened.

Wouldn’t you know it. I had checked in on Foursquare the morning before. Not only had I checked in on Foursquare, but I had stolen the mayorship from Asmâa. So it was clear to all that I had been there the day before.

My second-first day went much better, thank you.

New mugs for the new year

29 Dec

We’re going to bust out of the gate in 2012 with some new faces, all of whom we feel very fortunate to have engaged. Here’s a brief introduction to the new additions to the lineup.

Jill Stefanyk at Copeland







Jill Stefanyk, known to many in Victoria as the exemplary event manager of the Vancouver Island Pet Expo, has joined us on a contract basis as Account Manager. She is currently helping steer a variety of projects through the shop in her cool, competent style. A great find for us.

Bryan Dwyer at Copeland







Former Zombie Intern Contest finalist Bryan Dwyer is bringing his amazing faculty for research and consumer insights to the team, while continuing to complete his BBA degree in Marketing and Communications from Camosun College. Bryan impressed us from Day 1 of his internship during the summer.

Christie Burns at Copeland







Speaking of the Marketing and Communications program at Camosun, we are also lucky to have Christie Burns (technically in her 4th year) interning with us through the dark months of winter.

Actually, it rarely gets dark in Victoria. Did you know that Victoria has 40% more winter sunshine than Vancouver? An excellent reason to hire a Victoria ad agency.

We’re a lot less gloomy. Just look at these mugs.

The ad industry could sure use a personality make-over

8 Nov

Arrogant attitudeLet me stake my position clearly: I think there are too many turds working in advertising.

There are a lot of good-hearted, generous people to be sure, but the other ones are dragging us down.

It’s been my experience that the advertising industry has a sizable chip on its black turtle-necked shoulders. A couple of incidents over the past week re-enforced this up-ourselves attitude that continues to permeate our industry.


A recent Island university graduate looking for a copywriting intern job somewhere, tweeted his interest in a clever way and a Vancouver ad agency responded. The grad was asked if he had a portfolio of work and he said no, but he had social media and digital contest work to show. Good enough for an interview, said the ad agency. So he hauled his butt off to Vancouver – and the costs of that, plus missing a day of work.

At the interview he was asked where his portfolio was, and he repeated that he didn’t have one but had the stuff he had mentioned to them earlier. In response, the creative guy at the agency dressed him down for showing up without one, offered him a couple of bon mots for his trouble and a few minutes later the intern was heading back to the ferry.

I have heard variations on this story throughout my career. Creative advertising folks have it all wrong. We are not God’s chosen ones. We are not saving lives, or toiling selflessly for the betterment of our community. Instead we are guffawing at our own cleverness, obsessing over awards and lording it over people who want to get into the biz. The opportunity here was to help this smart, enthusiastic person have a good impression of the industry, even if he hadn’t been right for the job. Instead he walked away feeling bad about himself and ad agencies. Fail.


A potential client called us on the phone to ask whether we worked with small businesses. I responded with something very Master Po-like: “Even the mightiest oak tree begins as an acorn.” She said she was relieved because the other Victoria agency she had spoken with said they never work for any client with less than a $50,000 marketing budget.

Fair enough, we all have our business models. But when she asked the agency for a recommendation to another shop she might approach, they refused to help her.

We are now working with this delightful client because we ranked high in search when she checked out who else was in town. Her first comment to us was, “I had a bad first impression of your industry.” I’ll say. What would it have taken for this other agency to provide her with a list of places with the caveat that their business models may not also align with her needs? Instead: You’re too small and we’re not going to waste our time helping you. Thanks for stopping by. Fail.

As our business becomes more complex and challenging, and skills come into play from more areas of society, I hope this arrogant attitude will dissipate and we’ll be left with good ambassadors for our business wherever potential clients or employees touch us. It won’t happen soon enough for me. We are screwing ourselves with this shameful customer service.

I don’t want to end on such a bummer note, so if you have any anecdotes about good experiences with ad agencies, please share them here!

We could use the PR.

(Sorry I used a bad word in the first paragraph.)

Tree planter to ad agency boss

18 Oct

(Guest post by our Managing Director 4 a Day winner Grace Campbell)

Copeland's Managing Director 4 a Day winner Grace Campbell of Royal RoadsThree months ago

I plant my 800,000th tree, pack up my tent, move to Victoria, and begin Royal Roads University’s Bachelor of Professional Communication Program. I have no Twitter account, no fixed address and no idea who Doug Brown or Copeland Communications are.

One month ago (to the day)

Doug visits Royal Roads to speak about online self-branding and invites my classmates and I to enter Copeland’s Boss 4 a Day contest. I immediately freak out about my lack of an online presence and my limited knowledge of social media. In a desperate attempt to prove (mostly to myself) that I haven’t “wasted” 5 years of my life planting trees I decide to enter a video in the contest.

Four days later

I create a Twitter account and use my first tweet to submit my video entry. I share it with friends and family on Facebook and YouTube just in case it goes somewhere.


Monday, September 26

I receive an email from Doug telling me that my video has been selected for the finals. I am so shocked that I forget to respond to his email. Doug has to email me back to confirm that I am still interested in the competition.

Tuesday, September 27

Boss 4 a Day contest goes to a live vote. I share it on Facebook and recruit my Royal Roads class of 39 students to my cause. I let the other finalists know that I am in it to win it!

Wednesday the 28th

Begin to use my new Twitter account to share my progress and keep followers (all 14 of them) updated on my progress.

Thursday the 29th

It becomes clear that Brandon Wright from University of Victoria and I are duking it out. So, I appeal to the Royal Roads community for support. I create little flyers with links to Copeland’s Facebook page that read:

Royal Roads University vs. UVIC


I hand 120 of these flyers out at the Royal Roads Fall Fair and make contacts within the three other on-campus cohorts to try and keep the buzz going.

I also create a Facebook group called “Grace Campbell Needs Some LOVE!” Strangely, this is my most successful campaign initiative, teaching me about the power of a simple slogan, no matter how desperate it seems.

The race is so tight that I begin to send personal emails asking for support.

Friday the 30th

I make sure to continue thanking all the friends, contacts, and organizations who have been supporting me. Even if I don’t win, I don’t want to be that annoying girl who asks people to vote for her and then is never heard from again.

3pm– Two hours of voting left and Brandon is 19 votes ahead. As my classmates head to the pub I ask one last time for their help and hunker down with my laptop in the now-empty classroom to virtually battle it out.

4pm– I can’t seem to catch up to Brandon. I send Doug an email saying, “I am chugging water right now to replace the fluids I have lost from sweating and the fluids I might lose from crying.”

4:55pm– My classmates are sitting in a pub with their laptops out, frantically trying to keep me in the lead. I now know exactly what “Too close for comfort” feels like, because I have been uncomfortable for hours.

5pm– I have no idea who has won, but I can’t take the stress any longer. I phone Copeland and beg for the results. 4 votes. I won by 4 votes out of over 1400. I am exhausted.


1. Appreciation for the value of both in-person and online networks.

I had no idea I had such an amazing network that would readily support me and share their influence. At first, my personal sphere of influence seemed small, but through social media and extended networks I had votes from Chicago, Korea, South Africa, Costa Rica, and beyond!

2. Importance of knowing my audience.

I had to learn quickly how to frame this contest in a variety of ways depending on my audience.

For example, with the tree-planting community I framed it as a chance for us planters to prove that we are not wasting our lives doing something we love!  But for the Royal Roads community, I positioned it as a David vs. Goliath story, in which we needed to prove to UVIC that we were worth competing against.

3. I don’t regret a single day spent tree-planting.

This competition was both rewarding and exhausting, a combination that all tree-planters are familiar with. The feeling of trailing by 19 votes with only two hours left is not so different from the feeling of facing nine hours of outdoor labour, knowing that the forecast is sleet and a grizzly bear has been sighted in the area. Both situations seem insurmountable. Both situations are entirely worth the effort.

Even if I hadn’t won in the polls, I learned so much more about marketing myself in four crazy days than I thought I could learn in months.

What about you? Have you ever faced a steep learning curve and decided to charge at it full speed? How did it work out?

(NOTE: Grace enjoyed her day of tyrannical rule yesterday, October 17. She was spectacular!)

What the little birdie saw: a Twitter view of an electrifying finale

1 Oct

As was correctly pointed out during the final few hours of our Managing Director 4 a Day contest, the voting was so close and the contest became so intense, work virtually ground to a halt while we hung on the see-saw battle between Grace Campbell of Royal Roads University and Brandon Wright of UVic.

Here’s how the contest played out on Twitter.
Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 1Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 2Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 3Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 4Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 5Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 6Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 7Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 8Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 9Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 10Grace Campbell contest tweetCopeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 11Brandon Wright contest tweetCopeland's contest tweet 12Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 13Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 14Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 15Nicole Sorochan contest tweetCopeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 16Rhys contest tweetCopeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 17Brandon Wright contest tweet 2Brandon Wright contest tweet 3Copeland's Boss4aDay contest tweet 18Althea's contest tweet

Great show Brandon and Grace. Inspiring!