Inspiration for the Holidays

A wreath made of circular cutouts from other images, on a green background

During a normal year, December sees design agencies around the world compile and share their latest projects to promote themselves and thank their clients. We do that most years, too.

This is not a normal year.

We are grateful for and excited about the rewarding work and collaborations we participated in during 2020. But it felt more appropriate to ask our team to celebrate the people, projects, and organizations that inspired them during these challenging months.

Here, then, are some wonderful artists, designers, filmmakers, educators, architectural designs, and an online course (!) to inspire you during the holiday season.

Wherever this finds you, we hope it finds you healthy, in the company of (a safe number of) loved ones, and able to look forward to 2021 with optimism.

We’ll return with new articles, case studies, and other endeavors in January.

Give and take care.

Our design associate Deborah Khodanovich ( has chosen Maya McKibbin (@mkchibs), saying, “Maya is a Yaqui, Ojibwe, and Irish filmmaker and illustrator in Vancouver. They explore and create stories that question gender expectations and the unique perspective they hold in this world. Maya’s work is just so beautiful and it evokes emotion in powerful ways; every piece feels like it’s coming from their heart.” Visit McKibbin’s website.

Our environmental design lead Phillip Novak has chosen KPMB Architects (@kpmbarch) with Omar Gandhi Architect (@og_architect), Jordan Bennett Studio (@jordanbennettart), Elder Lorraine Whitman (@nwac_ca), Public Work, and Transsolar’s (@transsolar_ny) winning design for the new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (@artgalleryns), saying, “Past the actual design that was achieved, I found the jury report and expectations for the continued design process intriguing and exciting.” Learn more about the project.

Our design associate Nicholas Hanlon (@nicholasmhanlon) says, “My friend Josh Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (@mangeshig) is a Ojibwe graphic designer and artist whose recent Instagram series featuring illustrations of Ojibwe sayings is amazing.” Visit Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley’s website.

KPMB Architects with Omar Gandhi Architect, Jordan Bennett Studio, Elder Lorraine Whitman (NWAC), Public Work, and Transsolar, design for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 2020.

Senior design associate Sarah Paul (@mayaro_girl) has chosen Toronto-based designer Jai Bhatia, who reflects upon and celebrates his home country, India, in thoughtful and playful projects. These include Gaze, a serif display typeface, and Crafting Code, an interactive weaving and quilting program.

Media Director Brian Sholis has chosen artist, writer, and organizer Taeyoon Choi (@drwngdrwng). Choi co-founded the School for Poetic Computation (@sfpc_nyc), gave a great @99u talk on “embracing our contradictions” this year, and inspires with his thinking and linking around art and technology. Visit his website.

Associate Designer Emi Takahashi (@emi.taka.hashi) has chosen artist Florence Yee (, who “explores themes of diasporic subjectivities through the lenses of gender, racialization, queerness, and language. They also play an active and meaningful role in the local community; they are co-director of @tea.base, a grassroots collective based in Toronto’s Chinatown that develops solidarity across marginalized groups through relationship, joy, and collaboration.”

Our design associate Eric Francisco (@efgdes) has chosen Paz Pereira Vega (@holasoy_paz), an emerging Chilean graphic designer who recently graduated from @ocadu and is based in Toronto. “Her design work explores the intersections between materiality, digital tools, feminism, and her Chilean identity. I’m a big fan of Paz’s work and I’m excited to see what she’s gonna do next.” Visit Paz’s website.

Florence Yee, i tried to interview my dad, 2019
Florence Yee, i tried to interview my dad, 2019

Our senior business lead Hannah Vance (@hanvannn) says, “A few of us at Frontier took this twelve-week course and had weekly discussions about it. I love that @ualberta made Paul Gareau (@paullgareau) and Tracy Lee Bear’s (@tracyleebear) course free so that anyone can learn or re-learn Canada’s Indigenous history.” Visit the course website.

Tristan Marantos, our senior design lead, says, “Building on the investigation by @thetorontostar reporter @tanyatalaga_author, this @canadalandshow podcast sees Ryan McMahon open himself up to the shady, disturbing, and true stories of the town of Thunder Bay. The sad reality McMahon discovers is that Thunder Bay is functioning just as it was intended to, set up by an inherently racist and unjust system that smothers Indigenous and under-invested communities across Canada. A must-listen show.” Visit the show website.

Our design director Paul Kawai (@paulkojikawai) says, “If you’d asked me to define ‘protest recipe’ even a few months ago, I probably would have attempted some diatribute about the destructive appropriation that continues to thrive in food media and culture. Now that Clarence Kwan (@thegodofcookery) has spoken up with his new food project and zine, Chinese Protest Recipes, I’m starting to see new ways that food can lift up communities of color and also unapologetically fight back against systems built to oppress them. Kwan is working to build an accountable food culture that I would be proud to be a part of.” Read more in this 032 interview.

Spread from Chinese Protest Recipes

Our senior founding director Paddy Harrington has chosen Michael Nyarkoh, a Toronto-based creator working across design, events, and fashion. “He has amazing talent and I’m excited to watch his career evolve.” Visit Tone Study.

Our senior design lead Jessica Leong (@anotherjessicaleong) has chosen Dori Tunstall (@deandori_ocadu), dean of the Faculty of Design @ocaduniversity. As Jessica puts it, Tuntsall is “relatable, empathetic, and honest. Her faculty emails from the beginning of the pandemic were a reflection of her amazing leadership at OCADU. She also has a wicked Instagram account.” Learn more about Tunstall’s projects on this OCADU page.