Advice, Inspiration and Challenges: Vancouver’s Hot New Next Judges Tell All

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GRAY’s third and final round of HOT NEW NEXT takes place Tuesday, July 10, at Montauk Sofa in Vancouver. Four industry veterans from the area will sit on the judging panel and weigh in Shark Tank-style on whether one of our pre-selected design entrepreneurs has what it takes to bring his or her big idea to the big stage at IDS in September, or needs to go back to the drawing board. The winner of the Vancouver competition will compete against winners from our Portland and Seattle editions.


Get to know our talented group of judges before the competition and read on for some of their best advice. For tickets, go here.


danny Chartier

Danny Chartier

Designer and Co-founder

Montauk Sofa

Shannon Heth

Shannon Heth


Milk Creative Communications

Jody Phillips

Jody Phillips


IDS Vancouver | Global Exhibitions

Bonnie Zabolotney

Bonne Zabolotney

Vice-President, Academic and Provost

Emily Carr University of Art + Design

Describe your creative process. Where do you turn to find inspiration?

DC: My creative process is on all the time. It is not me who decides to turn it on or off. When I travel, when I am in a restaurant, while watching TV, I get ideas from anything: beautiful leather, a nice stitch on a garment or a city park bench. I get ideas from everything and nothing.

BZ: I work at a place where I am surrounded by thousands of creative individuals. Seeing creative work on a daily basis keeps me on my toes


How do you get out of a creative mind block?

DC: You don’t get out of it. You work on something until you are proud and satisfied with what you created. Then you can let it go.

SH: I used to keep my creative process quite close to me, which meant a lot of late, lonely nights. Recently I’ve opened this up within my agency and now we schedule team brainstorms complete with advance internal briefs. Everyone is asked and expected to bring an idea to the meeting and it’s been an inspiring and rewarding journey to see the collaborative creative process unfold in real time with my team.

BZ: I talk to as many people I can about what I am trying to achieve with my work, and listen to how they respond, ask questions, or encourage my work. I use the excitement and interest from those conversations and brainstorms to renew my focus.


For you, what is the most exciting thing happening in the design world now? This could be local or global.

DC: The young thinkers and designers that are reusing and recycling to make a product that looks new and is very useful. They are making sure that what we do every day is not destroying our future. I think this is the future in design. Right now I am thinking of these beautiful bamboo tiles made by Hugh Grady.

BZ: Overall, I think there is a turn towards social and ecological sustainability that shows a deep commitment to design as a practice and a philosophy. I am also seeing an emerging obligation to decolonize design processes, methods, and materials to become more inclusive and respectful of indigenous ways of knowing and making.


What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a design/business entrepreneur?

JP: You don’t have time to do it all, nor are you an expert at it all so make sure to surround yourself with good people. They are invaluable.

SH: When I started my agency I was so busy running it I didn’t think about growing it. I’ve been thinking about scalability a lot lately and I’m spending more time laying the foundation for the systems and processes we need to become bigger. Setting these in place now will mean fewer headaches down the road.

BZ: Use your mistakes as ways to learn—as springboards for the next, better project or idea.


What have you found to be a successful means of branding/messaging for your ideas?

SH: I think everyone in business, no matter their line of work, needs to do a better job of selling his or her expertise. This is your field, your passion, your life. Own that.

BZ: I’m an academic, so it’s important to share my ideas through conferences, symposia, and working with other educators on new curriculum and education goals for designers.


What kinds of questions do you ask when beginning a project? What information is considered valuable to have to start?

BZ: I have the luxury of working on projects that are driven by personal interest and with a goal to contribute towards the general knowledge and learning of designers. It’s important to always investigate what work has been done on a particular subject, and investigate the lens through which the work has been critiqued and positioned in design academia.


What do you see as the biggest challenge facing designers? What’s a challenge you have overcome?

JP: Specifically for designers of this region, industry, fabrication and the physical and mental space to work in one of the most beautiful cities and regions in the world without the pressures of Vancouver’s high cost of living.

SH: Share for position and visibility in a crowded design market has got to be a huge challenge facing designers. A tight, simple brand story is critical. A few years ago I felt we were being passed over for larger brand work because our name and service offering was not indicative of our expertise. To overcome this I made the difficult decision to rename and rebrand the business. It was probably one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made.

BZ: The biggest challenge facing designers is to work towards a body of design work that considers a full life cycle of use. Planned obsolescence is still a dominant force in design and one that designers will need to responsibly come to terms with. Designers are great at constantly re-learning and redefining their work. It’s crucial that they take this very modernist and unsustainable idea (yet extremely profitable) of creating things that will be obsolete, and redefine what makes an object fashionable and enduring. I think that I am still facing challenges in design studies that make assumptions about what makes certain designs successful, iconic, or worth placing in a history book.


What will you be looking for in contestants’ ideas heading into the HNN competition?

JP: Innovation and designs that address sustainability would be really thrilling to see.

DC: I like new ideas. Ingeniosity. Materials used. Is it useful? And of course the first impression…THE LOOK! I like to be surprised.

BZ: I’m a very practical person, so I am looking for ideas that are useful, beautiful, and long-lasting.


What is a recent interesting article you’ve read?

JP:  Has Instagram made Design Shows Better?Architectural Digest

SH: Can it be a book? I’ve been on a personal mission since 2017 to read one book per week so I don’t read as many articles as I used to. I just finished Bad Blood, which chronicles the Theranos scandal in great, juicy detail.

BZ: I have not read an article recently, but just re-listened to a 99Percent Invisible podcast about the Bauhaus photos of Lucia Maholy, and her fight to be recognized for her work. I’ve also just downloaded a PDF of “Hidden Impact” by Babette Porcelijn.


Who is the latest person you followed on Instagram?

JP: @alma.harel, music video and film director. [She was named one of] Fast Company’s most creative people of 2018.

DC: @elizabethlcline. She’s a journalist, public speaker and the author of a book called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. I think as designers, we all have to listen to what she has to say.

BZ: I don’t participate on Instagram as much as I should! The designerly answer is @thepallou, Mary Burgers’ Instagram account, but the truth is that I just started following an account called @dogs, highly recommended by my daughter.


KBIS 2020
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