A Love Story Built in HTML (and maybe Flash)
We’ve spoken to a lot of incredibly talented people who work in major agencies so far this year. Getting the opportunity to see what a smaller, “mom & pop” shop does was an interesting prospect, purely because it’s closer to the “freelancing” world than working in a big agency where there are many hands on one project. I was a little nervous to find out two things: what the “quality” of work actually ended up looking like compared to the corporate accounts we’ve seen proof of, and (more importantly), the kind of projects that end up getting built by smaller shops. I was far from disappointed on both points.
Meet the Cohlmeyer’s
Interactive & Graphic Designer
Front End Developer
Being a bit of a hippy musician, I’ve met my fair share of, shall we say interesting(?) people over the years. There is something that I’ve noticed about meeting other musicians though – most of us tend to have what I like to call an “open” hearted approach to other people. It’s not quite the same as wearing your heart on your sleeve, but rather you go into every situation thinking the best of the world and those around you. I really got that same feeling from both Cora & Jonathan as soon as they started to speak – it’s clear they live their lives with a set intention. And it’s such a positive one at that. From learning about their mantra when choosing clients to their involvement in the Centre for Social Innovation, it was clear that these are people who do their part in paying attention to the big picture in the best way possible.
The centre for social innovation (CSi)
The Centre for Social Innovation is the brain child of a group of Toronto based entrepreneurs who wanted to create a co-working space devoted to social innovators. Originally occupying a floor of the Robertson Building on Spadina, the initial CSI space opened it’s doors to 14 tenants in 2004. Now in 2016, there are three full buildings in Toronto devoted to the CSI’s mission, as well as an office in New York City (yes, the city of dreams Sheila) and another space is on the way!
The CSI describes itself as “a social enterprise with a mission to catalyze social innovation in Toronto and around the world”. The community is currently home to over 1000 non-profits, charities, and social ventures in Toronto alone – they also employ over 2500 people and generates a combined annual revenue of around, oh you know, $250 million dollars. CSI members are known for turning social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges into solutions – and they’ve published a book. A book who’s profits they used to buy another cool building.
While their accomplishments look great on paper, the company prides itself more on the community than anything else. And rightfully so. Hearing Cora & Jonathan speak so highly of the connections they’ve made with other members of the CSI community was really just the tip of the iceberg. If you take a look at the CSI’s Instagram account (which I have multiple times now), you’ll see that the salad potluck Jonathan spoke about is not a wilted head of lettuce paired with cut cucumber and some cherry tomatoes. They should have called it the salad feast. Because from the looks of it, that’s what it is… a feast of epic, leafy green proportions. (The Insta account also featured a room named after Greenpeace founder Bob Hunter & crocheted Ewoks. Sheila, I really feel next year’s class could benefit from reserving a desk in the space).
So, you may be wondering, how do the Cohlmeyer’s fit in with all of these social innovators? It’s all in the mantra, baby – and JRC9’s business motto definitely fits the bill.
WE BELIEVE IN THE GOOD OF HUMANKIND AND SHARE IT THROUGH OUR WORK
While their earlier clients may not have fit the current mold, the general rule of thumb when choosing what clients to work with seems to be very simple: JRC9 builds websites for people doing good in the world. Whether it’s through music, art, education or innovation. I have to say, this was probably the biggest factor that sets this presentation apart from every other one we had this semester.
From a personal standpoint, I often grapple with the somewhat “shallow” nature of the career path I’ve chosen. While I love pixel pushing and code crunching, normally the sites or projects I’m working on have one aim: to sell. To turn a profit and make money. Sometimes it’s for things or people that I like, sometimes it’s not. To see a company that is so unconcerned with the rat race and the idea that all design or marketing or graphic assets only serve one purpose – to sell – is inspiring to me. It’s a niche market to say the least, and they’ve done so well in it. After looking through the JRC9 portfolio, I picked out three of the projects that really stood out to me.
Wondereur is basically the coolest online art gallery you’ll ever find – guest curators from all over the globe, world-class artists featuring their lives & a platform that was nominated for a Webby award. And may I just say – this is the prettiest portfolio website I’ve ever seen. It’s clean & delicate and the typography is SO beautiful. I loved clicking through and reading the different artists stories – the book feel was an excellent touch, and suited the entire aesthetic of the site so well. I think what makes it work is that it felt like the marriage of the old and new art world – bringing in the book element to the site made me feel like I was flipping through an art magazine of sorts.
U’Mista Cultural Society
Jonathan & Cora walked through this site during their presentation and I think everyone’s jaw dropped to the floor. The photography & 3D rendering of the exhibit is stunning. I’ve never seen anything like it really – it felt like being inside the ROM without leaving the classroom. The fact that this technology exists will complete change the course of museum curation for years to come. What really struck me about this project was, again, the simplicity of the design. Cora seems to have an ease about her design work that really allows the important content to shine through – there’s just enough of a style there to accentuate the existing work.
Teach for Canada
Aside from loving the icons used sporadically across the site, I think this is a great representation of a slightly more “corporate” site that is just beautiful with a simple design. That’s the theme I take away from JRC9 from a design standpoint – that less, is often so much more. And as a designer who comes from essentially a non-design background, sometimes it’s nice to look at pieces you admire and have the starkness and breathing room really stand out. Also love the CSS animations on the team page and the way it’s all laid out.
I like Cora & Jonathan. They seem like genuine people who are interested in being the best possible versions of themselves. In every possible way. That’s not a trait you find in people all the time – there is something truly special about that. This is definitely a company I would be proud to freelance for or collaborate with at some point in my career; I have a theory that the good in people tends to rub off, and I think everyone could benefit with a little bit of Jonathan & Cora’s goodness.
When I went up to chat & ask about their musical tastes, I was caught off guard when they mentioned one of their favourite artists was Danny Michel, because a. I had never heard of him and b. They started talking about a space van and I got very confused. Luckily, YouTube reveals all secrets to the world and after about 10 seconds of poking around, I realized Danny Michel is a musician who runs his own talk show out of a van he converted to look like it was out of Star Trek. The best part? The van maintains it’s 1977 classic cherry-red shag interior. Anyways, here’s a clip of Danny performing at one of my favourite venues in Toronto, the Dakota Tavern!