City design department gets recognized for major conference concept

Municipal in-house design teams with lots of experience should consider participating in more competitions, according to a local city designer.

“If they have done quality work and won awards, it can only elevate the notion of good design within an organization,” Manager of Creative Service for the City of Mississauga, Tina Mackenzie, told YourMississaugaBiz.com. “I think it’s a good thing.”

But Mackenzie cautions not all of them would be able to. “We were very lucky, we had the support of our management team here,” she explained. “It was nice to have Mississauga on the map for the work that we do.”

That’s because the City of Mississauga’s creative services department recently won a design award for their concept art at a major design conference.

Mackenzie and her 7-person team were given the award from Applied Arts Magazine for their work on the overall design concept for DesignThinkers 2012, a design conference held annually in Canada.

“This was work that was generally assigned to design firms who do it pro-bono,” Mackenzie said. “We obviously couldn’t do that so we got permission to take on the project personally outside of work hours.”

The design concept, “The Sacred Order of Alternative Ideas,” used optical illusions, four basic colours and included items such as posters, programs, t-shirts, bags and buttons.

Mackenzie said getting the opportunity to design for DesignThinkers meant the Association of Registered Graphic Designers had recognized the level of talent in her team in Mississauga.

“We were very pleased to win the Applied Arts award,” she said, “because it’s a national design magazine and national awards program.”

Mackenzie agreed that winning the award helped change perspectives on what municipal design teams could accomplish. “It wasn’t long after we were published in the magazine that I received interest from a designer in a firm interested in working for the city,” she said, noting some people were surprised at their level of talent. “That’s sad because it is there, but sometimes you have to showcase this.”

The theme of the 2012 conference was about how design could elevate your business. “I think it was sold out, but I don’t know if that was due to our design work or not,” Mackenzie said.

The project also took approximately six months to complete. “We were sort of snatching time when staff could work in the evenings,” Mackenzie said.

The DesignThinkers project by Mississauga’s Creative Services department can be seen in the July/August issue of Applied Arts magazine.

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