Taking the pulse with Shannon Glassford

Young Blood trickster creates a fictional city with design

July 4, 2024

Taking the pulse with Shannon Glassford

Young Blood awards winner Shannon Glassford came to Berlin Communications after graduating from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communications. Shannon’s been recognized as a two-time Young Blood winner and helped Berlin Communications rack up five wins overall in this year’s Design Awards competition. One, an agency promotion Berlin, Alberta, she created in secrecy for an upcoming retreat. Now that the promotion has garnered an award, it’s time for Shannon to spill the beans.

Can you walk us through the specifics of creating this piece?

The task was simple and fun – to secretly create merch for an upcoming company retreat. It had to be somewhat on brand, but the rest was completely open. I wanted to create something that 1. Looked sick, 2. My coworkers would actually want to wear, and 3. Was ours.

It was a quick project. We bounced around a few ideas and landed on the theme of “Berlin, Alberta”. We field a lot of questions about why we are called Berlin (which there is a beautiful answer for, involving tension and courage and such). But we also acknowledge that it’s a little strange to be a company named Berlin in the middle of the Alberta prairies. And so we leaned in.  

I was loosely inspired by the hoodies and t-shirts you can get in any relatively big city or major tourist attraction; where their name is embroidered or printed on as many different garments as possible (but I wanted to make this a bit more cool and modern). My main goal was to make our “Berlin” feel like an actual place. Nothing about this merch makes it feel like it belongs to an ad agency; instead, it points toward a cheeky little place in the prairies. I also enjoy that it is kind of fathomable – London, Ontario. Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Berlin, Alberta. If I trick just one person into thinking Berlin is an actual place in Alberta, I will consider this project a success. 

The rest of the process was coming up with funny or clever ways of mashing up “Berlin” iconography with “Alberta” iconography. Like throwing a Berlin bear on a horse. Or infiltrating the Alberta provincial crest with recognizable Berlin symbols. We just shoved things together until they made us happy, and put it on sweatshirts, t-shirts, stickers, totes and mugs.  

Berlin, Alberta

What has the response been like for this piece?

The response internally was great. The team was delighted and excited – and happy to wear it. At least once a week someone is donning a piece of the merch at our office, and even employees that have moved on still sport it with pride. 

Externally, the response was pretty good too. We did a fun little photoshoot in Banff, posted it on Instagram, and immediately had people asking if they could buy it. This is not only flattering, but I feel like a sign of successful merch. If people who are not affiliated with the organization the merch is for want to sport it nonetheless, it becomes something bigger.  

Berlin, Alberta

What are you working on professionally? Anything outside of the usual?

Words. Visuals are my first love and I’ll never forget them. But I have been having an affair with creative copy. 

I’ve found my brain loves to solve the communication problem of how to distill an idea or message into a digestible, interesting, impactful, bite-sized piece. Or simply turning something on its head to be understood in a new, creative way. I am very much still a student of this new field but my team has been very supportive, and I’ve been given lots of opportunities to begin building my writing muscle – including writing the silly copy for the merch.

How do you stay creative/inspired?

Consuming as much content as I can. For better or worse, I am – as they say– chronically online. Overstimulated? Perhaps. But it keeps me tapped into the world around me and I am constantly running into inspiration. 

I also find that looking at things peripherally can spark more creativity for me than staring at them head on. I feel like that is more poetic in prose than in practice. In practice, it is getting so frustrated or stuck with a problem that you have to look away from it or else you’ll explode – and so a peripheral perspective is forced. But it does help to let the problem marinate in your brain while walking, running or living.

Proof that letting inspiration marinate results in award-winning work. Congratulations on winning your 2024 Applied Art Design Awards, Shannon! We look forward to seeing more of your work in future.