Tick Tock TOXA
March 29, 2010
Like clockwork, Montreal creative studio TOXA has been creating, experimenting and expanding for a decade — with no end in sight
Few creative studios truly live up to the term “multidisciplinary.” Montreal’s TOXA is one of them, with offerings ranging from branding and design to publishing and broadcasting. Confidently blurring the borders between content creation and traditional design, TOXA has built a small creative empire by following its philosophy of telling compelling stories through the most effective means possible.
Founded in 2000 by president and creative director Philippe Lamarre and a childhood friend, TOXA worked at first on conventional design projects. After three years, it felt that it was still waiting for the clients of its dreams, so it stopped waiting and decided to do something about it. TOXA launched Urbania, a magazine dedicated to telling the stories of the people and places of Montreal, from the famous to the obscure.
“Creating the magazine was really a turning point because it brought us the type of clients we wanted by showcasing our creativity in a really crazy manner,” explains Lamarre. “It’s always been about doing things we can’t do with regular clients. For every issue we had a microsite and videos and all kinds of stuff. At one point, [radio and television host] Catherine Pogonat invited us to produce content for Mange ta ville [a show dedicated to the little-known people and places of Montreal]. We created the identity, opening titles, and we also produced content within the show — the Urbania Minutes. This was a series of one-minute documentaries about the characters of Montreal.”
The success of Urbania quickly brought TOXA the clients it desired. Within a short time, TV5 approached it to develop the concept for a new show, which resulted in Montreal en 12 lieux, a documentary series devoted to exploring hidden aspects of Montreal. While broadcasting and publishing have become key offerings of TOXA, it has continued to build its traditional creative clientele, with their portfolio revealing work for Elle, Cirrus, Aldo, Sid Lee and the NFB. Despite the variety of creative outlets, the central tenet of TOXA has always been a devotion to storytelling.
“What brought me to design was telling stories in a graphic way,” says Lamarre. “I’m not an aesthetics person; to me form follows function. When I created the magazine, it was because I wanted to produce content. When you’re a graphic designer, you’re at the mercy of your client, and I’d rather do the entire thing myself and make sure that what I produce is interesting and worth keeping.”
Ten years after its founding, TOXA now numbers 15 people and its growth shows no signs of slowing down. It plans to expand its footprint — not to English Canada or to the United States as some might expect, but instead to Europe.
“We want to produce more TV shows and more interactive experiences,” explains Lamarre. “That’s my goal, to do multiplatform storytelling for my own cultural products. I think in our experience, we’re closer to European clients, especially in TV. TV stations in America are very much into reality TV, and the types of TV shows we produce — documentary series with regular people, but not reality shows — I think it’s something the networks in France or Germany would buy over TV stations in Canada. Just that natural sensibility that I think we have in our work and our content.”
TOXA is a multi-disciplinary creative studio from Montreal. They can be reached via their website or by phone at 514-989-9500.