The Smiths put Blotgraphix on the map
Bermudian couple Chiwun and Danielle Smith are forging a truly international design and advertising business in Toronto. Marina Mello spoke to the pair from St George's about how they have established themselves on the global stage
Danielle and Chiwun Smith have formed a partnership in more ways than one. The Bermudian couple own and operate two growing art and design companies in Toronto, which have both large Bermuda and Canadian clients.
With Mrs Smith's accounting background complimenting Mr Smith's artistic skills, they decided to form Blotgraphix in 2004, a company specialising in graphic design, web design and advertising.
Clients include Citibank, Bermuda Department of Tourism, including the 400th anniversary logo, and the Bermuda Perfumery's newest fragrance Alegria, Fresco's Group, WOW, Bermuda National Gallery and numerous Canadian businesses and organisations.
A year ago they launched Caramel Expressions, selling original wall art for children's bedrooms and nurseries, inspired by the birth of their own child.
Their designs sold in select stores and online through their website as well as Amazon.com and Etsy.com have been so popular that the company is now expanding into new room décor areas.
Their Bermuda-inspired undersea and maritime wall art (little fish, shells, boats, lighthouses) has been especially popular and their series of vintage cars has been a hit with grown ups too.
They also have created delightful jungle, owls and garden (ballerinas, butterflies, flowers, trees) series.
“While the idea was to create timeless artwork for children's rooms - pieces that could grow with them from baby through childhood, many of our pieces have been popular for adults too, particularly the classic vehicles,” Mrs Smith said.
“Over the next few weeks and months, we will be expanding our product line to include other décor products.”
Mrs Smith said being based overseas in Toronto allows them to offer “cutting edge design and printing to our Bermuda clients as well as access to a fantastic network of other designers, web programmers and administrators.”
Their designs and original photography have received numerous awards including the Designfirms Web Award, Best of Bermuda Gold Award, and Overnight Prints Global Business Card Competition Winner .
She talked to
The Royal Gazette about how she and Chiwun began their companies, their backgrounds and why they moved abroad.
She also had some sound advice for others seeking to enter the competitive design field.
I attended Mount Saint Agnes and then Trinity College School in Canada for high schools and then went on to Queen's University.
What is your education background?
Chiwun graduated from Saltus and has attended OCAD in Toronto and the Academy of Art in San Francisco for his Masters programme.
We were originally located in St. George's but with the downturn in that area, the timing just worked out for moving on to somewhere new.
What made you move to Canada?
Toronto is an inspiring city for design and advertising and we're able to bring the expertise back to our Bermuda clients.
Chiwun, in particular, travels back frequently to meet with clients and we both have family in Bermuda.
Chiwun had been doing freelance design while I was working at KPMG. I studied accounting in school and was a student trainee at KPMG. They were an excellent firm to work for but there was a certain appeal about working for myself - flexible hours and the ability to travel. We decided that his graphic design background and my business background could go hand in hand and so we formed Blotgraphix.
How did you go about starting your own business?
How did you start the wall art company,
The wall art is currently available as a linen print or canvas. We are expanding our product line due to many requests from our customers. They love the designs and want to use the theme throughout their rooms.
Some of our new products will include nightlights, clothing, books, pillow covers, and other room décor items.
Chiwun hand draws the designs and then digitises them to create the textures. The printing is done off-site with professional printers. We sell the products through our website and through wholesale to retailers.
Attending the right college is key to setting yourself apart in the design world.
What advice do you have for others wanting to pursue the competitive field of graphic design and web design?
It seems like every post-secondary institution is offering a computer graphics course but graphic design is far more than just art and Photoshop, it is also highly technical and acquiring the right skills and education will help.
You'll want to find a programme that encompasses typography, real-world approaches, problem solving, print and editorial design, branding, marketing strategies and the ins and outs of production.
Presentation skills are also key! You'll be constantly presenting to clients! Choose a school that has world renowned designers, for example, Chiwun was instructed by the Banana Republic packaging designer at the Academy of Art.
You can find more on their companies at http://www.facebook.com/blotgraphix (their website is being redesigned) and http://caramelexpressions.com