This small firm of five people is doing some big things from their hip office in Gastown, Vancouver. The company, founded in 2000 is the result of a unique partnership of design and technology that unites in a dynamic approach to interactive projects.
Eric Karjaluoto, MGDC, Creative Director and partner, is passionate about ideas and experience. He studied at the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design and worked as a painter prior to focusing on design. He now guides creative at smashLAB, where he fosters an atmosphere of pragmatism and design-focused thinking. He is particularly interested in creating work that builds a dialogue with viewers and engages them in experiences.
Eric Shelkie, Technical Director and partner, spent his childhood coding games for his Vic 20. Today, he develops highly intuitive interactive properties that streamline business processes. He oversees the planning, implementation and operation of server environments and website hosting. He is the lead architect for shiftCMS: smashLAB’s proprietary application that allows users to easily manage website content. Some believe that Eric dreams in code.
The company started as a full service firm offering branding for print and interactive applications but has since refocussed entirely on the interactive side - their forte.
smashLAB attributes their success to working from a strong strategic foundation on all their projects. By beginning with analysis and research and being very process oriented - they have a checklist for everything - they achieve client goals and objectives in a manner that ensures a quality result. Even with successful results, they continually experiment with their approach, working to improve their methodology.
The firm has received international notoriety with the spring '07 launch of their site Design Can Change, a campaign to encourage sustainable practices amongst graphic designers that encompassed all smashLAB's activities for a full eight months. When the website went live in April 2007, it was one of the first websites dedicated to the graphic designer's relationship to the issues surrounding climate change and one of a few online resources for sustainable graphic design. Design Can Change quickly gained significant recognition within the design community, and since its launch, it has won awards and received mentions on popular design portals, industry publications, and hundreds of blogs. Within six months of launch, it had acquired over fifteen-hundred pledges from designers around the world.
Eric K. has also authored a blog called ideasonideas since 2005. The blog offers critical thought and discussion of topics relating to communication design and designers. Says Eric Karjaluoto about the blog: "I still approach the notion of a blog with some degree of trepidation. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with the notion of blogs, it’s just that I view them somewhat critically. Another self-publishing tool is always a welcome addition to the landscape; nevertheless, I have to ponder whether the blog will serve as the written sibling of desktop publishing. The latter has simultaneously proved to democratize communication, and bastardize design. In my mind, and perhaps in those of some others, the desktop publisher has often made the world a more unsightly place."
ideasonideas receives over 60,000 visits a month, proving that this particular self-publishing venue is no ugly duckling.
More recently the partners have toyed with actual revenue generating sites such as MakeFive. The website is a way for users to connect with others through what they think. It allows them to create lists about what they like, hate, believe, remember, and more. They can use these lists to simply introduce who they are, or use the system to help meet others who share similar thoughts.
The possibilities for this are limitless. Maybe this is a virtual "night at a bar", where they talk about their favorite bands in college and learn about new ones. On the other hand, it could be an opportunity to document the greatest moments of their life, and remind loved-ones of them. What users do with it is up to them, but with just a little creativity it's definitely a lot of fun.
Amidst all these "personal" projects, the company also seems to find time to work for paying clients too. Indeed, they have an impressive, fast growing client list that includes lots of start-ups, travel/tourism groups and, oddly enough, law firms. Some of their more notable clients include Canadian Heritage, Northern BC Tourism and CN.
^ Design direction, UI and screen designs for Asesor Seguros, an online insurance provider in Spain.
^ Website design, development, and backend for illumivision, an industrial lighting operation based in Edmonton, Alberta.
^ Naming, identity, website and ecommerce integration for FrogFile, a Vancouver based sustainable office products supplier.
^ Logo and website design for Kicking Horse River Lodge, a newly resort in Golden, BC.
So as if that wasn't enough already, Eric K is currently writing a book on how to engage in creative projects, and will be presenting at conferences for the AIGA and HOW in 2008.
It's safe to say that with all the accolades they have received and their creativity and drive to create compelling projects that we will be seeing a lot more of this little lab in the future. We look forward to that.
More recent articles on smashLAB
- smashLAB is making waves with its socially conscious interactive work. A GDC profile by David Coates, FGDC
- A review by Andrea Tétrault, MGDC
- Case studies from the British Design Council offer inspiration.
- Sites to inspire your type
- Students at Kwantlen University College integrate design with altruism
- …and get a great typeface while you’re at it!
- What gives design value? It took 1 money counter and 2218 custom bills to find out.
- By Nancy Wu, CGD
- Typographica's 2007 list of top fonts of the year