GDC Fellow

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David Coates, FGDC

Born in Toronto in 1960, David’s family moved to Vancouver in 1970, settling in the Horseshoe Bay area of West Vancouver. David comes from an arts and humanities family—his father was a psychiatrist and mother a silkscreen artist who, after completing her masters degree went into early childhood education and helped develop college level programs for British Columbia. After high school David moved to Edmonton, following the oil boom in the late 70’s. He never made it to the oil patch, instead he began a seven year career as a carpenter. Moving back to BC in 1982 he went back to school to study graphic design at Emily Carr College of Art & Design in 1984.

It was at Emily Carr where David met Rod Roodenburg, partner in Ion Design. In their fourth year of studies, they began working together on non-profit and cultural posters for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, New Orchestra Workshop and others. They found that between them they had great synergy, and founded Coates/Roodenburg design immediately after graduation in 1988. A year later they incorporated and changed the name to Ion Design.

Ion is a multi disciplinary design firm devoted to the principle that strong design should not only engage the senses, but should also meet marketing and communication objectives. Ion works with a wide variety of business, government, cultural, academic and other institutions both locally and internationally. In addition, Ion Design partners on an international level with twelve strategic design partners throughout the United States, Eastern and Western Europe, Australia and South America through Co-Design Worldwide. The firm enjoys an outstanding reputation for their work and has received over 200 awards to date including Lotus, Graphex, DX and numerous international design awards. Articles on the company have appeared in Communication ArtsPrint, Applied Arts, Step-by-Step, Studio and How Magazine and their work is part of the National Gallery of Canada. Both David and Rod have done many lecturers to business people, students and professional designers throughout Canada.

In 1994, David and partner Rod Roodenburg were named among the Top 40 Under 40 business people in Vancouver by Business in Vancouver. In 1996, David was named to the Applied Arts Magazine editorial board, and served in that capacity until 2000. David has judged the National Post Annual Report Awards three years running. In 2001 David was named to the sessional faculty of Emily Carr Institute.

David got involved in the GDC in 1991, helping to plan and execute BC’s awards programme Graphex‘93. By June of 1993, he was president of the BC Chapter. After being handed “the box,” he realized he had inherited a Chapter that was in disarray —financially in the red, no executive job descriptions, few procedures in place to ensure proper running of the Chapter and waning membership. Along with his completely fresh executive, David set his goal to get the administration of the Chapter in order, and at the end of his second term as president, the Chapter was well in the black, and new executives had tools at their disposal to run the Chapter effectively. During his term, he was instrumental in lobbying the Worker’s Compensation Board to lower it’s rate for graphic designers, who had been lumped in with printers—collectively saving British Columbia designers  hundreds of thousands of dollars. He wrote and received a grant for the first GDC website in 1995, and introduced the GDC listserv in 1997. The BC website grew to be the National site in 1997, and was redeveloped in 2001 by his firm and their content management software “theSmallbox” to be a true intranet—effectively changing the way the GDC does business forever.

David was a member of the GDC National Council for eleven years. Over his tenure on the National he participated in the development of the Elgin O’Connor Report which resulted in the formation of the National Secretariat, lengthy constitutional changes, and the Fort Garry Agreement outlining the relationship of then newly accredited Ontario to the National. His two-year term as National Communications VP was challenging, as the advent of accreditation in Ontario had choked the National financially—making it difficult to print and distribute anything to members.

David became National President in 1998—his goal was to complete the GDC Members’ Kit that had been started in 1994 and was a logical conclusion to what he had begun with the BC Chapter. This project was finally finished in 2001 with the huge help of Matt Warburton. During his presidency, David changed the constitutional requirement of National Biennial General Meetings to Annual General Meetings—helping to ensure that more gets accomplished during a given executive duration. He also initiated a new structure for AGMs where the National council reviews Chapter reports prior to the meeting—freeing up a full day for brainstorming new initiatives.  

In 2000 Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design presented David with an Emily Award—its highest honour—for lifetime career achievement. In 2001 the GDC awarded David Fellowship in the Society for his contribution to Canadian design.