My Story is THEIR Story

Mark Busse – No Comments

I was honoured to be invited to give a Pecha Kucha presentation (20 slide x 20 seconds each) recently based on the theme “What’s Your Story?” I find myself quite tired of talking about myself these days and wanted to honour some of those who’ve been at my side in the past. This is by no means a comprehensive list by any means (apologies to those who don’t appear below) and not even giving the respect and gratitude to my long time business partner, current staff, and myriad of collaborators over the years, but here is a link to the audio of my presentation, and below are the images and text for your enjoyment.


I believe everyone is the average of the people they spend the most time with. My story is much to complicated too fit onto 20 slides, so I’d like to introduce you to some of the cast of all stars that have been part of my team at my design firm over the past 16 years. These are photos of them today next to a project from our time together as colleagues.


This is Kevin, the very first employee we ever hired as a fresh graduate from UBC’s web design program. Kevin bored easily and was always exploring and looking forward, pushing for new ideas, strategies and technologies. We’re grateful for the contributions he made to our firm over the seven years he was with us. Kevin is now Director of Creative Strategy at Edelman Canada who lets him mostly work from his man cave in Gibsons.


When Steph first applied to be an intern she was just 18 years old! It was amazing to meet someone so naturally talented with quiet ambition forging her own path. I loved how Steph made me feel brave and see the potential all around us. After a couple years with MetaLab she moved to San Francisco where she is the UI design manager at AirBnB, winning all kinds of awards and accolades. We’re very proud of Steph.


Brandon was Steph’s boyfriend when we met him, but quickly revealed his talent so we hired him. As a young developer and technologist, he was a master problem solver. We’ll always be grateful for Brandon helping us develop our first blog and set up our first server and network. After a few years working for our friends at Atimi Software, Brandon joined Apple in Cupertino where he works as an iOS developer. (this is only photo he is allowed to share)


Paul moved here from his native Toronto and joined us as a creative director.His passion for images was contagious and I’ve never seen anyone able to do what he does with Photoshop and really improved our studio’s overall production capabilities. Paul pursued his dream of owning his own creative firm and now runs the successful photography and retouching studio The Orange Apple.


After living in Japan for a few years, Matthew joined us as an intern. When he arrived I remember his laptop was all in Japanese! I remember Matthew was so keen to learn and I’ll always be grateful for his generous spirit and hard work ethic, volunteering for various industry and community projects, most recently as the lead of the CreativeMornings video team. Matthew joined the team at Ion Design where he honed his skills for a few years before joining Telus as a senior designer. He and his wife and just had their first child.


Leigh is one of the funniest women I know. She joined our team as a young and inexperienced designer, but had an old soul. She’s a great collaborator and slick production technician and we learned a lot from her. Leigh worked with Kevin at Edelman for a couple years but now runs her own design practice and has produced two successful mobile apps with her partner Jer.


This is Alex, who joined us as an eager rookie ready to learn. Always the first guy to put his hand up to volunteer, he dedicated tons of his time to my crazy design industry ideas and community-building initiatives. He regularly reminds me of the value of hard work and I appreciate his friendship. Alex is now a UX & communication designer at Usability Matters in Toronto.


My buddy Steve was introduced to me as “the only guy” I needed to know from his Langara grad class. He’s a talented jazz musician, photographer, designer, developer and travel junkie. He worked for us twice actually and always challenged us with new technologies and process improvements—we still value him as an advisor. Steve’s dream was to work in the startup sector and is now a senior member of the development team at Hootsuite.


Haig was a local interactive designer who merged his firm with ours and became our first partner. A musician, self-taught developer, and teacher, Haig pushed us to re-imagine what a design firm could be and how we could better use technology. Haig returned to his own practise and is now a professor at Emily Carr, a UX expert and international speaker, is doing his masters in digital media and recently began a research project with Growlab.


Amanda arrived with Haig and instantly became an important part of our team as a project manager. She is calm and organized and takes to complicated projects like it’s second nature to her. Another dedicated GDC volunteer, Amanda’s passion is sustainability and after completing her MBA in design, she joined Intuit in Sunnyvale, CA as a product designer working on apps like Quickbooks. BTW, she’s now engaged to Brandon! Guess where they met?


Sarah was a junior designer when she arrived, but left a lasting impression. A soft spoken introvert with big ideas, she taught me about respect as a manager after I crossed a line once at work. I’m grateful for that lesson. After a terrific stint with Canadian Red Cross Sarah moved to Victoria to be the creative director of a Boulevard Magazine and now runs her own successful design practise.


A native of France, Mathilde brought a European aesthetic and work ethic to our team. Her excellent design and leadership on projects like this one made it a wildly successful Vancouver real estate marketing campaign. Her “let’s just do it” approach reminded me that even lower budget projects can be beautiful, and beautiful design works. We were sad Mathilde moved back to France, but her partner is a scientist doing important work and duty called. She now freelances and is an art director for Native in Lyons.


I knew Sylvia for years as a fellow GDC president, so when she moved here from Edmonton, we scooped her quick and made her our studio manager. An experienced designer and producer, she was a task master and raised the bar for us in more ways than we can count. Inspired by her love of interior decorating, she recently followed her dream and launched her own consultancy Vintagey, helping people find unique vintage home decor.


Here’s our little Mexican jumping bean Joanna, who joined us after finishing her masters degree at Emily Carr. Knowing she was meeting with the founders of Foodists, she brought homemade guacamole to her job interview, so we had to hire her! When my buddy Ryan called and asked if I could recommend a young designer for his growing startup, I knew Joanna was the right choice and she now leads the brand team at Hootsuite.


I was Daniela’s mentor in her final year of design school at Emily Carr, so after she graduated I watched her career closely. After a few years in the field we were lucky to have her join us as a mid level designer and she made a great addition to the team. Daniela is ambitious and now works as the exhibit and graphic designer at Vancouver Aquarium as well as the chair of SEGD Vancouver and we’re proud of her.


Nikole came to us as an intern from Kwantlen’s GDMA program and her energy and drive made her a natural choice as a project manager and production designer. She is a dedicated volunteer in many of my projects such as GDC and we continue to produce Likemind Vancouver together. Sometimes to help someone achieve their goals you need to let them leave, so when Nikole wanted a career shift, we helped her connect with Kevin at Edelman who hired her for their design team and she’s loving it.


Matt is another designer who returned a couple times to work with us—which says a lot actually. A quirky dyslexic from England, he expertly led our design team for many years before becoming a partner. I admire Matt’s sense of humour and willingness to do whatever it takes to get something done right. Matt and his wife recently moved to Prince George where he now works as a creative director for a firm up north and we miss him every day.


And finally this is Tyler, who was a senior designer who specialized in web interface design, but did great graphic design projects like this wine packaging. He contributed a great deal of inspiration and depth to our team, for which we’re grateful. He led the redesign of our website recently. These days Tyler is a UX design lead at Atimi Software, a high end mobile app development shop we sometimes partner with.


That’s just a small sample of those who’ve made my story interesting. Above is my co-founder and business partner (top left) who’s been a part of my story since we were seven years old along with our core team today who obviously deserve an entire presentation dedicated to them too. How smart or talented I am doesn’t mean much without surrounding myself with high calibre professionals. And I feel blessed to the average of these people.

Who in your life deserves recognition for helping create your story?