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If you have a degree in what field is it? I did an Honors BA in visual arts at the University of Toronto. It involved drawing, painting, lithography, sculpture and performance art. I also took courses in film theory, theater, music, political science and psychology. So, jack of all trades...

What’s the best site you’ve seen lately? What’s so great about it? The Canadian Design Resource. It’s an uncomplicated, unpretentious celebration of Canada’s voice in the design world. I don’t know where they find all the things they post, but I’m glad they’re out there looking.

If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? I’d be the lead singer of the world’s biggest rock band. Or a chef.

Design or technology? Which is more important? Why? Is that really a dichotomy? If it is... design. Technology is moving too fast. We keep making new tools before we’ve figured out how to use the old ones properly. Take nuclear. Seems like a good idea until you start collecting waste from the reactor’s core. That stuff is toxic for thousands of years. What are we going to do with it? The church of technology tells us not to worry, that endless new technologies will solve problems created by the old technologies. I’m not buying it. How about we just work with what we’ve got for a couple of years. Is that design?

From where do your best ideas originate? My best ideas just seem to blip into existence more or less fully formed. My worst ideas? Those are hard work.

How do you overcome a creative block? Go to the gym. Intense physical exercise is a perfect counterpoint to intense mental exercise. And even if you don’t make the breakthrough while you’re there, it gives you a chance to step back and focus on something else important for an hour. We spend so much time thinking about client needs, sometimes you find what you’re looking for when you stop and think about yourself.

In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new project? Caffeinated.

What well-known site is most desperately in need of a redesign? What’s with Craigslist? I know it’s a grassroots, no-nonsense information delivery system and everything, but would it kill them to throw a JPEG up there?

Do you have creative outlets other than Web design? I’m the director of marketing for a Toronto-based not-for-profit called The Room. These are some of Canada’s most accomplished independent theater-makers and it’s a thrill to play in that “fine art” sandbox. Among our projects, we’re currently writing an album, backwards. I’ll be playing piano, guitar and singing; I’m thinking it’ll be pretty embarrassing.

What music are you listening to right now? I’m surprised all pop singers everywhere don’t stop making music the moment they hear Ben Gibbard sing. He’s one part master storyteller, one part virtuoso vocalist and three parts impossibly awesome. I’ve had Narrow Stairs on repeat since it came out in 2008. Now’s there’s Owl City—Postal Service-lite on auto-tune. What are you gonna do?

What product/gadget can you not live without? I could live without my Yamaha DGX630 digital piano, but life would be considerably less rich.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve bought online? The Daniel Lanois album, Here Is What Is.

What’s your favorite quote? “You can accomplish anything you want if you don’t care who gets the credit.” —Elizabeth May (leader of Canada’s Green Party). Next time you’re feeling possessive about an idea, ask yourself this: What’s more important, the idea being great or me getting the credit? If it’s about you getting the credit, you may be missing an opportunity to truly collaborate and be part of something that’s bigger than you—something great.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? You aren’t entitled to this. The world is full of suffering and pain and misery and hopelessness and you’re damn lucky to be in the running for a job that pays you to use your mind and not a shovel or a gun. Treasure the opportunity. After that: Show up. Be nice. Be persistent.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? It sounds like you’re looking for a “regret,” and from a career standpoint, those don’t seem worth having. I guess I just wish I’d known that it was going to take a long time to learn how to write and that, maybe, people never really know how. The hope is that you get better as you go. There will always be good and bad days and years, but if you can stay focused on what’s important to you, you’ll eventually get where you want to be. Don’t be too hard on yourself; that kind of stress will drive you to an early grave.
[photo credit: Pete Aspros]

Ian Mackenzie is a copywriter at Grip Limited in Toronto where he works on projects for Honda, Budweiser, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen-Ortho. After finishing an art degree at the University of Toronto he went rogue, spending five months in the Indian sub-continent and two years in the heart of Tokyo. Professionally, he's also been a proofreader, short filmmaker, film critic and news reporter. He’s also an award-winning blogger whose writing on theater has been quoted in the Guardian and he recently helped launch Grip Limited’s blog, Big Orange Slide.

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