Duration: Alison Garnett and Carolina Soderholm launched Field Trip & Co in 2017. Previously, Alison enjoyed 23 years as a “hybrid creative,” alternating between digital and traditional agencies, including TAXI, Critical Mass and SapientRazorfish. Carolina had spent 20 years in communications design, mostly working on branding and print with the occasional wayfinding project in various design studios—most recently Bruce Mau Design, and then her own shop, Designholmen. Location: Toronto, Canada.
Education: Alison studied drawing and painting at OCAD University in Toronto for four years, including a year abroad in Florence, Italy, followed by an intensive computer graphics program at the Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Oakville, Canada. Carolina studied at Parsons School of Design, Emily Carr University of Art + Design (communication design), Lund University (art history), and Folkuniversitetet (photography).
Career path: Alison’s path is a nontraditional one. She had enrolled in the drawing and painting program at OCAD, where she developed a passion for conceptual thinking and sculpture installation. Having returned from her year in Florence, she was one of sixteen students that were accepted into a computer graphics postgrad program at Sheridan College, where she was exposed to Photoshop, Macromedia Director and Illustrator, leading to her first job designing CD-ROMS. Despite putting a future career as a painter on hold, she still brings the same conceptual thinking and storytelling into Field Trip & Co’s design approach.
In her twenties, Carolina pursued anything in the arts that she could get her hands on—painting, photography, theater, dance and art history. She knew she wanted to express herself creatively, but had never considered graphic design, when the admissions office at Emily Carr told her she had enough credits to skip the arts foundation year. She had to decide on the spot that, yes, communication arts sounded good. It was the start of her love affair with typography and storytelling, and when she first realized that everything communicates.
Artistic influences: Alison is inspired by the resurgence of the maker industry and investing time to learn and perfect traditional craft skills, from hand lettering to baking French macarons. She’s also influenced by the current movements empowering women in the creative industry, such as the superstar duo of creative leadership consultancy Swim—Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin and industry disturber Cindy Gallop. Carolina is influenced by the Scandinavian aesthetic and by simplicity and function. It was during her time as a senior designer at Bruce Mau that she also learned the importance of story. Every project has an element of storytelling and purpose—design not just for the sake of aesthetics.
Favorite projects: Working with the Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA). The nonprofit organization represents the majority of all Canadian advertising with a three-pronged strategy: to amplify, protect and transform. When the ICA needed a rebrand on a tight timeline, we honed in on those mandates and created a dynamic system of three identities, each with its own color, shape and typographic treatment. We debuted our flexible identity system at one of the FutureFlash conferences along with a bold new tone of voice that announced the ICA’s mission to champion commercial creativity, amplify the industry’s economic impact, and embrace and drive change.
We also liked working with the Shorefast Foundation for the Fogo Island Inn, a luxury rural inn located on Fogo Island, off the coast of Canada that celebrates local tradition and heritage with a contemporary twist. The project included wayfinding and signage, color strategy for furniture, the identity and print collateral, and the art direction of wallpaper design. We learned so much about the richness of place and history and how to bring it into a contemporary context. The documentary about the making of the inn, Strange & Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island, sums the process up nicely. The outcome and the project’s importance to the community still make us deeply proud to have taken part.
Work environment: Field Trip & Co is located in the Lower Junction, an industrial neighborhood in the west end of Toronto. We are across the street from an independent brewery and the future site of the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada. We chose this spot because of its proximity to our homes, which makes juggling work and home life with the kids a little easier. Our space is in an old industrial building with a high ceiling, large windows and rustic flooring—a hub for like-minded creatives.
Approach: We are empathetic listeners who believe that understanding customers is essential to a brand’s success. We seek deeper truths beyond the studio walls to gather insights and inspiration—and we aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty in the process. This—and a full dose of rigor—takes us to new ways of thinking, which is the foundation of great work.
Aspirations: To continue working with clients who appreciate the value of discovery, good design and beauty—the ones who differentiate themselves to hit an emotional cord with their audience. We seek out clients who are committed to making a lasting and positive impact socially, economically and environmentally, such as the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada and Waterfront Toronto. Our ideal is to reach a size no larger than twelve employees, and to remain a dog-friendly office.
Philosophy: Don’t worry; everything will be amazing. So far, this has proven to be true. Also, number 33 from Bruce Mau’s An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, which says, “Take field trips: The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set or the Internet or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time computer graphic–simulated environment.” This holds so true for how we approach work and why we named our company Field Trip & Co. The world is so much bigger than Pinterest. Change your view and the view will change you.