Our picks for TEDx Vancouver: Carson Ting and Mike Nowland, Designers


Vancouver is an amazing city, chock full of creative talent. WE ARE VANCVR is a simple, elegant way to showcase all that talent in one place. Every week we profile one individual from the VANCVR community.VANCVR.com is a Domain7 Labs project.

Recently, we published an open letter to TEDxVANCOUVER with a modest proposal.

We are huge TEDx fans, and we’re also huge fans of all the bright ideas generated by our city’s creative types. That’s why the team at Domain7 Labs started We Are VANCVR in the first place—to bring all this talent together for good and then see what emerges.

When TEDx returns for its third instalment in Vancouver on November 12, we would love to see some of that talent on stage. This is the third of five letters we’ll be posting to TEDx, with speaker recommendations from the We Are VANCVR community.


Carson Ting and Mike Nowland have some serious creative clout in this city. They met as art directors at Vancouver-based idea factory, Rethink Communications, but connected over their mutual love of fixed gear bikes and street art.

They have both moved on from Rethink—Carson to handle the Nike and Jordan accounts at Blast Radius, and Mike to form creative agency, Company Policy—but their partnership has taken on a life of its own.

Their first collaborative project—stop motion mural video, “404 Beach”—went viral, and their work has since ended up:

  • in the entrance to Invoke Media’s (Hootsuite) office
  • at the Memphis Film Festival
  • in the San Jose Tech Museum
  • on the pages of Idn Magazine
  • at the Vancouver Art Gallery
  • all over the Internet

This curious collaboration came out of friendship, but has resulted in some paradigm-shattering work that challenges all your notions of creative boundaries. The first time we saw one of their stop-motion videos we were taken aback by the implicit trust they’ve fostered. It allows them to create something completely organic without concern for the usual rules of personal expression.

Both come from a field defined by boundaries and bordered by rules and regulations. But they discovered that really good collaboration pushes you into new and sometimes uncomfortable places. “This less about working with a client and a brief than just getting together and seeing what happens,” says Mike.

What happens, it turns out, is pretty big stuff. They’ve got a growing portfolio of collaborative work which, last year, culminated in a 50-foot wall projection of a stop-motion mural at the Vancouver Art Gallery during the 2010 Olympics. “DaVinci was on one wall and we were on the other,” says Mike.

In a way they have found a way to defy those constraints we put on ourselves when sharing things. “Collaboration is all about crossing a line,” says Carson. “It’s exploration and stepping into uncharted territory, letting your instinct take over.” But the foundation of it all is trust.

Each project begins with a rough initial plan, but, says Mike, “Once we get to the wall and press record, all that planning disappears and you have to rely on trust. When you don’t have strict borders, rules slip away, and you can cross over each other without fear. You can build on one another’s ideas and just see what happens. If it’s a failure, it doesn’t matter because the experience is what’s important.”

In the act of creating together, they are also learning from one another. And these guys both have plenty to teach:

Carson is a Toronto import who’s been in Vancouver for nearly five years. Outside of Blast Radius he runs Chairman Ting Industries—a means to explore art beyond advertising. It began as a personal project but soon led to commercial opportunities‚ including a pretty substantial sponsored art show for Adidas. Carson has been listed as one of the top 200 illustrators in the world and one of the five most creative people in Canada.

Mike has worked with some of Canada’s best brands—GM, Rogers, Nestle, Microsoft, Greyhound, Bell—to name a few, and has been dubbed “The Oracle” for his uncanny ability to predict the digital future. Completely self-educated, he and his partner Leanna co-run Company Policy, developing and implementing ideas and design for organizations like Telus and UBC.

Both Carson and Mike have been speakers at Vancouver’s celebrated Pecha Kucha—Carson dealt with the idea of Creative Transparency at PK vol 16 and Mike took on the big topic of Permission at PK vol. 8.

A laundry list of industry accolades tells us the creative world thinks they are awesome, but we think they are awesome because they are pushing the frontier of art and collaboration. We’d love to hear them talk at TEDx about how to explore boundaries of creative freedom through collaboration. Wouldn’t you?