When Bureau won the Redgees Legacy Award in Ontario’s Boutique category, the prize for continued excellence in Canadian design was a fitting final feather in the Sudbury shop’s cap. In mid-September, partners Frank Chartrand and Terrie Barksey announced that Bureau was shutting down and the duo was relocating to Los Angeles to pursue new opportunities.
“It’s incredibly humbling and an honour to receive a Legacy Award as a bookend to Bureau’s run,” wrote Barksey in an email to Designedge. She has since transitioned to an interaction design role at California digital agency Rareview; Chartrand is now UI/UX designer at Edenspiekermann’s LA office.
Bureau was founded in 2009 with a focus on communications and quickly found itself gravitating toward online work. Over time it developed a relationship with Rareview in L.A., which opened the door for more interaction work and a taste of digital product design. The team was hooked. “This was new territory for us and we wanted to surround ourselves with people who could help us learn and grow in that realm,” they noted in their online farewell note.
With the move, Chartrand and Barksey join the diaspora of Canadian designers who have moved on to work in other locales. We contacted them to see what motivated their decision.
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Designedge: On your website you mention being motivated by doing more interaction and digital product work. Why not expand Bureau’s scope in that direction? Is that too hard of a shift? Is California just the better market?
Terrie Barksey: It was definitely a market issue for us. Most of our clients and opportunities lived in Northern Ontario, where interaction and digital product work isn’t abundant yet.
Frank Chartrand: There have been a couple of startups in Sudbury but they typically would keep their team in-house or have limited design budgets, and wouldn’t see the fit in hiring a company that specialized in communications to handle their UI and UX needs. It could have been done but would have required a major re-configuration for our company.
We’re seeing a trend of digital design shops closing, and talent moving to in-house teams ala Teehan+Lax going over to Facebook. What’s your take on this development, and do you see your own decision as being part of this movement, or something else altogether? Were you motivated by these stories?
TB: Yeah, it’s motivating to see designers do the type of work they’re drawn to and exceptional at. Similar to Teehan+Lax, there was a clash between the services side of our business and doing the type of work that made us happiest. That’s ultimately what it came down to; happiness.
FC: I spoke at great length with both Geoff [Teehan] and Jon [Lax] about their move, the differences between running a service agency and working in-house on a large product. Their story was definitely inspiring, and helped us when making the decision to seek out and accept new roles in California.
L.A. has been touted as the next Silicon Valley for a few years now. How do you think the scene in L.A. compares and contrasts to Ontario/Toronto/Canada?
FC: L.A.’s tech and design scene is growing fast–drawing entrepreneurs from San Francisco who are attracted to the beaches, somewhat lower housing costs and the proximity to the entertainment industry. There are so many companies and startups doing interesting things in the digital space here: YouTube, Honest, Snapchat, Headspace, just to name a few. Google just purchased a massive amount of land in Playa Vista–I think that’s a sign that things are shifting here.
There’s so much happening in the north–Shopify (Toronto), is changing the way commerce is done online, Breather (Montreal) a startup that creates peaceful spaces where you can work or relax in just had a successful round of funding, and Slack’s massive valuation prove that Canada is a hotbed for tech. Our opportunities just happened to lie in California.
Samples of Bureau’s work over the years. Click images to view gallery.
See full Redgees Legacy portfolio
What’s the biggest difference between what you did at Bureau, and what you’ll be doing in your new position? Is there anything you’re particularly excited about?
FC: I’m most excited about learning from designers who have more experience in this space. Working on large scale products that impact so many people is thrilling too, and something I’ve never had a chance to fully explore. I’ve been following Edenspiekermann closely for over 5 years, and Erik Spiekermann since I was in design school. It’s really neat to work for a company founded by one of the world’s most opinionated and renowned typographers.
How many employees were affected by the closure?
FC: We employed many independent contractors over the years but worked steadily with 3-5, who we had at the forefront of our minds when we were making the decision to close Bureau.
TB: Thankfully, at the time we closed, no one depended solely on us for full-time employment so we had a little more freedom to make a selfish decision.
You recently won a Legacy Award for Boutique agency. What does it mean for Bureau to win an award like this at this time?
TB: It’s incredibly humbling and an honour to receive a Legacy Award as a bookend to Bureau’s run. Small agency life is a unique challenge, as is running a predominantly digital design agency in Northern Ontario.
FC: We couldn’t be happier. We’re extremely proud of what Bureau achieved in its history. We’ve always been happy to be a small part of someone’s journey on to greater things. We share the award with everyone who’s ever worked us, past and present.