Senior Designer at Sid Lee Toronto shares her story, from her graphics-infused childhood to her DIY furniture side projects
You could say Montreal-born Ariane Leblanc was born to be a graphic designer. Arguably, it’s in her blood. Her father and grandfather were both graphic designers and her childhood home was filled with fascinating design equipment. So in her early teens, already so heavily inspired, she chose to spend her free time improving her drawing skills instead of playing at the park like most kids at the time.
Ariane studied academic design courses in Canada and at Central Saint Martins in London, expanding her portfolio and interests in the art world to fashion, interior design and architecture. She then freelanced for a few years but after searching for a more team-led experience found her home on the design team at Sid Lee Toronto.
Ariane has now been a Senior Designer at Sid Lee for the last year. She’s made work for a series of their clients and independent brands including identity design for Dime MTL, one of the biggest indie skate brands in the world. LBB’s Jason Caines managed to sit down with Ariane to discuss what it’s like to be a third-generation designer, creating the identity for Dime MTL, and reveal some details of her upcoming project for Kind Lee.
LBB> What was it like growing up as a kid in Montreal?
Ariane Leblanc> I grew up with my mom in Lachine and spent some time with my dad in downtown Montreal - a very big contrast. I’d spend my weekends drawing and listening to the radio since there weren’t any parks around our house downtown.
LBB> How did you initially become interested in design?
AL> My grandfather was a graphic designer and my dad is also a designer. I grew up surrounded by drawing tables, fancy pens, rules, tracing paper and Mac computers. In school, I always did very well in art classes - I’d win drawing contests and such. In my last year of high school, I designed a magazine with my friend and had my dad taught me how to use InDesign. I loved it so much.
LBB> You studied a BA Graphic Design degree at Central Saint Martins. Tell us about that experience.
AL> While studying Multimedia in CEGEP, I stumbled upon the Central Saint Martins website and thought the school looked amazing - I had to go. I was heavily into magazines at the time, and realized while reading that a lot of successful people had studied there. Long story short, I applied, got in and lived in London for three years and it was amazing.
The education there is very different, you have tutors rather than teachers. They are there to guide you in whatever project you want to accomplish. It’s a bit shocking at first, being in control of what you want to do, very ‘carte blanche’. So we would receive a brief - usually very broad - and then develop it the way we want. You could submit a painting, a film, a website, an object - it didn’t matter, the process was what mattered. It was very refreshing being exposed to all these ideas since everyone approached the same brief so differently. I met so many great friends.
LBB> How did you get your start in advertising?
AL> When I moved back to Montreal after my BA, I applied to all the agencies but with no success. I didn’t know anyone in the ‘business’ so I freelanced for five years, and eventually through meeting people, I freelanced at a few agencies. I realized that I missed working with a team, so when I was approached for the role in Toronto, I thought I should try it.
LBB> What's the day to day like for you at Sid Lee? What are the main challenges of your role?
AL> There isn't much of a routine, it really depends on where we are on a project. I work a lot with boards, I love to sketch out ideas and print stuff and make sense of it all like a giant moodboard.
Collaboration/communication is a challenge and a critical part of our work process. Getting people from strategy, production and design together at the beginning of a project is essential. It’s extremely beneficial for everyone to be exposed to how different departments operate and think.
LBB> I’ve noticed that you did the 'Identity Design' for skate crew Dime MTL. Their brand is amazing. How did that come about and what design did you do for their identity?
AL> That happened a few years ago when I moved back to Montreal. My friends Phil and Charles asked me to help them design a new logo for Dime. As corny as it sounds, their success is totally due to truly doing what they love and care about - skateboarding - and being unapologetic.
LBB> What stuff are you into outside of advertising?
AL> I love interior design and furniture - chairs in particular. I collect ‘80s interior design magazines. I love to build my own furniture, it’s very DIY but I enjoy it so much. I also paint and am very good at ping pong.
LBB> Do you have any advice for younger, budding designers out there?
AL> Don’t worry about showing a finished product or a perfect mock-up, show your process, your ideas and the way you approach problems.
LBB> Do you have any upcoming projects due for release that you'd like the people out there to know about?
AL> As part of a Kind Lee project, we are working on a comic book with my super talented friend Mathieu Dionne which will launch in the spring. I’m really excited about that one.