Interview with Ali Gardiner

Davin Greenwell, March 28, 2021 at 9:31 PM
For almost eight years, Ali Gardiner has been working in her dream job promoting sport and Canada through branding and design for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. This is a short interview exploring her take on Design Currency 2010.

DW: What are you looking forward to most about Design Currency 2010?

AG: It will be a great opportunity to hear from design leaders from so many backgrounds and perspectives, and to get inspired and learn. It has been a while since I've been out for a gathering with the creative community, so I'm looking forward to it. Better clean myself up a bit by then!

DW: What does the conference theme “Design Currency” mean to you?

AG: It's a great theme as it takes me in a few directions, and they all seem relevant to both work and life. I'm hoping it will provide a platform to explore the value of good design and how to measure/present it in ways that ensure it's a priority in business, public spheres, and in life in general.

DW: If design was currency, who would have the most? Who would have the least?

AG: This is a very philosophical question...wish I could hear what others are saying before I submit my answer!  The "haves" might be the people who value design the most, and who do a good job of understanding and prioritizing design excellence. The "have-nots" would be the opposite...people and organizations who do not give time or resources to good design. You know who I'm talking about.

DW: What criteria do you use to evaluate design?

AG: I try to evaluate how design will be experienced in its intended environment...whether it's in a sea of competing ads, a dynamic website, a busy city intersection or an Olympic sports venue. This helps establish whether it will stand out or function in the way it has to. We did mock-ups galore at Vancouver 2010, because we had no chance to change most things "the next time". There was no next time for us.

I generally take the necessary time to develop a sound brief, in which case the objectives and criteria should provide a good basis for evaluation. The brief for our Olympic and Paralympic medals identified that they had to be beautiful and feel worthy of what they represented, and they had to be uniquely Canadian. Beauty is obviously subjective, and we were trying some pretty bold elements, so we also checked in with the medals' intended "audiences" - Olympic and Paralympic athletes - and their responses told us we were on the right track and gave us some good insight on a few specifics as well.

And as a brand person, I always evaluate design's consistency with the brand it represents. Again, this is not always black and white, but a focused brand platform should make it fairly easy to identify whether a design is off-brand or not.

Outside of work, I'm sure all these evaluation processes happen subconsciously. And it never hurts to be surrounded by great designers who can provide their expert opinions.


Ali Gardner will be speaking at Design Currency 2010. To learn more about her, see Ali Gardner's speaker page.

Posted In:Interviews