Monthly Archives: August 2011

Logo Design: Less is More

One of the biggest misconceptions is that a simple logo takes less time to create and is also least expensive. Based on my experiences in logo design, it is often the simplest logos that are the toughest to complete.

One of the main reasons it is so tough to create a simple logo is that there is less object to work with and as such so much more attention is given to the final product. Every single line, box, shadow, and colour is therefore that much more scrutinized upon completion.

In fact, some of the most well-known and easily recognized brands in the world tend to have the simplest logos. Take for example, Apple, Pepsi, 3M, Target, and McDonalds. All have logos that are extremely simple and easy to recreate, yet these brands tend to be some of the most well-recognized companies in the world. Yes I’m sure their strong marketing campaigns have a lot to do with it, but there’s no doubt that a strong logo is the foundation for a successful marketing campaign.

I find that the best logo designs are those that are the most simple. They are easy to recognize, memorable, easier to work with and most likely the best branding strategy for your business.




As children we are taught what to say and what to feel by parents, teachers, the parish, and when we grow up spouses, censor boards, friends, governments, bosses and the media flood our brain with propaganda. ‘What should I think?’ and ‘What do I think?’ become a moral and ethical calamity.

When Jackie Kennedy stood stoic at her husband’s funeral the world said, “Wow, what a strong woman she is.” Does this mean that African and Middle Eastern women who shriek and wail at funerals are weak? This scenario is primal, universal: Life. Death. Sorrow. What do you think?

Do not stereotype yourself as you write. It takes more strength to say, ‘I will not do what’s expected, I will do what I need to do’, than it does to conform. Your writing will unearth this strength, which, if used well, will continue to empower you, keeping your emotional system out of conflict and in good health, keeping you focused on the clarity of ‘What do I think?’.


Research for a Song—Full Circle

A while back I wrote about composing a song that tells the story of the beautiful Sharon Temple, a national historic site in York Region. In the first post I explained what inspired me to write it (a visit to the Temple last summer) and how I found my way into the narrative. In the second I detailed some of my writing challenges—and serendipitous surprises—in telling the fascinating story of the sect, the Children of Peace, that built the temple.

In those posts I talked primarily about crafting the lyrics. But I also had to figure out what kind of music I should set those lyrics to.

Music played a key role in worship for the Children of Peace. Luckily the temple has published a booklet containing invaluable information on the sect’s music, plus the notation for all 20 tunes from the temple’s original barrel organ. So I started with one of the hymn tunes coded into the organ called “Egypt,” which has a suitably haunting, minor-key quality. It became my inspiration for the verses (I even used the same key, G minor), but I wrote a more joyous, major-key, hymn-like tune for my chorus, since the chorus begins:

“Oh we made a joyful sound, and we dressed in colours gay

We were neighbour helping neighbour in the truest Christian way…”

According to the booklet, the Children of Peace also put together “one of the earliest, if not the first, civilian band in Canada” that included instruments ranging from cellos to flutes to French horn. I’ll be going into the studio soon to record the song, and my piano player can’t wait to arrange some parts for these instruments.

And now my story of the writing of the song has come full circle: I’ll be revisiting the temple to perform the song there on Friday September 9. Every year the Sharon Temple holds an “Illumination,” when the building is lit up with only candles and lanterns. The program includes music, a speaker, and something called “our traditional Illumination cake,” served at the end of the evening. This year I’m honoured to be providing the music. Cost is $25 and it goes toward helping restore this historical gem (the building, not me).

Hope you can make it and hear the official premiere of my new song—it will be a truly moving experience for me to sing it in the very place whose history it recounts and whose music it echoes.


Marie-Lynn Hammond is a co-founder of Stringband, a seminal Canadian folk group, and a critically acclaimed songwriter living in York Region. In past lives she’s written plays and magazine articles and hosted national CBC radio shows. In between working on two new CDs, she freelances as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction.


Write A Powerful Business Bio

We all have to do it sometime or other. Most people cringe at the idea of writing their ‘what’s known as’ longer bio (one page) for their website, LinkedIn profile and so on. What’s heard mostly is,”I have a hard time praising myself.”

As an entrepreneur every word on your website or professional network profile has to count. Your credentials might seem okay, your face looks friendly (if you have a photo), your business seems credible enough, and then there’s your bio–the scrawl that readers dust over as they try to pick up something about your experience, your approach, and the fun things you do. Your bio opens the window to you in the flesh.

One of the most important points to remember about your long bio is that the writing has to reflect the type of business you’re trying to promote.

For example: If you’re promoting sales and marketing and your bio is humble and comatosed, a reader will get the sense that, “Gee, how’s this person going to promote me if they can’t promote themselves?”  Be proud, bold, dynamic!

If you’re in the plumbing business and your bio is long-winded and whimsical a reader’s going to think, “Hm, will he even show up on time?” Be professional, precise and technically sound!

If you’re an artist and your bio is sterile and uninspiring, how does that reflect you?  Be original, creative, enchanting!

One thing’s for sure though, all bios need to be engaging and crisp, smattered with droplets of humour or quirkiness.  People don’t have the patience anymore to pull off life’s highway to muddle through wastebasket writings. Hooks have to make them slam on the brakes, skid onto the shoulder and say, “Hello, now who do we have here?”

Good luck and stay tuned for more on bios, or for further info please contact


The Board of the Aurora Festival of the Arts – Organizers of the 2011 Aurora jazz+ Festival

THANKS all who helped us make it a huge success this year! 
Our 3rd year saw thousands of music and art lovers attend enjoying our uniquely multicultural Canadian talents

Success was due to Entertainers on Stage, Visual Artists in the Park, Vendors, Sponsors, tireless/dedicated Volunteers and of course, the AFA Board and Advisory Board.  Many organizations, clubs, Seniors, Students and community minded people from all over York Region joined together to create the 2011 Aurora jazz+ Festival.

Volunteers first! – Over 100 people helped us man the gates, assisted patrons in the park, staffed Beer/Wine Garden as Smart Servers, provided communication the park, interviewed participants, took films and photos, sold posters and tee-shirts, assisted Vendors and generally provided whatever back-up was needed whenever it was needed!

Volunteers were there for Whatever/Whenever and the festival could not run nor be a success without each one.

Sponsors – We had wonderful sponsors who helped us with everything from the Entertainment to the Staging and Promotions with sponsorship funds and services in kind.  We thank:  Ontario Trillium Foundation, Enbridge Gas, The Town of Aurora, 88.5 The Jewel, King Brewery, CIBC Aurora, The Arts Music Store, 91.1 Jazz FM, 94.7 The Wave, SNAP Newspaper (Aurora/Richmond Hill), On Richmond Hill,  Jonathan’s Restaurant, Villa Risi Restaurant, Black Forest Garden Centre, Vinoteca Winery, Hawkness Music, Long & McQuade, Coll Audio, Shield Service Security, Pezmosis Music, Multi Media Film Festival of York Region, York Region Amateur Radio Operators, Aurora Chamber of Commerce, Daphne Williamson, The Salvation Army, Aurora Clicks, Epoch Times, Brand Wizard, Powell Fence…   Certainly there are more who donated time/services in kind – this is to reach out to thank you now!  Our formal thank you promises to include everyone and will likely be rather lengthy! 

Visual Artists & Musical Entertainers – Your dedication, great works of art and performances gave substance to the festival.   Herbert Pryke of Artcures has the complete list of Visual Artists who attended – each of whom brought inspirational works. We had over 27 musical performers – over 80% of which were from York Region.  The musical entertainment was awesome!  AFA wishes to thank every artist musical and visual for supporting the festival sharing with us your talent and time!

2011 Vendors
– Thank you all for helping us create a wonderful atmosphere with great foods, services, information and shopping! 

We will provide a formal thank you once we complete our festival wrap up and tallies to advise how your input helped create this wonderful successful festival.

In the meantime your comments, views and suggestions are welcome!

Sher St. Kitts
Chair – Aurora Festival of the Arts – 2011 Aurora jazz+ Festival


Where Do Songs Come From?

 They’re everywhere, a seemingly infinite variety, proliferating constantly. Songs, songs, and more songs. And like snowflakes, no two completely alike, despite the odd plagiarism lawsuit.

 This never ceases to amaze me. Our musical scale consists of only 12 notes (which repeat in octaves, but still…). And yet Western musicians seem to find endless ways to combine those notes for melodies and chords.

 And then there’s the lyric variety. Not as much of a surprise there, since the English language contains at least 170,000 words currently in use. (Which makes you wonder why so many lyricists still focus obsessively on analyzing their love lives, or lack thereof, and use the same old phrases and rhymes, such as “tonight/all right” to do it – but that’s another story!)

 I write songs, but even I can’t tell you where half my ideas come from. The creative process is part blood, sweat and tears, but it’s also part magic.

 For instance, I just wrote a song for a friend’s wedding. And yet I can’t recall where the idea sprang from, even though I started it just barely 48 hours ago. (No, for better or for worse, I’m not one of those folks who dash songs off in 10 minutes…) The first half of the first line just appeared: “When love comes a-calling…” And then, from some mysterious place, came the idea to repeat that line, completing it each time with a colourful expression or idiom.

 E.g., “When love comes a-calling / you can run but you just can’t hide,” and “When love comes a-calling / all your ducks line up in a row.” Anyway, thank god for Google and sites that list idioms and proverbs and the like, which helped me find more. And then other phrases just appeared in that magical way, seemingly out of thin air, without research.

 Also, the “love comes a-calling” line soon began to create a melody for itself as I repeated it in my head.  By the time I picked up the guitar, the song was half written musically too.

 The song’s now finished, I think it’s pretty good, and I even worked the couple’s names into it. (We’ll see how it goes over at the post-nuptial party.) But I still can’t tell you where it came from!


 Marie-Lynn Hammond is a co-founder of Stringband, a seminal Canadian folk group, and a critically acclaimed songwriter living in York Region. In past lives she’s written plays and magazine articles and hosted national CBC radio shows. In between working on two new CDs, she freelances as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction.

The Plight of Arts York/Arts Unionville

SPECIAL GUEST BLOGGER: Justin Leung, Co-Founder | CanYouth

Before even beginning this article, I encourage and challenge every single person who reads this article to leave a comment and state his or her opinion on the issue below. At CanYouth, we are committed to creating and channelling a strong voice for all youth across Canada and we really do value what you have to say. Thank you!

It all started when Unionville High School first opened in 1985, as the newly created Arts York Program began and stood beside the school right from the very start. The commencement would mark the beginning of 26 years of unparallel excellence in the disciplines of drama, dance, visual arts and music. In this time, the Unionville High School Arts York program managed to establish themselves as a staunch advocate for the arts and was able to spread their influence in the artistic world to virtually all around the globe.

Beginning with the intensive selection process in order to gain admittance to the school, students enter a positive working environment that fosters individual growth and creativity. As a result of all this, the Arts York program has managed to produce alumni that have gone off after their time at Unionville to pursue their passions and make a difference in the world; the most notable being national champion figure skater Emmanuel Sandhu, Hayden Christensen from the Star Wars trilogy and Emmanuelle Chriqui from Entourage.

The program serves as an artistic incubator for youth all across York Region as it encourages talented teenagers to take advantage of the opportunities Unionville offers by auditioning. However, a few years ago the York Region District School Board cut the buses and eliminated all means of school transportation for students attending the Arts York Program. Almost instantly, students within the school who relied on the school buses to get to school were put in jeopardy and the dropping rates began to show. This would mark the beginning of a nightmare for students already attending the school and also to many prospective students who wished to attend. Naturally, the school, the community and many parents and students rallied and protested against the school board’s decision for quite some time. A group of parents took the school board to court and after a significant time period, eventually won. Not long after, the school board succumbed to the public pressure and in an act of appeasement, resumed the bussing. Just one year later however, they slashed it again.

This was the first significant move that the school board initiated and as a result of this, damaged the school’s reputation. Students who wished to attend the school but lived too far would be forced to make the lengthy trek to school every single morning themselves. I was one of these unfortunate students who needed my parents to drive 45 min with me to school every single day. Many others gave up their opportunities to attend the school because of the distance factor.

Just two years ago, the YRDSB school board made another significant decision to restrict the boundaries of the students attending Unionville. New arts programs began to pop up around York Region and students living in areas not around Unionville were required and expected to attend their own respective arts schools. To Unionville’s Arts York program, that meant fewer students, which directly constituted to less talent. When asked about their motives to restrict the boundaries in the region, the school board stated that their intentions were to enrich and spread the arts all around the region.

However, my question that I pose to the school board is this: “to what cost?” To all readers who are viewing this article, I hope you understand that by no means am I saying that the arts shouldn’t be spread around the region. In fact, I am saying the exact opposite and I want more arts school in York Region, BUT I believe that there should be a certain degree of choice revolving this issue. Why can’t we let students choose where they want to go? If the school board’s intentions were to spread the arts, then wouldn’t it benefit the board more if they had students all across York Region diversified and were not being forced to attend their boundary schools? The fact that Unionville’s Arts York program housed students all across the region was a motivating factor in the success of the program. When students from all around gathered together in one place, that was when the real magic happened. Every arts school would experience a rich and diverse representation from all over the region and would effectively create one community, as opposed to the segregation from one boundary to the next. Let’s think about that.

Just as it seemed as the program was adjusting and recovering from the blows that struck them, the arts program, now called Arts Unionville gained word and news of yet even more advancements, or should I say declines. I still remember how my entire class erupted in anger when my teacher notified us about the changes that would take place next year. It was not a great feeling at all and within seconds, the whispers began and the news began to spread. Apparently, the Arts Unionville music class sizes were too low and so certain adjustments had been implemented. The regular separation of grade 9’s and 10’s from the grade 11’s and 12’s would no longer be happening and instead, one huge class of all grades would take place. For those who are unfamiliar with the logistics of the program, the school has prided itself on its small classes and low student to teacher ratios. It is how the program is so effective because individual student attention is given and as a result, fosters individual growth. That now, has been tossed into the trash. The problems do not even stop there.

Imagine a piano major waking up every single morning for school from far off places like Aurora, only to be awaited by a class of 30 kids and not enough pianos. That poses a serious issue and strain on the equipment the school offers. While the school already has filled every single empty space with a piano, how are students expected to share instruments? What do we do if there aren’t enough? Is the school board responsible for supporting all the changes in financial needs the program now requires? What are the differences in the Arts York Program and some other standard and basic music classes in some other schools? We must congratulate the school board for these changes because they have effectively smothered 26 years of artistic excellence and contradicted their own original intentions for their program. I wonder if the people that work for the school board have even considered the implications and consequences of their actions. Let me walk you through a few.

The school board will have effectively created an environment brimming with inequality, as different majors will receive different levels of opportunities. As pessimistic as this sounds, the school board will have successfully began the tilt of the general downward slope of the program. All teachers and students would have to struggle and work extra hard just to maintain the caliber of the program. Why risk everything? Next up, as petty as this may seem to some, 30 kids armed with instruments doesn’t exactly sound or look pleasant. In fact, the very though itself frightens me. The level of noise created would resemble going to a rock concert for 4 years straight. I’m sure we’ll manage to NOT blow our brains out in 4 years. Finally, these changes will decrease the productivity and efficiency of the program, and ultimately cause the program to suffer as the large class sizes will directly hinder the regular speed and progress the program abides by. What is the point of having the program in the first place then?

How do we solve this issue? Well for starters, students need a voice. It’s as simple as that. If the school board wants to create eventual responsible adults, they first need to listen and consult the students. In my humble opinion, I believe that if the YRDSB school board had maybe taken the time to perhaps sit through some classes, attended some of our performances or even listened to what we have to say directly, they would have thought twice about this. To me, it makes sense to ask the students, teachers, parents and community who are related to the program how THEY want their program to run. Their opinions do matter. I’ve had friends that have unsuccessfully made any impact after sending numerous letters and emails to trustees, superintendents and even directors of education. However, this isn’t the way we should do it. As youth, we are harmless as individuals. It is only when we unite to create one voice where we have a chance to create an impact.

Ending on a positive note, if these changes are to be in effect, I hope we all understand that the way we view these changes will directly constitute to how they will happen. If we go to school next year with a negative mindset, we will only be hurting ourselves even more. So I say we embrace the change and try to see it as an alternative way of operating. We should focus more on the advantages as opposed to dwelling on the negatives. Nevertheless, this should serve as an important lesson for both the administration and students. The school board needs to pay more attention to the student voice and we as students, need to step up and make sure that we are heard so that in the future, instances like these don’t happen.

As Mary Engelbreit once said, “If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”

Special thanks to Tiffany Chan. Photo Creds to Haley Ma.


Justin Leung is one of the co-founder’s of the youth organization CanYouth. He is a grade 12 student currently studying at Unionville High School in the Arts York Program specializing in percussion and drums. In addition to his presence in CanYouth, Justin is also affiliated with Youth Volunteer Markham and the Mayor’s Youth Task Force. Justin hopes to pursue a career in law, politics, international relations and finance. Please check out his organization and read all his other blog posts!

Justin Leung

Co-Founder | CanYouth |

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