The Official OpenRoad Blog


Talking Visual Design and Brand in Copenhagen

The city of design

Last week in Copenhagen, Denmark—where smart design thinking delivers an eminently livable experience to the city’s over 580,000 residents—OpenRoad Creative Director Wil Arndt was invited to share his knowledge of branding and visual design to a passionate conference of communicators and digital workplace experts.

Wil talks about visual design and brand at IntraTeam 2018

Photo courtesy IntraTeam (

You’d think it was the idea of presenting in that design-forward context that had Wil puking rainbows.

But it wasn’t just the nerves.

Great design is for the people

And example of great design in Copenhagen: Garbage cans on the street are angled so cyclists can dispose of their trash without stopping.

An example of great urban design in Copenhagen: Angled garbage bins means that cyclists in this bike-friendly city can dispose of their waste without stopping.

You see, Wil is on a mission to raise the level of design awareness and literacy. Even in the City of Design. And making the point that design is important often requires some extreme imagery.

“Unlike art,” Wil says, “great design is not subjective, even though most people can spot it when they see it. Great design is founded on design principles that can be expressed through a common visual vocabulary. That vocabulary can be learned by anyone, not just designers.”

In his presentation, The Psychology of Design Principles, Wil led conference attendees through a whirlwind tour of the fundamentals of design, followed by some real-world examples of these principles in action. The session wrapped with pragmatic tips on how to use these principles in everyday communication.

Not just design: The relationship between external brand and internal communications

Since IntraTeam was an intranet and digital workplace conference, most attendees there were familiar with the tension between how an organization visually presents itself to the outside world (traditionally thought of as the “brand”) and how that organization speaks to its employees every day.

Wil’s workshop, Be Yourself: How To Build An Intranet Brand That Reflects Your People, addressed this tension head on. Participants worked through a simple heuristic, evaluating how closely an intranet aligns with an organization’s brand. And while the heuristic revealed whether or not an intranet was aligned with the brand, it didn’t say whether or not an intranet should be aligned with the brand.

“When it comes to their intranet,” Wil continues, “clients often ask me which approach is ‘correct’? Should their intranet be aligned to the brand or not? And I tell them that neither approach is correct! It all depends on their organization and the reality of their employee experience.”

To answer this question in an objective, rational way, workshop participants were introduced to a Brand Alignment Decision Framework. By examining an organization’s brand attributes, corporate values, and the real employee experience, they uncovered the right tone and approach for an internal communications platform.

At the convergence of strategy, visual design, and technology

So how does design theory and brand strategy fit into the overall professional services picture at OpenRoad?

“I don’t see visual design as a one-way bridge that sits between strategy and development,” Wil says. “Great design and clear communication offers value at every step of a project. But more than that, I see strategy and technology as critical in creating the constraints within which great design can happen. We need the network of the wider OpenRoad service spectrum to create elegant, achievable solutions that solve real business needs through design.”

And how do rainbow-puking unicorns fit into the picture?

“Personally, I have nothing against unicorns,” Wil adds. “But if I can help at least one unicorn stop vomiting rainbows all over my clients’ communications, then I count that as a victory.”

Let’s chat!

To find out how OpenRoad’s creative and visual design team can help with your next project, just drop an email to our Client Engagement Manager, Sara Redpath.

OpenRoad converges on Service Design

Hundreds of people from a range of industries from across five provinces attended the sold out event in Toronto.

If the buzz at this year’s CONVERGE: Canadian Service Design Conference tells us anything, it’s that Canada’s service design community is blooming.

It was great to see participants from the public sector this time around (33% public sector, 52% private sector, 15% academic). And OpenRoad was proud to be there, too, supporting the future of civic design and multi-level service architecture.

OpenRoad partner Gordon Ross speaks at Converge: 2017 Canadian Service Design Conference in Toronto

OpenRoad partner Gordon Ross speaks at Converge: 2017 Canadian Service Design Conference in Toronto

OpenRoad shares Service Design knowledge


Service Designers: Expand Your Palette

OpenRoad is sharing our service design knowledge at Converge 2017

Curious about some of the design methods we use in our client workshops? Well, now you can learn how to use them yourself!

Jacqueline Antalik, our Director of User Experience, and Deborah MacKenzie, one of our amazing User Experience Designers here at OpenRoad, will lead a compelling workshop that allows participants to sample some of the unique methods we use in our practice. (more…)

Helping Youth Impacted by Divorce

OpenRoad’s recent design for social innovation work gets some early recognition.

In 2016, the BC Family Justice Innovation Lab—a group of volunteers, lawyers, counsellors, and mediators—approached OpenRoad to help them better understand the experience of youth going through divorce with the hope of influencing change within the justice system.

And we’re proud to see the Provincial Court of British Columbia—our home province—recognize the potential of this new approach to justice reform.

Recent Additions to the ThoughtFarmer Team

Ever wonder what it takes to develop and maintain vibrant software that powers workplaces around the world? Just ask one of our three new additions to the ThoughtFarmer team.

Back row: Mina Abdelsayed. Front row, from left to right: Hollie Hodge & Graham Small.

Mina Abdelsayed, Technical Support Specialist

Our ThoughtFarmer clients will recognize Mina as the kind and helpful voice behind their troubleshooting calls. Having joined the team about a year ago, Mina is our new-ish technical support specialist. As a technical support specialist, Mina’s goal is to provide assistance for our clients and maintain ThoughtFarmer’s 99% client support satisfaction rating. This includes responding to support requests and performing installations and upgrades.

Mina has a degree in computer engineering, with a software designation from UBC. While most of his training has been in coding, he says he prefers support roles over being a developer. “As fun as developing code is, I love the challenge of trying to figure out what’s going on,” said Mina. “No two tickets are the same. It’s like a ‘deadlift for the brain’, always starting from the bottom and having to pick it up”.

Gordon Ross talks Service Design, this time in London!

Gordon Ross, Vice President of OpenRoad, is venturing out on another road trip to speak about service design. In December, he travelled to Toronto to speak at Canada’s first service design conference: IN FLUX. This time, Gordon has been invited to present at the fourth annual Service Design in Government conference on March 8th in London, England!

OpenRoad wins W³ Award for Product Design

A high-stakes redesign for a core business asset gets some nice recognition from the design community.

ThoughtFarmer has been selected by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts as a 2016 W³ Award recipient in the category Websites: Web Applications/Services.

OpenRoad’s design team worked closely with the folks at ThoughtFarmer* to completely overhaul the user interface of the well-established social intranet product. The latest and biggest release to-date reflects a ground-up redesign that dramatically enhances the usability of the software while fully-supporting existing users. We’re proud of the user-centric improvements and small innovations that were built into the product as a result of this unique collaboration.

ThoughtFarmer makes software that powers the intranets of companies around the world. Hundreds of customers from financial services, government, and manufacturing industries, like ACCA, ACCA, and Fokker use ThoughtFarmer to improve their internal communications and collaboration.

Have a look at the evolution of ThoughtFarmer from release 7.0 (on the left) to the more modern and vibrant release 8.0 (right).

Before and after: ThoughtFarmer intranet homepage.


Celebrating the Future of UX

OpenRoad co-hosts the 3rd Annual Vancouver User Experience Awards

On November 16, 2016, we were thrilled to co-hosted the third annual Vancouver User Experience Awards. Professionals, practitioners, and students came together to celebrate achievements in the field of user experience across categories for marketing, emerging experiences, products, non-profit, and students. (And let’s not forget the great food and beverages shared by all!)

Way back in 2003—before most people even knew that User Experience was a thing—a few OpenRoadies helped establish a little roundtable of folks in Vancouver passionate about things like “user-centric design” and usability. VanUE was born. (more…)

OpenRoadies Raise Awareness for Men’s Health

OpenRoad Movember

The much anticipated (for some) peak beard didn’t seem to shake out in 2016. Now whether you’re a facial hair aficionado or you prefer individuals to be sans stubble, OpenRoadies cast their judgements in November to support a great cause. We’re proud to announce that this year’s Mo’OpenRoadies raised a total of $2,460 for men’s health. Well done gentleman!

Movember brings awareness to some of the biggest health issues faced by men: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health.

The Movember Foundation is a powerhouse behind the movement. Since their inaugural year in 2003, they’ve raised $759 million and funded more than 1,200 men’s health projects*. With the goal of reducing premature male deaths by 25 percent in 2030, it appears the Mo Bros are well on their way. And every year, OpenRoad is happy to do our part.

On behalf of the OpenRoad team, we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who participated, fundraised, and donated. Additionally, all donations were matched by OpenRoad.

Distilling 20 Years Into One Evening


How does a technology company thrive and stay relevant for two decades? If you distill OpenRoad down to its essence, a common thread emerges. Commitment to craft, the drive to solve hard problems, and a focus on empowering people with technology.

On October 6, 2016 we celebrated 20 years of success with our clients, friends, the local digital community, and even a few proud parents. Hosted at the legendary cocktail lounge, The Diamond, everyone enjoyed great food, music, and even some nostalgic photos dating back to the 90’s.

Thanks again to everyone who came out to share this very special night with us.

Onward to the gallery