He first made his mark on the local music scene in the usual way — designing posters and album art for his band as a teenager.
Fast forward a decade, and Red River College grad Christopher Samms is helping spread the word about Winnipeg’s status as Music City of the North, through a series of high-profile projects that coincide with the arrival of this week’s Juno Awards.
Samms (Graphic Design, 2009) was one of the designers behind the “We Speak Music” campaign launched recently by Winnipeg’s Juno Host Committee, in conjunction with Manitoba Film and Music. He worked on the campaign while employed by ClarkHuot/Cocoon, a design and branding firm contracted to help promote the annual awards.
“The main challenge was: how do we sum up why the Junos should be in Winnipeg, and why the entire country should be coming to Winnipeg to celebrate Canadian music,” says Samms, 29. “‘We Speak Music’ ended up being the most applicable and the most versatile, since it can be applied in so many different ways — We Speak Music, We Live Music, We Love Music, and so on.”
Expect the campaign to reach critical mass as Juno Week runs March 24-30, starting with a series of club and smaller-venue shows before wrapping up with a star-studded MTS Centre gala, featuring the likes of Robin Thicke, Sarah McLachlan, Arcade Fire, and Tegan and Sara.
This year’s Juno nominees include local indie darlings Royal Canoe, whose 2013 debut Today We’re Believers features album art by Samms.
“That was a fun project,” says Samms of the cover concept, actually an amalgamation of two pieces by U.K. artist Danny O’Connor. “The two Matts in the band (frontman/founder Matt Peters and multi-instrumentalist Matt Schellenberg) approached me and said they had an idea they wanted to get across. But whenever they tried it, it wasn’t quite what they’d envisioned.”
Samms recently set up shop as an independent designer (after serving stints at Spacecadet Design, ClarkHuot/Cocoon, and Vantage Studios), and maintains his indie cred by creating posters for official Juno venue the Union Sound Hall, among others.
It’s work he’s been doing since he was a teenager — though he’s picked up a few new tricks since then.
“When I was still in university, a friend said I should just go into graphic design, since I was already doing it. But I was like, ‘I don’t even know what that is!'” he recalls.
“I went in with no technical knowledge whatsoever. I did everything on MS Paint.”
Samms says his RRC training helped him develop his artistic and creative skills even further, while also instilling in him an eye for detail, and the ability to find a middle ground between his own style and his clients’ wishes.
“If I’m doing something that’s completely my style, it’s a little bit minimal and a little but fun … there’s humour in there, as well as a simplistic, no-frills type of design,” he says. “But that being said, I think it’s important for designers to put aside their personal style in order to make a client happy.”