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Design maven builds local reputation as a creative force

Community ProfileDesign maven builds local reputation as a creative force

Lucas Duguid has distinguished himself as one of the top creative minds in Brantford—by constantly pushing the boundaries of commercial and artistic design—intertwining innovative branding with thought-provoking campaigns that get important messages across.

However, before Duguid could really showcase his more focused creative inclinations later on in his career, he cut his teeth at a local design company.  Duguid notes. “My first real gig as a graphic artist was at Ball Media Corporation where I landed in 2000. I was a junior designer. And by the end of my first year, I was the only designer left.” Duguid quickly took the reins of the department and worked diligently on a wide array of jobs mostly on entertainment-related projects. “In a little over nine years [I worked on close to] 10,000 projects. 85% of them were just preparing already-designed graphics that were for CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, HD DVDs, cassettes, and vinyl; it was very much all ensconced in the music and entertainment industry.”

Duguid, who is a third generation Brantfordian, notes, “I got a chance to really dig deep and develop rock-solid lifelong skill sets in terms of being able to prepare files for print. And it allowed me the opportunity to explore the creative side of graphic design, and so 15% of those 10,000 projects were creative based.” Duguid continues, “It’s very difficult to get that kind of experience and to have those opportunities anymore. So, I took it for everything it was worth [and] I rang it dry.”

It was then around 2009 that Duguid and his wife, Laura made a life-altering decision to launch their own design company called Octopus Red which currently boasts a portfolio of 300 to 350 creative projects per year. The serial entrepreneur notes, “I’m incredibly proud to say that we [still] have our first client from 2009 [and] that’s coming up on 15 years of work that we’ve done. Brantford Brant County [and] Six Nations represents probably 95% of [our] portfolio and we’re incredibly proud of that.”

Here is some striking promotional and branded material designed by Duguid. Photo courtesy Lucas Duguid.

Duguid says, “My first client was Linden Park Hall…[and] landed them five years before they pulled everything in-house and brought it up and had their own internal marketing department. And our second client was a Canadian Idol winner by the name of Brian Mello…[We helped] design his website [which ended up] winning the Hamilton Music Award for Best New Website.”

However, with a growing portfolio of premier clients, Duguid was still finding it tough to grow his business in Brantford until he came up with an idea that really got things going. “I worked a lot with Brook signs and I [told them we] needed to start [a contest] …the Business Makeover Contest. [It was a] simple contest, which was giving a $20,000 rebrand [for the winning business]. We’d give them a sign; do photography and do radio advertising…So [a] coffeehouse won it that first year…But out of the 2000 plus small businesses in Branford we only had 70 entries.” Duguid continues, “We had coverage all over from this [and] got written up in both the papers and so the second year…it was the Sherwood who won.”

Despite some objections from local residents for Duguid to not radically change Sherwood’s image—which is considered by many a Brantford institution, it ended up working out just fine. “That has turned into the most valuable logo design I have ever done. And it was a freebie, but…it continues to pay off.”

Lucas Duguid (second on the left) is being recognized for his business success in the community at the Chamber of Commerce. Duguid has been a respected entrepreneur in Brantford for over 15 years. Photo courtesy Chamber Of Commerce Brantford-Brant.

Along with managing Octopus Red, Duguid, and two other business partners started a monthly local paper called the Advocate in 2011. Duguid recounts, “The paper was a huge, laborious thing. I did all the design work for all 36 editions, [selling ads], handling the publishing, and [doing] a huge chunk of the distribution as well. Probably the most important community paper from 2011 to 2014 [and] it spun off into Advocate television on Rogers TV.”

A year later, Duguid decided to start another endeavor with his wife, Laura. “We opened a bakery, Sofia’s Bakery in 2012. We did everything from scratch. Our flagship product was a gluten dairy sugar and soy-free loaf of bread. Gluten-free [was] a biggie because our whole family has Celiac [and] we were trying to create a menu of options and food that was safe for people like us to eat.”

Duguid then remarks, “We didn’t secure any funding or financing. Not that we didn’t try it. Our entire life savings went into…it took two years to open the location…We baked for 28 hours straight [before opening and] we sold out in three hours and we sold out every day after that for five years.”

With partnerships with various brands like Williams and Goodness Me, Duguid knew they had a viable brand that could grow into a possible franchise, but it wasn’t to be. “By the time we got to writing the franchise program with a large investment company, we looked at the amount of debt that we were going to have to eat [and it was] about 5 million bucks. And we were worn out at that point, then I think that that was [when we] ended up closing [but] we closed [making a] profit.”

For 5 years, Duguid and his family ran Sophie’s Bakery. It was an instant success in the community, but because of factors like burnout, they decided to close it. Photo courtesy Lucas Duguid.

By 2018, Octopus Red was thriving and would get an even big boost with various successful creative campaigns—including one to do with voting. Duguid notes, “’Just F-ing Vote’ probably has to be one of the biggest ones…we were trying to get our heads around why young people were not engaged in the electoral process. And it couldn’t be just as simple as kids not caring. I don’t believe that…I believe people do care. And they just [had] to find a way to connect [with what’s] relevant to them. We started by asking questions [like]…why don’t you care about politics? Or why aren’t you excited to vote? And what we found was that a great number of them had absolutely no idea about the basics.”

The initial campaign was a success. Duguid continues, “And then we rebooted it again for the federal and then for the municipal. So, we captured viral lightning in a bottle three times [by] making voting edgy and attention-grabbing but that it [also] had a soul to it…there [had to be] a positive, identifiable purpose. It got people talking… our Facebook page had about 6 million unique visitors just from Canada and [there] was a 5% increase in local voter turnout.”

Close to 15 years on, Duguid continues to make people react to innovative campaigns and highly creative designs he builds; however, he has also thought hard about going into politics. Duguid says “I had flirted with the idea, but I’m happy doing what I do. I love politics and I love my hometown. But I can do that from the bench.”

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