From the Trenches: Ashley Smithers

Ashley Smithers is a branding and design specialist based on Toronto, Ontario.

Her daily routine includes meetings with Norah the office dog, daily motivational speeches from Dwight K. Schrute, and solving complex problems for a wide range of clients.

Her mum brought home a Macintosh Plus (and laser printer) for her when she was eight years old, immediately starting a life-long romance. She won her first design competition when she was 14 (“It was a hundred dollars, but the logo is still used!”). This eventually led her to studying Industrial Design, where her professors eventually took her aside and told her that she had a gift when it came to branding products. “My models were horrendously assembled – but the reasoning behind the branding around them sold every time.” She decided to begin her freelance business while in school, and eventually moved to the UK to gain international work experience.

While working with The Equicom Group, Ashley fell in love with presentation design. Referring back to her favourite TV show, Ashley jokes about PowerPoint as “the peacocks of the business world – all show, no meat.”.

“I love that quote, because it shows how presentations have gained a reputation as the place where flames and bullets are necessary – real presentation design is the execution of using light and environments to convey complex information. The 30 foot screens behind Elon Musk when he rolls out a new Tesla model – that’s presentation design. It’s the combination of the physical space, digital signage, and accompanying a human being while they tell their story.”

A recent project has been with a Swiss consultancy firm, who approached Ashley with the question: how do we take over 200 years of combined experience, and market it to both the international and the American healthcare markets? The project involved a deep dive into their core values as a European company, and finding ways to resonate with American businesses. From this, she rolled out a full brand, including a new website and offering to create a more inclusive, interactive, and focused message.

“The entire brand hinged on one organizing idea – nobody wants to be a patient, and we are there to help make the process less painful. We worked to bring the human aspect back to an industry that is filled with bureaucracy and paper trails. If you want to call someone and have a realistic talk about your oncology medication, or have just been diagnosed with a chronic illness and don’t know where to turn for support – this company helps bridge that gap.”

Although Ashley admits that this project has probably been a great and challenging piece, she’s had some pretty interesting experiences – and she never backs away from a challenge. A Tier-1 Canadian grocer recently approached her to redevelop their digital signage program, and asked if she had any animation experience specific to large food clients.

Ashley said her answer was automatic and simple: “no, but give me two hours and I’ll have a sample.”

“I am a passionate, constant learner – and with all of my clients, I encourage a partnership over a vendor mentality. So, with this, rather than just show previous work, I wanted to show them something that would present my skill in a way that they would resonate with. And I live for food – my retirement dream centres around cheesemaking. It was fun to do, and helped me gain the client!”

Her biggest advice to anyone in the freelance and consulting world is simple: To succeed (and be at the top of your game) you need to learn how to constantly move and adapt with everything.

As someone who is extremely passionate about the work she does, Ashley admits that sometimes it’s hard to take a moment and show herself off. Joining The Well for her meant gaining some cheerleaders, and gives her the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals, rather than just her office dog. For us, it means being able to take all of her work and accomplishments and giving her a platform to push and show off her amazing talents.

If you’d like to learn more about Ashley and her work, visit her profile at www.gotothewell.ca/ashleysmithers1