Tag Archives: design

This year, “say it with socks”

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William is not an Artist, nor a stylist but by watching him, he grabs your attention. Everyone is seduced by his charm. They are impressed by his confidence.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 10.42.36 AMA few months ago Brendan and I attended UX Camp Ottawa. On the first day we met two incredible designers and entrepreneurs, Francois Boisvert and Sylvain St-Germain, founders of Socks by William. Organizers of the event had commissioned Socks by William to produce custom socks for the event to be gifted to each attendee. They had also set up a booth at the event where they were showcasing their collections.

As luck would have it, Brendan and I had the opportunity to share food and drink with the “men behind the socks” at a funky wood clad bistro-brasserie in Vieux Hull called Gainsbourg. After a few drinks and a few prefunctory “Sock, Sock jokes“,  Francois and Sylvain invited us to share our ideas on how we might help them take their business to the next level. The rest is, as they say…history in the making!


Pop up shop December 11th at Java U on Rue McGill.

Pop up shop December 11th at Java U on Rue McGill.

Working in collaboration with our two “Socksperts” our initial mandate was a complete look and feel re-fresh of their Shopify site geared specifically to hit Black Friday and close our 2014 in style. Our Black Friday / Holiday campaign was all about increasing engagement online and off. While working in paraleel on physical and social channels we did deep POS market testing at a lovingly designed pop up shop in Old Montreal and invited the influencer, fashion bloggers and host of prominent sock fans.



The challenge for our creative team was to create a visual story different from other sock designers while still adhering to time-honoured industry standards. To start things off, we needed to take Francois’ and Sylvians’ initial inspirations for the ten designs and further develop them into concise but compelling stories. As you’ll see on the site, and beyond the sheer beauty of the designs are the prominent artists behind them and story they tell through their choices of patterns and colour.  The ever popular Tour de France is a great example:


We designed a series of these graphics (In French and English) for Facebook and Instagram.

In order to accomplish this task we needed to get super creative and then a little bit more. All told, the H&C team spent triple digit hours in the boardroom cultivating and developing ideas.

The next big challenge came with the online shopping experience. We knew we wanted to do something different. We decided to create a continuously scrolling story that drew the user through the – pardon the pun – thread of the collection. With custom photography and a complete content re-fresh, we were able to successfully engage with the consumer through beautifully designed experience of beautifully designed products. And it seemed our work paid off. Within the first week of our launch of the campaign, three of the ten designs were sold out.

Moving into 2015, Socks by William has tasked us to expand their retail program, design new stories around each collection and continue to help grow their online community.


Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 9.29.39 AMWe custom designed and coded a responsive multilingual Shopify theme using original design concepts, photography, and content.

Check it out and tell us what you think.

Fun Friday Post – Fake Stock Photos from Unstock

If you haven’t heard of and used Unsplash, it’s a pity. They have changed the meaning of stock photos for us by providing free, high-quality and useful but not cheesy stock images to the masses. Until now, it’s been our best-kept secret.

Besides being free, hi-resolution and beautiful images, Unsplash ensures attribution for photographers, so their photos aren’t stolen without getting linked back. And the images are under a Creative Commons Zero license, meaning that the images can be used for almost any purpose!

img1So today, Horse & Cart present our satirical homage to a site that makes looking for stock photos exciting and interesting instead of boring and cringe-worthy: Unstock. With typical images such as group worker high-five and other typically cheesy shots, we’ve taken all of the work out of choosing a stock image for your next blog post about the office, your next hero image of cheesy colleagues working together and collaborating, and more. The possibilities are endless!

stock-photo-36411644-african-businessman-with-group-of-businesspeopleHave a look at our take on typical stock images. They’re perfectly plastic and totally useable in a corporate capacity (but seriously, we don’t recommend using these in any serious endeavors). Whether for work or play, these pictures will keep your audience laughing. Behold: the beauty of the stock image!

An Epic WordPress Migration Gives Redbooth.com a Face Lift

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Many months of hard work and collaboration have culminated in an epic migration to WordPress Multisite and a design refresh of Redbooth.com

About 7 months ago Redbooth joined our family of clients and it has been an exciting and wild ride! Initially we were tasked with helping their marketing team design and develop a handful of landing page campaigns to help with their brand pivot from Teambox to Redbooth. Our relationship quickly grew and so did our mandate. What began with a series of simple landing pages turned into, what we call, the “Epic Migration” of their web portals from Harmony CMS to WordPress Multisite.

I won’t bore you with all the sticky details that led us down the rabbit hole of sys-admin, IT, data migration, content audits, custom theme and plugin(s) design and development, and a long list of migration to-do’s and challenges. Sufficed to say, we made it!

With a new web architecture in place and WordPress humming along we are only now at the beginnings of helping Redbooth re-define their brand story through design and code. With this comes the first of many steps – a new home page for Redbooth.com


Working in collaboration with Redbooth’s marketing and executive team in California and their development team in Spain we were tasked with a re-design of the Redbooth.com home page. This is the first of many steps that will breathe new life into what is already an award winning online collaboration tool.


The real challenge was technology. Over the past few months we’ve developed a workflow with their team in terms of communication and process. Our biggest challenge was helping their development team in Spain migrate from Harmony CMS to WordPress Multisite.

WordPress Multisite, in particular, was new for their team. And having their platform, Redbooth, run along side within the same architecture posed many challenges. As with any new project the best way to get off on the right foot was to put together a solid plan.

Before we even began thinking about a new design, it was crucial that we devise a strategic, step-by-step, plan of attack. We began with exporting data from their current system, which required some custom plugin design to import it into WordPress – there is no Harmony importer! Then we needed to replicate the current site UI/UX in a WordPress theme. Our biggest challenge here was moving from a static Harmony CMS Bootstrap theme to a dynamic WordPress Foundation theme – not easy!

Then began the process of determining what content stays, what goes, and what needs to be created. We spent a few months helping them re-organize all their content and formulate a new sitemap for Redbooth.com

Of course I’m skipping over a few steps for the sake of this post, but the entire process from start to launch took nearly 3 months. Which brings us to the new Redbooth.com facelift.

Working with their marketing and product development team we sat down with our designers and began the collaborative process of re-imagining the “home page”.

We’re excited about the future with many new designs for other pages and portals that are currently in progress and can’t wait to see all of our visions come to light as Redbooth continues to re-define their story – of course we’ll keep you posted 🙂


Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 11.31.50 AMWe developed the site using ThemeFortress’s WordPress Reverie theme built on ZURB’s lightweight Foundation framework. Thinking mobile first, we ensured that the site is fully responsive for the ultimate experience on any device or screen. Taking Reverie to the next level we integrated a ton of custom features for end-user management.

Check it out and tell us what you think.

Looking the Part

Doing What We Do Best. Google+ Expert Ray Hiltz Gets His Horse & Cart Website Overhaul.


Here is Rayhiltz.com, the sharp new internet face of Montreal-based Google+ consulting and strategy expert, Ray Hiltz.


Working alongside Ray himself, we were asked to design a fresh new site to best reflect his business and person.

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Like with any website creation, it’s vital to the success of the site to be reflective and true to the brand you’re bolstering. It’s one thing to produce a compelling digital work, but it should always feel like an extension of the subject, even if it is starkly different than what originally existed.

It was important to both Ray and the project to keep the site clean, personal, and informative. His new website needed to encapsulate Ray without looking gimmicky, and as Ray is the heart of his brand, it was especially important to make sure what was produced resonated with him, foremost.

After bouncing ideas and trying out different looks and layout, we wound up with a product we’re proud to present.


We developed the site using ZURB’s lightweight Foundation framework. Thinking mobile first, we ensured that the site is fully responsive for the ultimate experience on any device or screen.

Check it out and tell us what you think.

Keep Marketing Fun – Landing Page Optimization

KMF-LPIf you haven’t heard, our monthly marketing event/meetup is just around the corner! On June 19th, come check out Keep Marketing Fun – Landing Page Optimization. The fun starts at  6 and we’ll be hanging out at our new space at 445 rue Saint-Pierre, Suite 302.

Being the self-crowned “Landing Page Kings of Montreal” this event is beyond just defining what a landing page is and should be. We have an awesome lineup of speakers eager to drop some knowledge about landing page creation, getting your landing page noticed as well as the science behind optimizing user flow for landing pages.

We supply the food and drinks as well as prizes! Once you register for the event, you’ll be eligible to win tickets to Social Media Breakfast Montreal, a Brendan & Brendan landing page (design and copy edit – valued at $1500), as well as services from our awesome partners Unbounce and Crowdvert. Crowdvert, who works with some of the world’s larges brands, is very excited to award three attendees content conversion consultation.

Psyched yet? We certainly are – REGISTER HERE and come Keep Marketing Fun with us at our Landing Page Optimization event.

The “Grumpy” Poet – It’s not the Tools, it’s the Artist!


Years ago, I had a professor in college tell me “It’s not the tool that makes the artist, it’s the artist!”. Granted, not so original and a little fluffy around the edges, but to an 18-yr-old college kid with no money to buy software this gave me, my class, some hope.

You’ve got to understand back when I was in college the whole digital design thing was still very new. Agencies hadn’t gone all digital yet and traditional forms of graphic design were still taught alongside technology, especially considering print was still huge and web was only an afterthought. We’re talking pre-smartphones and tablets here people! Terms like flat design, responsive, adaptable, etc., hadn’t even entered the scene yet.

More importantly, college kids like us at the time didn’t have the money for high-end design software. The options were slim. And getting “free” software was not nearly as easy as it is today. We had to compromise. Find the right tools for the job and make them work for us. The onus was on us as artists to imagine and produce great art regardless of the tools we were using – and we did!

Tools are great, don’t get me wrong, they can benefit efficiency, collaboration, and enable us to do things beyond the basics of pen and paper. But real creativity comes from within. If we can imagine it and figure out a way to make real – then we’re an artist!

So what does this have to do with a marketing agency? More to the point, why am I grumpy about this? I’ll tell you why! Among various other topics discussed here in the “Grumpy” Poet column on efficiency and productivity killers, and of course sheer stupidity, I really hate it when people blame the tools they use for their limitations or poor quality of work. We’re not talking user errors here, as in not knowing how to use a piece of technology correctly, we’re talking about pure laziness and a lack of creativity.


“Well, we changed the approved hero shot because we had issues making it responsive on all screens. Photoshop doesn’t have to ability to do this and the code can’t support it”

Blah, blah, blah. What a crock of shit! Let me translate this for you:

“We don’t really know what we’re doing. And quite honestly we’re just too lazy to figure out how to make it happen. So even though we came up with the initial idea and you approved it, we’re just going to cop out and call it a day”

Today, many designers are developers. Yes, developers. As design becomes more reliant on code, many young coders are developing a keen eye for design and figuring out how to produce beautiful web presences with languages like CSS. I’ve seen some incredible stuff designed by coders without the use of large and expensive flat screen monitors, Photoshop, drawing tablets, etc. It’s not the tools, remember?

When Brendan and I first started, we didn’t have the money to purchase expensive marketing software, social tools, CRMs, project management apps, etc. We cobbled together a system using what we had or could afford and made it work for us and our clients. We understood, and still understand that the success of our clients doesn’t come from the tools we use but our own creative passion, dedication, and years of experience.

I’m reminded of Jean-Michelle Basquiat, a well known neo-expressionist who worked with Andy Warhol, who began his career as a homeless artist who used scraps of garbage to create art he sold on the streets. He didn’t let his poverty hold him back. He figured out a way to create without the traditional tools of an artist and eventually became one of the greats of his time.

The point is, tools are great as long as they don’t stunt creativity and break the bank. Never blame the tool – only yourself if the end result fails.

I’ll leave you with this:

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will” – George Bernard Shaw