David Coates

Strategy Director
CGD, FGDC, Dip. Design
β€œTen things to enliven your creativity: step away from your desk, go analogue, take a detour, open your eyes, think like an artist, get crafty, don't be afraid to fail, put it together in new ways, get uncomfortable and most importantly, always carry a hacky sack.” – DFC

David is Managing Partner and a Design Strategist. He is a passionate designer who’s true pleasure lies in clarifying and decrypting details of complex communication problems, information, mapping and visual systems. Creating clear, intuitive design programs from these situations is his life’s blood. Oh, and fine food too.

Born in Toronto, Canada in 1960, to a psychiatrist father and artist mother, graphic design was clearly his destiny. David’s family moved to Vancouver in 1970, settling in the picturesque Whytecliffe area of West Vancouver. David spent high school in his boat on the water in and around Horseshoe Bay, Gibsons and Sechelt. A respect for the environment, sustainability and a sense of place were naturally ingrained in the young Coates. After high school and a seven year career as a carpenter, David returned to school to study graphic design at Emily Carr College of Art + Design, and established Ion in 1988 with partner Rod Roodenburg.
The partners quickly earned a reputation for breaking down design clichés and developing edgy yet effective design solutions. Rhonda Rubinstein of Print Magazine in the US stated “Ion has single-handedly institutionalized hip design.”

David has earned hundreds of design awards over the years and articles about him have appeared in many international print and online publications. One of his early art book projects for Fletcher Challenge Canada is included in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada. David has lectured to business people, educators, students and professional designers throughout his career.

In 1994, David was named among the “Top 40 Under 40” business people in Vancouver by Business in Vancouver. In 1996, David was named to the Applied Arts Magazine editorial board, and served in that capacity until 2000. David also judged the National Post Annual Report Awards four years running and has judged the Applied Arts Awards several times. In 2000 Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design presented David with an Emily Award – its highest honour – for lifetime career achievement.  In 2001 David was named to the sessional faculty of Emily Carr where he taught for several years.

Ion was the first graphic design firm in Canada to offer website design services in 1994. As such, the partners realized quickly that content management systems were key to developing effective client managed sites. Because of this, they developed Smallbox Software in 1998, which grew into its own incorporated company and was split from Ion in 2005. This dynamic company produces effective website content management software for public and private sector organizations throughout the world. David has since sold his shares in the company, preferring to focus business efforts solely on Ion.

Believing in giving back to community, David has been involved in the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) since 1991. He served as president of the BC Chapter for two terms from 1993-1996. David was instrumental in getting the organization online both in the front end and intranet – effectively changing the way the GDC does business forever. He became National President in 1998-2000, and after his tenure the GDC awarded David fellowship in the Society for his contribution to Canadian design – it’s highest honour. David continues to support the GDC through annual contributions to the GDC Foundation.

Today David’s work is focused on developing workshops, bootcamps and design strategy for Ion’s clients in addition to the daily operations of the firm. He continues to build his knowledge base through conferences, seminars and workshops as well as his voracious appetite for reading.

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