By Tamir Virani
Whether it’s tossing firecrackers off skyscrapers in Shanghai, or peacefully drifting down a river in Algonquin Provincial Park, it is Joey Arseneau’s job to capture these ideas and transform them into visual layouts.
The creative director for Herd, an Ottawa-based arts and culture magazine, is a recent Algonquin graduate from the School of Media and Design’s graphic design program.
“I went to the University of Guelph for two years before but realized I’m more of a hands-on person so I left.” said Arseneau. “One day I went to the mall and saw this picture of a girl. I bought it and drew her, I didn’t know I could draw until right then. Then all the sudden it was like, ‘I guess that’s what I can do for my career.’”
It was that realization that led him to the graphic design program at Algonquin. Arseneau attributes his positive experience at the school partially to the passion and dedication of the teaching staff.
“If you show the interest and put the effort in, they’ll give it back in double,” said Arseneau. “You have to work hard, but they’ll give you an amazing experience.”
Working for Herd was “definitely not in the plan” for Arseneau, as he finished his program with a focus on interactive design and flash animation. Nevertheless, when two of his friends started talking about the concept of the magazine, Arseneau was quick to volunteer his services to help get it started.
“There was another creative director at the time, but right before we started to put together the first issue he left,” he said. “That gave me the opportunity to really bring my style and make my mark.”
One cover of the magazine entitled Swap Your Senses aptly describes Arseneau’s unconventional and innovative style: article titles spelt out with herbs, typography made from ripped denim and illustrations intertwined with portrait photography thoughtfully blur the lines between reality and art within the magazine.
“Part of the process is experimentation with your ideas. It’s about getting those ideas out on the table, destroying them, then using the pieces to make something that works. There’s a huge sense of freedom in it,” said Arseneau.
The magazine is also a group collaboration. The team behind Herd may be smaller than a dozen full-time staffers, yet there is a constantly growing number of contributors.
“Our cultural livestock page at the back of every issue has all the names of people who have helped put together issues of Herd. It’s constantly being added to,” said Arseneau.
About 200 to 300 hours can go into each issue with “raw, organic and interesting ideas” being constantly bounced between the staff.
The magazine, which began as a self-funded project, has grown in just a year to include ads from local businesses, launch parties for every issue and 3,000 to 5,000 copies per edition printed and distributed throughout Ottawa.
“It’s all about constantly engaging and informing our audience, and right now our readership is pretty diverse,” said Arseneau. “We have a really smart readership and that’s why we keep pushing the limits.”
Recent Carleton University graduate, Britt Corry is an avid reader of the magazine and echoed Arseneau’s thoughts.
“Herd is a fresh and available look into the city’s art scene,” she said. “A lot of what goes on in the art world is very underground. If you don’t have something like this magazine featuring the people and goings-on then anyone outside of the art world wouldn’t know about it.”
On the future of Herd Magazine, Arseneau and the rest of the team have big plans.
“Eventually we’d like to have Herd stations in different cities. We would also like to expand our team and the services we offer to publishing companies. We’re also looking into a Herd app for phones,” he said.
Until then, Arseneau and the Herd team will continue to reveal more and more of Ottawa’s arts and culture scene through their publication.
As for Arseneau’s advice on anyone looking to follow a similar path:
“It’s a wild ride if you make it one,” he said. “Just make sure to put all your effort into it.”