About Us

About Us

KerrSmith is a multidisciplinary research & design studio specializing in complexity, innovation and the future.


KerrSmith is a multidisciplinary research and design studio specializing in complexity, futures and innovation. We work with a range of businesses and organizations to reframe challenges, create strategies and integrate designed solutions of products or systems. We have developed insights and innovations for clients in a wide variety of fields, including the educational, financial, cultural, retail, healthcare, developer and public sectors.

Our design work is based on profound perception of human behavior and user needs. We research, observe, and interpret experiences from an outsider perspective. We use “Design Thinking”, a process for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues, that looks for an improved, proven result. We combine engagement, empathy, creativity and rationality to meet user needs and drive success. Our facilitated approach eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation in the ideation and prototyping phases. We use diagnostics to build a foundation of shared understandings and insights in order to answer the right problem.

Our work requires unique and precise acuity. True insights only come with broad experience, and expertise in complexity-mapping, pattern-reading and sense-making. We have unique qualitative and quantitative research skills and proven diplomatic abilities. We synthesize our organizational and prioritization capacities through rigorous critical thinking. It is not easy to determine root causes and fundamental underlying issues when often “louder” and more immediate concerns dominate the view. We frame projects to determine fundamental underlying issues, bring diverse teams together to tackle challenges and deploy varied communication tools to share the findings.



CAPABILITIES

Foresight

  • Horizon scanning
  • STEEPV workshops
  • Trend / driver analysis
  • Future searching
  • Scenario planning
  • Implications / Windtunneling
  • Visioning
  • Talks & Lectures

Insight

  • Ethnographic research
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Usability testing
  • Video capturing
  • Interviews
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Workshops

Innovation

  • Business modeling
  • Product, Systems & Service
  • Organizational design
  • Sustainability
  • Brand strategy
  • Frameworks
  • Prototyping
  • Training

Integration

  • Communications
  • Visual identities
  • Print & Digital
  • Packaging
  • Signage/Wayfinding
  • Material exploration
  • Research ethics planning
  • Production supervision
  • Engineering & Logistics
  • Patent application

our team

Helen Kerr, Co-President


Nigel Smith, Co-President


Gary Abric


Zan Chandler


Chay Lee


Reid Keller

Raj Kumar

Chrysant Jonatan

Tessa Keller

Anna Chau

 

We have deep roots in multiple fields and broad experiences across many sectors with companies and organizations at the top of their game.

 


DISTINCTION FROM

 

“A firm that’s exceptional in
the quality of its work.”

Robert Fulford,
The National Post


  • Accent on Design, New York
  • Advertising & Design Club of Canada, Toronto
  • AIGA, New York
  • Alcuin Society, Canada
  • American Center for Design, Chicago
  • American Institute of Architects, D.C.
  • Applied Arts, Toronto
  • Art Galleries, Toronto
  • Design Effectiveness Awards, London
  • Design Exchange, Toronto
  • Graphis, New York
  • How Magazine, United States
  • I.D. Magazine, United States
  • IDSA, United States
  • IIDEX, Canada
  • Mohawk Papers, New York
  • National Post Design Exchange Award, Toronto
  • New York Book Show
  • Nightingale Award, USA
  • Ontario Arts Council Design Arts Award, Toronto
  • Ontario Association of Art Galleries, Toronto
  • Packaging Association of Canada, Toronto
  • Presidential Design Awards, D.C
  • Rebrand, New York
  • Red Dot Award, Germany
  • Taschen Books “Graphic Design for the 21st Century: 100 of the World’s Best Graphic Designers”, Germany
  • Virtu, Toronto

LECTURES

    • International Design Principles & Practices, Toronto, Ontario
    • University of Waterloo, Ontario
    • Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art, Michigan
    • SXSW Austin, Texas
    • University of Toronto, Ontario
    • Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario
    • York University, Toronto, Ontario
    • Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario
    • International Design Conference, Tijuana, Mexico
    • Design Exchange, Toronto, Ontario
    • NeoCon, Chicago, Illinois
    • Economy Policy Summit, Detroit, Michigan
    • University of Manitoba, Winnipeg
    • Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario
    • University of Lethbridge, Alberta
    • University of Calgary, Alberta
    • Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts

    TEACHING

    Helen Kerr teaches at OCAD University in the Strategic Foresight & Innovation Master of Design program. Helen has developed curriculum for the industrial design department at OCAD University.

    Nigel Smith has taught design and design theory at Harvard University and the University of Toronto.


    Complexity.
    Innovation.
    Futures.

    COMPLEXITY

    Complex systems are part of our daily existence. In a technologically interconnected, diverse and unpredictable world, everything from the phones we rely on, to the cities we live in, have become not just complicated, but almost incomprehensibly complex. And that makes the challenges of business and policy-making harder. 

    We can help.

    We uncover the underlying patterns and logic – a foundation, structure or system – to make sense of what can seem like unpredictable and continuously changing circumstances. We can map the elements of an ecosystem in ways that promote understanding. We use unconventional thinking to identify the openings, test assumptions and build the strategies you need to respond productively. Mastering complexity can be your become your advantage.

    INNOVATION

    Everyone talks about it, but few really know how to turn it into reality. We are fully aware of the pitfalls, myths and clichés around innovation, and know our clients need to build meaningful and successful solutions to real problems.

    The scope and scale of the innovation you plan to undertake must be aligned to your ultimate ambitions and capacity. While many organizations claim an innovation agenda, we know it is essential to match your culture, resource allocation, and capabilities to your specific needs and the needs of the customers you serve.

    Our process for facilitating innovation uses a formal process to set goals, expectations, budgets and schedules. We have deep and wide experience in innovation strategy and implementation across many sectors. We’ll marry your decision-making process, communication styles and learning techniques with our disciplined framework to establish the foundation for your company’s success. We can turn innovation talk into action.

    FUTURES

    In turbulent and rapidly changing times, it helps to have a handle on what might be around the corner. We use a disciplined and collaborative method of creating resiliency for the future, to help our clients navigate uncertainty.

    We live in a complex world where change is accelerating, providing both threats and opportunities to all businesses and organizations. Some of those changes have the potential to cause significant and unexpected disruption. Foresight is an effective tool to manage that risk, identify openings for growth and prepare you to innovate. 

    To plan for this emerging environment we provide tools, expertise, experience and unique knowledge of methods in order to make thoughtful and strategic decisions. We can lead you through deep immersive experiences or provide you with thoroughly researched documentation. Always, we will use visualization, contextualization and compelling narrative to bring futures to life.


    DESIGN THINKING

    Design Thinking a human-centered approach to problem-solving. We use a variety of tools to zero in on the issues, clarify insights and explore ideas.

    Our studio uses Design Thinking to leverage our creative resolution of complex problems. Our process combines critical thinking, empathy, creativity, collaboration and rationality to meet user needs, innovate and manage change. Design Thinking is an approach based around the building up of ideas. Our studio-based methodology of research, insight, ideation, rapid prototyping, learning and refining establishes a space for nonjudgmental creativity. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation in the ideation and early design phases.

    Our studio is well-versed in multiple prototyping methods and crafting solutions with an iterative process. It is essential that prototypes are made quickly, so as not to invest emotionally in any ideas that will be rejected.


    RESEARCH

    Qualitative research involves the examination, analysis and interpretation of observations, declarations and actions. Quantitative research makes use of statistical, mathematical or computational techniques to collect empirical data about observable phenomena. It is concerned with questions of cause and effect and can be used to make generalizations about the data or to test hypotheses.

    We seek to understand the internal and external contexts and your current strategies or tactics. In order to gain a broad perspective we often design mixed method studies, using both qualitative and quantitative methods for information capture and processing. Our research is designed to uncover underlying meanings and patterns of relationships. It leads to the development of insights about a problem or the rationale for potential quantitative research. Our expertise combines both methods for optimal impact.


    COMMUNICATION DESIGN

    Driven by strategic planning our capabilities in communication design include print, environmental and digital applications. From brochures to websites, events, spaces and mobile applications, we write, edit and design integrated on-message solutions.

    Creative work, no matter the dynamism, or cleverness, cannot achieve lasting impact in the absence of effective and substantive positioning strategy based on insight. Informed by market intelligence, (quantitative and qualitative research) and our wide range of cross-sector experience we translate the insights and gaps we find into strategy. We use frameworks that include identification of targets and objectives, defining and balancing resources and priorities and outlining progress benchmarks and goals that are measurable.

    Conceptually driven communication uses compelling imagery and language to create impact and memorable work. Linking strong ideas to strategic objectives makes them “sticky” and persuasive. We extend the messages, language and graphic design and writing in a focused way to bring effective results to our clients with the goal of achieving measurable benchmarks.


    INDUSTRIAL DESIGN

    Our product and system design focuses on research and innovation. Common to all our work is an underlying problem-solving methodology coupled with a strong aesthetic sensibility and drive to meet user needs and realize ideas as fully engineered goods. KerrSmith blends art and science to give our clients better solutions to meet the demands of their customers. This in turn provides clients with added value that helps build business and compete in existing and new segments.

    We have the deep knowledge and experience to move projects from an idea to the marketplace, on time and on budget. Our design group defines the problem, explores creative options and executes solutions using advanced computer skills and a strong grasp of all aspects of engineering and production technology. Our business team monitors the project by expediting all business and logistical concerns with equal efficiency. Our working method ensures we achieve maximum results on every project. We collaborate openly with our clients using the six phases of research, concept development, design refinement, design production, production support, and implementation.

    Using the most current technology, we offer complete design services including two – and three dimensional modeling and printing, final production specifications and production management. We work closely with manufacturers to reach the highest level of quality in details and consistency.

    Great innovation takes great effort, and our rigorous, methodical approach creates a fertile environment for those breakthrough moments to happen. Our broad experience across a variety of categories enables us to design the most appropriate and effective solutions.

    Our knowledge of Strategic Foresight, trends, disciplined research methods and material and design expertise, have defined us as one the premiere Industrial Design studios in Canada.

    Our experience includes
    • Consumer Products
    • Housewares
    • Furniture and Furniture Systems
    • Healthcare Products
    • Retail Merchandising
    • Health and Beauty
    • Packaging
    • Technology
    • Flooring
    • Lighting
    • Signage, Wayfinding and Donor Recognition


    BRANDING

    The most strongly defined brands sell the most, captivate the most customers, attract the best staff, get the best deals from suppliers and connect the most with distributors. People want to be affiliated with known, confident, successful organizations or groups.

    The best brands are alive, authentic, different and compelling – and as a result, are inimitable. Brands should be driven by an articulated purpose and a sense of meaning.

    Branding is not primarily a commercial exercise; rather it is a human-needs based concept that transcends business. Branding is about belonging. We are hardwired to connect – and brands make it easier for us by triggering and signalling this sense of loyalty, and like-mindedness. And so at its core branding is about the display of accomplishment and affiliation.

    At KerrSmith Design, we help clients develop meaningful relationships with their target groups through compelling brand strategies and identities that stand out and create a unique experience. The key to success is defining a purpose and meaning and achieving the proper balance between style and substance. All brands need a strong creative platform to thrive in the marketplace, but they must be backed up by strategic direction and true insights.