Meet Doug Coates, CGD

met Doug Coates a lifetime ago. 1995. I was still in school and “co-opped” at Vision Color – my first real job in the industry. I learned a lot about the technical (prepress) side of print and ultimately discovered prepress was not my thing. I leaned more toward the creative side. When Doug began at Vision as a CSR, the buzz in the department was he was actually a graphic designer. To me, a green 24 year-old, that was just too cool. More often than not, the Winnipeg design community is considered a close-knit family. That’s certainly been true of us. We have yet to work together since our Vision Color days. We have bumped into each other, waved at each other from a distance. I’d like you to meet Doug Coates:

So who are you anyway? How did you get started?

I know this will date me: my first job as a designer was at Gambles/Macleods, the same year the Summer Olympics were played in Montreal – 1976.  That said, let me get the technical (resumé) stuff out of the way: After grade 11 I applied to Red River College (RRC) commercial art program in Winnipeg. I studied commercial art at TecVoc in 1975, anatomy drawing at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, water colour painting at the University of Manitoba and architectural drafting at RRC. I also obtained a Certificate in Business Administration from RRC.

I’m a Winnipegger. Born and raised. I married my high school sweetheart Cathy and together we have three sons, Barrett, Jordan and Evan. I started Edge Advertising more than a decade ago. We have a small client base of both large and small businesses. Our main design service is print materials: designing corporate identity, annual reports, trade show displays, etc. We also provide illustration work as well as storyboarding for television commercials.

How would you describe your work,
your style and approach?

I’m a procrastinator by nature so I suspect in some ways that dictates my approach. I probably divide research time equally between design concept and identifying how best to present the message. Earlier in my career, I limited research to a personal collection of print materials, various magazines, newspapers, etc. When I began my business full time I also began thinking design full time. By that I mean I often looked to everyday items and events and associated them with a project I was currently working on or client I’m working with. Some people may think that’s a kind of curse. But, I’m comfortable with it.

The one thing I always try to guard against is over designing, such as adding irrelevant elements to a design.

What tools are in your toolbox?

I have three toolboxes. 
In one I hopefully have enough tools to tackle any project my house can throw at me.
In my second tool box I have a few dried out tubes of gouache and felt markers, a 30 year old # 00 series 7 Windsor Newton Sable brush, small Windsor Newton water color set, a few rapidograph pens, one with a titanium tip for drawing on frosted acetate, and a 1950’s Thayer Chandler airbrush.
My third toolbox is somewhere in my computer. I’m pretty sure I only see the top layer of tools. Maybe that’s all I can be trusted with.

Which do you enjoy more? Design or illustration?

I enjoy both equally. However I find illustration more time consuming than I used to. Perhaps that’s because I don’t do as much of it. The past few years my illustration has been limited to storyboarding television commercials, which I enjoy doing.

You mention being a follower of Christ. How has your faith played a role in your business?

My faith is a baseline for how I run my business. I have a small but great group of clients that are honest, have integrity and are proud of who and what services or products their companies provide. As sole proprietor I have both the luxury and responsibility of saying ‘no’ to a client on matters that demean or are contrary to my faith or are questionable morally.

What has been your all-time favorite project,
toughest project?

Here’s a bit of back story. Early in our marriage, Cathy worked alternate weekends which allowed her to spend more time at home with our children. Though these were great years there were times we needed extra cash, for things like property taxes.

I think it was 1986 my good friend Wally Zinylk called. “Would I help him produce a flyer for Beaver Lumber.” Turns out, my responsibility was to do the line illustrations and airbrushing. We worked our day jobs as usual. But off-and-on for several weeks – evenings, I’d head to his house and work until sunrise. When we finished I had made $1,700 – almost exactly the amount of our property tax bill that year. Whether or not you believe in prayer, this was a definite answer to ours that year. And almost 25 years later, I still have a copy of that Beaver Lumber flyer.

Your twitter bio says you’re a graphic designer (old media), illustrator. How has “old media” shaped your career? Any limitations?

I don’t know that “old media” has shaped my career. Doing what I would call traditional illustration and felt marker layouts were a big part of our industry years ago. I do still sketch design ideas before I start working on the computer. This process helps me to visualize the whole design before being concerned about colours and type styles. I’ve often say it would be like drawing a portrait by starting off drawing the detail of the eyes, the size, shape, colour and working the rest of the face off from there.

Any advice for aspiring designers/illustrators?

Aspiring designers:

  • Care less about the latest design trend. Care more for your client and
    the project at hand.
  • Be able to back up why you did what you did. Grow thicker skin and always allow criticism. Consider the underlying intent and be willing to adapt or adopt.

Print designers: school didn’t teach you enough about production. Being willing to learn more about the production side will make you a better designer.

Aspiring illustrators:

  • Keep drawing. Draw things you don’t think you’re good at. Fill a sketch book. Draw more.  Fill another.  That will make you a better artist.
  • Use different media than what you’re currently comfortable.
  • Illustrate your next greeting card.


How’s the 68 Mustang?

The Mustang is in serious need of a financial injection. It’s been over 10 years that partially restored “car” has taken up half of my garage. I still buy vintage Mustang magazines and love seeing them at car shows. Someday it will be finished. But not yet.

You can connect with Doug here:  edgeadvertising (at)
And on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.
You can also see some of his work here