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Trevor Embury: aftermodern.lab

by Kate Andrews | August 11, 2010

After spending 7 years living, studying and working in Tokyo, Japan, Graphic Designer Trevor Embury set up his design company aftermodern.lab in Toronto, Canada in 2009. He has been working in design for 10 years both as a creative director and lecturer. His enthusiasm and knowledge for design, architecture and photography comes from his extensive world travels and cultural exchanges. He has exhibited his work in Canada, Japan and the U.S.A. He is a graduate from the University of Calgary, a member of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada and an Alumni of Sessions College for Professional Design. We are really pleased to announce Trevor is joining the Notes on Design writing team this month, so we thought we would uncover a little more about his journey to introduce you to him!

Notes on Design: Hi Trevor, and welcome to NoD! Can you tell us a little about yourself, what you do and how your career in design began?

Trevor: Put simply, I’m a Canadian graphic designer based out of Toronto. I grew up in Southern Alberta in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, went to the University of Calgary to study Environmental Science and oddly found photography. I later went on to do a Fine Arts minor in photography. I think it was my academic understanding of the physical world that drew me closer to try to capture the beauty of the natural landscape on film. Subsequently, I studied Art & Design at Sessions College for Professional Design. After graduating. I moved to Tokyo, Japan and found work in both fields (science and design).

Notes on Design: Can you tell us about working in Japan?

Trevor: Japan was amazing. I lived in Tokyo for 7 years and truly did as much as I could. I had studied some Japanese photographers notably, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Daido Moriyama, Kenro Izu and Nobuyoshi Araki. I wanted to experience Japanese culture, language, life and mostly the landscape. I was very fortunate to be able to work there in an environment where I was required to use both of my academic disciplines. I worked on projects with The International Standards Organization, Mitsubishi, Dai Nippon Printing and Keio University.

Notes on Design: Can you tell us a little about your motivations to set up aftermodern.lab?

Trevor: The reason why I started aftermodern.lab was to do work that I wanted to do and that I felt passionate about. To be honest, I was tired of working for other people and wanted to work with people. I had the right amount of experience and I felt that I knew enough people that needed some design work done so I said “why not, lets try this”. I asked my friend, partner and fantastic web designer Daniel Orellana if he was up to the challenge, he said sure, so we started aftermodern.lab. Since then we have joined forces with Karran Finlay of Karran Finlay Marketing out of Vancouver, which has been a perfect marriage, mutually beneficial in so many ways.

Notes on Design: What are you working on at the moment?

Trevor: At the moment, we are working on all kinds of projects. We are re-branding a Vancouver retail store, branding a social enterprise organization and consulting with a few Toronto based companies on the future of their design strategies. We are also responsible for creative for PechaKucha Toronto.

Notes on Design: What is it about design that motivates you?

Trevor: I think it’s the infinite possibilities of what design can do. It’s amazing to see businesses grow and become successful through great design both in tangible and intangible ways. To give you an example, we recently finished a website for an academic institute and within months of its launch date they recorded a 300% increase in registered students from the same quarter in the previous year. This campaign successfully increased international student interest and created a stronger bridge with transferring students. It was an extreme departure from what they originally had from its look and feel to the way everything communicated.

Notes on Design: Do you have any self initiated projects on at the moment?

Trevor: Yes, I’m working with a few friends of mine designing graphics for interior spaces. These will be used in retail spaces in Toronto and Vancouver. I can’t say much more because we are still in the planning stages! I am also heading up the creative department for PechaKucha Toronto and we have just confirmed that we will be presenting at The Interior Design Show Toronto. This is our second year in at IDS. We also work with the wonderful Toronto Harbourfront Art Centre and are preparing our second presentation series with this organization.

Notes on Design: So, what’s next for you?

Trevor: I have a trip coming up to visit Daniel in São Paulo. He is heading up our studio there and taking care of all our web design/development projects.

Notes on Design: Based on your experiences, do you have any advice for this years design graduates?

Trevor: Learn from the great designers of the past, and be inspired by them. There is a reason why they are great and that their work is timeless. I am particularly inspired by architecture and the works of Toyo Ito, Ando Tadao and Marcio Kogan. As for graphic design, I have always been enamored by the records covers of Joy Division and New Order designed by Peter Saville as well as the rigid grid system of Jan Tschichold. I also have great respect for Alexander Gelman from Design Machine.

Find out more about Trevor and aftermodern.lab at and follow the studio on twitter @aftermodernlab.


Designer and writer Kate Andrews was the original editor of Notes on Design blog, founded in 2007.


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