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OTTAWA IS PERHAPS considered a less creative city than most—known better for its bureaucrats, frigid winters, and poutine than its artistic community. The Ottawa Creative Collective (OCC), founded by two local designers, aims to change that image.

“We want to be known as the organization that nudges Ottawa into the realm of good design—to be held in the same regard as Toronto and Montreal and Vancouver,” said co-founder Steve St. Pierre.

One of his first goals for the OCC was to connect people who were designing and creating in the city with each other.

“I had the idea to have a meet-up: A bunch of designers to get together and get drunk and talk about fonts. That was the joke,” said St. Pierre of the OCC’s origins. “The whole goal was to meet people who are as passionate about design as I am.”

What started as a joke led to a network. With the help of co-founder Brett Tackaberry, the collective has grown steadily from the seven people at the first session (nicknamed “Blackhole” sessions), held in February, to nearly 250 members of the online group.

The collective aims to actively raise the profile of the city’s artistic community, not only by hosting sessions and events for designers, but also showcasing their work on the site’s blog (

The blog, is the OCC’s focal point, says St. Pierre: A place to showcase existing work in the city. Recent posts have featured a local streetware shop, the tech start-up Shopify, and the design studio Carbure (which resides behind the University of Ottawa’s own site, Discover).

By showcasing the work happening in the city—of design, developers, and photographers—the OCC aims to demonstrate that good work in possible in Ottawa, and that connecting with other experts will result in more good work.

“It’s just a matter of finding the right people and having an encouraging community can help with that,” St. Pierre explained. “The big clients don’t exist here—but that doesn’t mean we can’t attract them here, or that we can’t do good work for the clients that do exist here.”

Each month, local developers, and photographers from around the city take part in the “Blackhole” sessions held in the downtown core. In the future, the OCC aims to host speakers, conferences, and organize scholarships. Getting students involved in the OCC is important, says St. Pierre, who encourages aspiring designers at the U of O to reach out, submit their work, and attend the monthly meet-ups.

“[The scholarship is planned] so young designers will stick around and have pride in their city,” he explained, talking about why students are so important to the OCC. “I want to see where the students are at. I want to see what kids are doing in my city.”

The OCC meets the first Thursday of every month at the Standard Tavern; for more information, go to (or @createOttawa on Twitter).


Jessie Willms