Flat design isn’t simple, it’s beautiful.


At APG our talented in-house graphic design team is committed to helping our customers create artwork that not only accurately represents their brands, but also provides on-trend and compelling design to further their messaging and connections with key stakeholders. The team is constantly looking for new ways to better the outcome of their efforts and today our Lead Graphic Artist, Michael J. Duhamel, is exploring the progression of ‘flat design’ and how its beautiful simplicity is an ideal vessel for communicating your brand messaging.

Flat design is beautiful. It’s refreshing, clean and soft on the eyes, with large areas of negative space. With flat design, you’ve already started with what is important and are not focused on adding elements that could end up distracting the viewer from the intended message.


Flat design has historically been influenced by various styles of art, including Swiss style, minimalism, and the styles emerging from the Bauhaus art school. However, it was the 2013 release of IOS 7 by Apple Inc. that really established flat design as a mainstream concept. Jony Ive, the Senior VP of Design at Apple, introduced flat design into the iPhone’s operating system, replacing realistic app icons with simple icons of flat colour.


Addressing the company’s shift to flat design, Ive explained that, “a lot of people see simplicity as [a] lack of clutter. And that’s not the case at all. True simplicity is, well, you just keep on going and going until you get to the point where… there’s no rational alternative.”

In the graphic design world, realism, the attempt to portray subjects truthfully and accurately, has always dominated ; the more textures and effects that you could add to a design, the better it was perceived. However, as online websites and mobile devices take advantage of a sleeker interface and focus on clarity of information for users, we are now seeing flat design emerge as the dominating aesthetic. As I wrote this I explored a few big name companies to see what their websites looked like.

Airbnb is one of my favourite websites and is a great example of flat design. The layout of the site is a simple grid and is made up of rectangles and squares that contain the content. The design features nice, simple typography that clearly communicates the message.


When I visited the McDonald’s website I expected it to be visually overwhelming, but what I got instead was a very open and inviting experience. The biggest takeaway was the large areas of negative space that were either using a solid colour or full screen photo. The website features easy-to-find product callouts and a simple user interface.


The Windows website really embraces flat design with its use of large, solid-coloured sections and clean typography. The site uses bright pops of colour for buttons and on their web banners which creates a nice ‘window’ look.


There are two important features worth noting that contribute to solid flat design concepts as we have seen here. Good typography is a key foundation of flat design. Because you have stripped away all of the extra visual fluff and shine, there is a lot of room for really good typography to stand out.


Another important aspect of the flat design style is a strong focus on colour. Rather than limiting colours to the more traditional hues of ‘business blue’ and ‘metallic chrome’, designers are now experimenting with new shades, like ‘web green’, ‘peachy red’, and ‘lilac purple’. It also works in your favour to explore the recommendations of the multi-industry colour authority Pantone, as they reveal seasonal on-trend colours.

One common misconception with flat design application is that visually it comes across too simple and is therefore less work to make. The truth, however, is that with less there is always more. More impact and more emphasis on what is actually there. Design is a puzzle and this means that design principles have to work much harder in order to be successful.6

In the promo industry flat design definitely has its place. As we saw with the clean-looking style of the websites noted earlier, the same is materializing with products and branded merchandise. In fact, flat design has actually become a preferred art style as it is usually created in vector artwork and can be limited in colour (which is more budget-friendly).

Like most ideas that are trendy there is only speculation as to what will develop with flat design in the future. I personally believe it may grow old for some but in principle it should live forever as it captures the essence of perfect design.

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”- Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Michael J. Duhamel is the Lead Graphic Artist at Accolade Promotion Group, a division of Staples Promotional Products. Michael was classically trained in illustration at Sheridan College and finds his inspiration in everyday life, from advertising and pop culture to children’s literature. Michael also became a published author this year with the release of his very first children’s book, a story about a brave young pigeon, Benjamin.

Wikipedia, “Flat Design,” en.wikipedia.org
USA Today, “Jony Ive: The man behind Apple’s magic curtain,” www.usatoday.com
Flat vs. Realism, www.flatvsrealism.com
Webinsation, “Flat Design: Trend or Revolution,” www.webinsation.com

Denim: From runway to promo

POSTED ON MAY 19, 2015


Throughout history denim has been recognized as the clothing of rugged, hard-working individuals and of a carefree, leisurely lifestyle. What started with the iconic Levi Strauss brand has since remained ever-present at retail, and has now gained hero-status as many high-fashion brands endeavour to add trendy denim pieces to their product lines, offering consumers a modern update to the classic and authentic textile.

Quote denim

As identified by Amy Leverton, Head of Denim and Youth at the WGSN trend forecasting agency, fashion brands are tapping into the nostalgic sentiment that consumers have embraced. “Denim touches a lot of people’s lives and they can identify with it instantly,” Leverton asserts. While the high-fashion apparel that graces the runways of NYFW is not necessarily applicable to promotional merchandise, for the forward-thinking brands that are exploring new ways to offer on-trend merchandise in their branded collections, identifying with denim could present a unique opportunity to expand the breadth of their offering.

Denim Lineup_C


Many industry suppliers are offering denim across a variety of accessories. Bags, in particular, are making a statement with various totes, duffles, and messengers emerging with either full denim construction, as seen in the Alternative Cross Body Slouch Tote (4), or as a more understated point of interest, as shown in the Denim Trim Tote (5). Additionally, event accessories like denim lanyards and even a recycled denim pencil are now available to those looking for a more subtle way to add the textile to their branded merchandise. And for the companies looking for a stylish take on the traditional denim workshirt, it is also available in a wide array of dark and light washes, and provides a more casual option for company uniforms.

For more information about how you can add denim to your collection of branded merchandise, please contact us as info@accoladepg.com.

Golf Trend Guide Pt 2: Tech on Course


Staying on top of the latest trends in golf is essential for us to be able to effectively guide you in selecting the best possible merchandise for your brand. With the help of our resident expert, Dwayne Boecker, Director of Merchandising for Golf Town, we have taken an inside look at the latest in the golf apparel with the Athleisure trend, and are now exploring technology in this second segment of our golf trend guide.

Garmin ApproacjOf the many accessories available to golfers, tech is the category that has seen accelerated growth and is continuing to develop with each passing season. What started out as a relatively simple GPS device to give golfers an indication of their distance to the green, has now advanced and refined to offer statistics allowing avid golfers to more accurately analyze all facets of their game. Wearable technology, like the Garmin Approach S6 and Zepp Golf devices, give golfers the unique opportunity to track and analyze their swing, as well as offer precise distance-to-the-pin numbers. The technology offered in devices such as GAME GOLF and Arccos collects statistics to analyze entire rounds of golf through discrete sensors paired with clubs.

Additionally, in efforts to maintain and develop the enthusiasm of younger generations’ interest in golf, we are now seeing music enter the game. “Listening to music on the golf course was taboo 5 years ago,” Boecker explains, “Now there are golf-specific speakers that you can attach to your cart.” The Puma Soundchuck and the Boom Swimmer are such speakers, both Bluetooth®-enabled and designed to embrace an active lifestyle.


For more information on the latest golf trends, accessories, equipment, and gifting check out our newly-released 2015 Golf Collection.

Golf Trend Guide Pt 1: Athleisure


Golf Course

Staying on top of the latest trends in golf is essential for us to be able to effectively guide you in selecting the best possible merchandise for your brand. With the help of our resident expert, Dwayne Boecker, Director of Merchandising for Golf Town, we are taking an inside look at the latest in golf apparel and then technology in this two-part trend guide.

When it comes to apparel, the prevailing style on the golf course has seen dramatic change in recent years. Moving away from the traditional and decidedly proper golf style, apparel is becoming much more casual and focusing on a comfortable, lifestyle look. As noted by Dwayne Boecker, “We have had to adapt because people are changing. People want to be comfortable and wear clothing to golf, but also to workout, hike, and ride their bike.” With the growth of more recreational and casual interest in the sport, and the flourishing enthusiasm of younger generations of golfers, the latest collections of apparel are offering more wearable pieces to satisfy this demand. Look no further than the new woven shirts from Travis Mathew; they can easily be worn before, during, and after your round.

In addition, now more than ever, we are seeing athleticism appear at the forefront of the sport, and as a result athletic-driven brands, such as Nike, are showcasing golf apparel with a distinct fitness influence. The gym-wear and yoga-style that has taken to the streets has now become more acceptable on the golf course, appealing to a more diverse field of golfers.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Golf Trend Guide, taking a look at how wearable technology and a younger generation of golfers are changing the game.

TECH TALK: Action Cameras


Documenting and sharing the special moments of our lives has become standard practice with access to so many fun and engaging online and mobile applications. With Instagram being used at least once a day by 23% of Canadians aged 13 to 29, it is clear that visual media, and the ability for consumers to tell their own story, is now firmly cemented as a fundamental part of the online experience and is continuing to grow with younger generations. However, for lovers of an action-and-adventure driven lifestyle, smartphones are not the ideal device for capturing those moments that deserve to be remembered and re-lived.GoPro

GoPro has become the leader in the action-camera space. Its technology has allowed us to get closer to the heart-pounding, adrenalin-inducing moments that thrill-seekers like Rémy Métailler (3-time, and most recent winner of the GoPro of the World PinkBike Challenge) seem to crave. It has also allowed us a closer-than-ever look at the skills of some of the world’s greatest athletes – just look at this NHL video of Sidney Crosby practicing, with footage captured by GoPro. The GoPro makes a greatViDi Action Camera Kit corporate gift, allowing recipients the opportunity to create their own awe-inspiring moments, or simply the chance to capture unforgettable occasions that can be posted, shared, and re-played.

A more affordable and customizable option is available in the form of the ViDi Action Camera Kit. This quality camera comes with a rear-facing touch screen and films in 720p high definition for beautiful images and videos. Beyond the camera itself, the kit also comes with a transparent waterproof case, an extension pole, a skeleton case, a handlebar mount, and a car charger. The best part is that you can decorate the camera with a custom design on its outer shell or waterproof case, creating a brilliant branded device that is perfect for gifting!


For more info on the GoPro or ViDi action cameras, or for more great tech products, please contact us at info@accoladepg.com.

NEW APG Exclusive Product Kit


Bugatti Portfolio Tablet Case + PowerJump Mobile Charger

The APG team is always looking for ways to make life at the office less stressful and a little more fun. Staying organized at work is half the battle, and when you pair that with a cool tech device that will ensure you stay connected on-the-go, we are sure that your day will go a little more smoothly. That’s why we are so excited to share this offer available to you exclusively from APG.

The Bugatti Portfolio Tablet Case is an ideal way to keep your tablet and mobile devices safe and secure. It features a removable tablet case with a stand for easy browsing, and it comes with USB card holders, business card slots, an identification window, two pen holders, a writing pad, and a zipper closure to ensure that nothing can escape.

Bugatti + PowerStick

To help you stay connected, we are packaging the Bugatti case with the PowerJump Mobile Charger. This 2015 CES Innovation Award winning product is made in Canada and is compact, has a lifetime warranty, and offers a full 100% charge to most phones.

Both are packaged neatly in a gift box – perfect for executive or client gifting. Available to you for only $72.99, with a minimum of 12 pieces.

For more info on this offer available exclusively from APG, and other great business and tech items, please contact us at info@accoladepg.com.

Fabulous Flatware


With our endeavours to live a more sustainable lifestyle this year, we were over the moon when we found this fabulous reusable cutlery kit! Not only will this reduce plastic waste from disposable cutlery, these kits are so fun, that it will also encourage us to bring our own lunches to the office!

Cutlery KitThe kits are full-sized so that they can easily accommodate any meal, and are convenient to keep at your desk, in the car, in your purse, or when you are traveling. The utensils come with a soft polymer grip for comfort, are BPA free and dishwasher safe.

They also come in an easy to store plastic container with a clear hinged lid – the ideal location for your event or company logo! As you can see from our APG kits, there is plenty of space to get creative with a design for your imprint.

Cutlery 3

These kits are just one of many sustainable products that the APG team has access to! If you are interested in learning more, please contact us at info@accoladepg.com.

TREND ALERT: Gingham for Spring


We have seen many bold prints enter the retail landscape of late in everything from large florals to linear geometrics. While the classic gingham plaid print may traditionally be recognized as a pattern most suitable for your picnic blanket, it is increasingly being seen as a fresh and unexpected print popping up across a variety of apparel pieces and bags.

As showcased in InStyle magazine, there was no shortage of gingham on the runways of New York Fashion Week for the Spring and Summer 2015 shows, and the print is already popping up in our Spring collections of promotional merchandise. For the forward-thinking brand, the upcoming warmer weather may be a great opportunity to introduce more casual team uniforms, as seen here in the collared shirts from Cutter & Buck and Port Authority.


If you are looking to add gingham to your promotional merchandise in a more modest capacity, then a tote bag could be a great option for your collection! The Nike Tote Bag sports a subtler gingham look, with more muted tones, or for an understated pop of interest, the Satchels Gingham Tote features the print on the inner lining.


If you are interested in learning more about how you can include gingham in your corporate merchandise, or if you have any other questions, please contact us at info@accoladepg.com!

New APG Exclusives


For a little inspiration at the office, start with great writing instruments! The APG team has EXCLUSIVE access to two fabulous new pens that will make those early morning meetings a little more enjoyable.

The Gavin Pen features a soft matte, metallic finish with a rubberized grip for a comfortable writing experience. It also comes with a stylish chrome trim, tip, and plunger. Its medium ball point comes with blue ink and offers a smooth writing system. The wider barrel is perfect for more intricate logos and is available with a multi-colour silkscreen imprint.


For a touch of elegance, the Nessie Pen features brass construction and has a matte, metallic finish and rubberized grip. This pen offers a little more weight, showing its quality and making it a nice option for gifting. It also comes with a chrome, trim, tip, and plunger and is available with a classic-looking laser engraved imprint on the barrel.


If you are interested in learning more about these exclusive items, please contact us today at info@accoladepg.com.

Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday Event


‘Tis the season for ‪holiday gatherings! With the hustle and bustle of this festive time of year, we often forget about the effects our seasonal‪ ‎corporate events may have on the environment. While we should be looking to use environmentally friendly options year round, we have compiled a few tips for keeping your events eco-friendly throughout the holiday season!


1. Venue

In your initial planning stages, look for a hotel or banquet hall that is recognized as an eco-friendly event space. These venues will often have already sourced green suppliers for food and décor, and could make your job organizing the event a whole lot easier!

2. Transportation

Choose an event space that is close to public transit. Not only is this a way to minimize the number of vehicles that are needed to transport your guests to and from the venue, it is also an important safety consideration if you are hosting a wet event.

3. Decorations

No holiday party is complete without festive decorations! To minimize waste, look for decorations and centrepieces that can be rented from a local vendor, given away at the end of the night, or re-used by some of your guests for their own personal holiday celebrations!

4. Food

Supporting local vendors that offer seasonal cuisine is a great way to keep your holiday event green. The use of seasonal food options means that there will be less of a transportation impact, and using suppliers that are close by will support the local economy. You will also want to ensure that any packaging used is recyclable, and at the end of the night, if there is a surplus of food, offer your local charity or shelters a special festive dinner in the spirit of the season of giving!

5. Party Favours, Gifts, & Prizing

When looking into the giveaways you might offer your guests, choose suppliers that have access to environmentally friendly party favours and gifts. The APG team has partnered with many sustainable vendors, with top quality gifting options available at a wide range of price points so that you can find the perfect fit for your needs!

6. Convey the Message to Your Guests

Get everyone involved! Make guests aware of your eco-friendly holiday event ahead of time by communicating the menu, and the evening’s plans electronically via email – this will eliminate paper waste from signage posted around the office. Add a fun element by incorporating a contest or food drive, with the winner receiving one of your eco-friendly prizes!

These tips are a great way to plan a green event year round! For eco-friendly ideas and inspiration for your holiday event giveaways and gifts, contact APG at info@accoladepg.com today!

Source: Centre des Congrès de Québec, Eco-Friendly Events: Tips & Tricks