Redefining Indigenous Design
Shaun founded Vincent Design Inc. in 2007 after several years of working successfully within the design industry. He was early to recognize a need for representational design, driving his desire to create a company to promote Indigenous communities, organizations, and companies.
Under his leadership and vision, Shaun has grown Vincent Design Inc. to a team of more than 25 people, with a diverse client base offering graphic design services, web development, branding, marketing, and strategy.
Shaun’s art and perspective offer a way for Indigenous people to be seen, and more importantly, to see themselves in the work. This is reflected in the stories and meaning he imbues into every design.
His approach and style have evolved to show representation of Indigenous peoples that aren’t specific to the symbols that have come to act like shorthand in graphic design – Métis oxcart, an Inuit inukshuk, or a feather for First Nations – instead using animals and plants for the meaning and the way they don’t abide by Western ideas of borders and boundaries. His artistic style, while influenced by the Woodlands and Cape Dorset styles, has become his own.
Growing up included spending time with family in the Métis community of St. Laurent, located on the southeast shore of Lake Manitoba, where Métis people lived since the 1800s. Shaun is the latest generation to care for land there, and where he feels most at home. As an Elder once told him, “The land knows your feet here.”
As an Indigenous designer, he is immersed in the culture, carrying forward his experience into every project. Connections to the land, history and ‘knowing’ – the understanding that the spirit lives within each of us – are reflected in the process and the result. It is this Two-Eyed Seeing that bridges Indigenous understanding with Western strengths. Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall said the advantage of Two-Eyed Seeing is that you are always fine-tuning your mind into different places at once, and you are always looking for another perspective and better way of doing things.
While he puts his time and talent into all his work, there are some projects that have garnered national and international attention, including the logo Shaun created for the Pope’s visit to Canada in 2022. The logo for the Papal visit was created to represent new hope and coming together while remembering and understanding the impact of residential schools. Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and Survivors would be sharing their stories and the logo Shaun created found a way to represent strength, perseverance, and healing.
The Survivors’ Flag he designed an expression of remembrance, meant to honour residential school Survivors and all the lives and communities impacted by the residential school system in Canada. Shaun, working with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, consulted with Survivors in creating the flag, which continues to fly on Parliament Hill.
Shaun and the team’s work helped share the story of reconciliation in the Southern Chiefs’ Organization’s project to transform the Hudson’s Bay Company’s building in downtown Winnipeg.
One of Vincent Design’s early projects continues to be a trusted resource. The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada by the Canadian Geographical Society was an undertaking in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Métis National Council, Indspire, and National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
This beautiful, culturally important design reflected a need for a balanced and respectful representation of Indigenous culture in Canada.
Shaun is generous with his time, acting as a mentor to Indigenous graphic design students, including establishing a scholarship for students through Vincent Design, taking part in speaking engagements, including the recent Forward Summit and giving the Alumni Address at RRC Polytech. While those were big stages, he has found the time to speak to classrooms of Grade 3 students as far away as Houston, Texas to share his design and entrepreneurial experience. His focus is on the future, from how he is raising his three children to know their roots. He also gives freely of his time as a troop leader for the 3rd Winnipeg Scout troop.
Respecting the past, looking to the future
In his book, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples, Gregory Younging put forward 22 principles for writing, editing and publishing Indigenous content. Younging, a member of the Opsakwayak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba, writes that “the purpose of Indigenous style is to produce works that reflect Indigenous realities as they are perceived by Indigenous Peoples, are truthful and insightful in their Indigenous content and are respectful of the cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples.”
As an Indigenous designer, Shaun works to balance form with function against backdrops of culturally relevant imagery. Indigenous design is tied to the culture, people and our relationships with the land. It relies on values of inclusivity, authenticity, respect, representation and collaboration that are shared by First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Canada. There are universal themes, symbols and stories, but also unique histories and points of view, and both have a place in thoughtful design.