Ken North bypasses bureaucracy to work directly with clients

Back when he worked for an advertising agency, Ken North pleased countless clients with his artistic creativity and hard work – but he saw a better way to achieve their goals.

If communications didn’t have to go through layers of bureaucracy, North reasoned, the results would more likely reflect what the client actually wanted.

“I found it very frustrating,” recalls North, who now heads North Design Group in Edmonton. “I was the guy doing the work, but I would be getting the reports from the account execs, and of course it’s only human nature that they put their own spin on it. Sometimes the communications would change slightly by the time they got to me.”

So in 1999, with a decade of advertising and graphic design experience to his credit – and numerous awards – North decided to spread his wings and leave the confines of ad-agency work.

Ken North, with faithful canine assistant Elvis.

He set up North Design Group with the goal of creating a streamlined model for doing creative graphic design. He would work directly with the client. No second-hand instructions. No miscommunication.

Another bonus for clients is the cost. “I tell them they’re getting agency quality for a lower cost because the client deals directly with the designer, which is usually me,” North explains.

Of course, he brings in specialists on contract when necessary – hence the Group part of his company’s name. North’s extensive connections in the industry include a roster of first-rate graphics people, writers and others who enjoy working outside ad-agency confines.

“By nature,” he says, “most creative people are self-starters. They thrive on the fact that you trust them to go out and do the job, and they always seem to come back with their best work.”

Doing the best work possible has been in Ken North’s nature from the beginning. As a kid, he always seemed to have a crayon or pen in hand, recording his environment in sketches and well-crafted drawings. That led him to the Alberta College of Art and Design, where he became an honour graduate of the four-year Visual Communications Program. He excelled in numerous workshops and courses while rising through the ranks of communications firms and ad agencies, working on or running major projects for local, national and international clients.

As an independent, North continues to work with clients of all sizes and geographic locations, including one in New Zealand. But his ties with the Edmonton community remain strong, and he’s as willing to deal with small companies as much as large ones.

He specializes in designing brochures and annual reports but has the capabilities to handle anything you can throw at him.

“I’ve had phenomenal growth, and it’s all been word of mouth,” he says.

Despite all his achievements, Ken North retains the same fundamental excitement that motivated him at the start of his career. “There’s no better feeling in the world,” he says, “than being able to do what you love while benefiting your client and helping their business grow and thrive.”

North Design Group can be reached by e-mail at and by telephone/fax at (780) 479-5098.