Skip To Content

Interview: Community builder and graphic designer Sage Mosurinjohn

By Jamie MacPherson on May 13, 2020

Advertisement:
 

Sage Mosurinjohn loves helping small businesses and watching them grow and flourish. She donates her time to not-for-profits doing good work and is actively involved in bettering the city. She is an example of a community builder and an outstanding human being. One of Ottawa’s gems indeed, Sage’s work is just like her: warm, bright, and fun. This is her story.

Graphic designer and illustrator Sage Mosurinjohn. Photo: Jonathan Moreau.

A Fearless Illustrator

Sage isn’t afraid of a challenge: “I feel like I get a little stuck in a rut if I’m only doing one type of design work for a while.” When she isn’t assisting small business owners at local events such as Ladies, Wine & Design and craft shows, freelancing, or volunteering, Sage is working at Character Creative on branding, print, web and motion design, and illustration work for their diverse clientele, where no two projects are the same.

There are some constants though. The first step: research. “For example, if the project is creating a logo for a bookstore, I’d start by looking at other bookstore logos in Ottawa and national chains to see the kind of imagery and colours already being used. That way, I can know what to stay away from to create a unique brand identity that stands out. You have to look at what’s out there in the space where your project will live.”

Next step: sketchpad and pencil, “because it’s so much easier to play with different visual ideas on a piece of paper.” After scanning her drawing, Sage uses Adobe Illustrator to add colour. From this digital file, she creates one or two concepts and presents them to the client for feedback. Revisions continue until a final selection is made.

From concept sketch to print material.

Drawing on her journalism degree, messaging experience from her communications work for Bridgehead and CBC, her graphic design degree, her immense creativity and unique approach, Sage produces branding that captures what her clients want to convey.

Girls+ Rock Ottawa

In April 2017 Sage answered a Request For Proposals from Girls+ Rock Ottawa to create their new logo and website and won the competition. Sage’s logo stands out with its contrasting colours. What looks like a basic design is far from it. Inspired by traditional camp patches, it depicts a larger guitar helping smaller ones: a powerful, versatile symbol of mentorship. Sage then built a new website around photos by Jessica Deeks. The enhanced page included calendar events and a section for merchandise, offering an entirely new and welcoming experience for visitors.

Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa

Looking for other ways to help, Sage reached out to SASC in 2019 about designing brochures, banner stands, their website, and merchandising. Here, Sage wanted “soft and strong designs and the kind of tote bags I could see people buying and using around Ottawa.” Sage has also created prints for SASC events.

T-shirt design for Little Jo Berry’s.

Little Jo Berry’s and Bike Yeah

For over four years, Sage has worked closely with Little Jo Berry’s on branding and merchandise. The theory: Recognizable, fun, and pink. In practice: Work on a micro level (i.e., a one-colour, one-inch button) but be transferable to large banners and signage. Sage took Little Jo Berry’s focus and “mixed retro and contemporary mediums in order to compliment the aesthetic of the shop.” At the same time, Sage wanted to create something different, not the standard “company logo in the top left corner that feels like a staff shirt. I want to buy merchandise that’s cool and fun.”

By all accounts the results were a success, as her designs quickly sell out, with customers asking about second runs, the next order, and 24-hour holds.

In 2018, Little Jo Berry’s asked Sage to help with the Vegan Night Markets (that LJB’s organizes with Spectrasonic) and Vegan Food Festivals. Sage created posters, did social media messaging, and designed t-shirts. The designs blended colour, fun and animals. Some common themes throughout: community, friendship, and inclusivity.

Bike Yeah: Friends Who Cycle came to Sage for design help as well. She made “Queers On Bikes” and “Hot For Helmets” stickers plus social media materials. Her images are fun, but also convey the group’s message of togetherness, safety, and a space where everyone’s welcome.

Role Models

Ghostly Ferns Collective is a major influence on Sage’s work, in particular that of Meg Lewis and Laura Bee. “Their design work is always so fresh and fun, and they bring their amazing illustration styles to every project they work on.” Sage also says she is “constantly on Instagram and Dribbble poring over artists I love” and is greatly moved by the kind and generous staff at Little Jo Berry’s, especially Josephine Masterson, the baker herself. “She has really let me develop my design aesthetic and is such a great business owner to work with. We’ve come such a long way together.”

Handmade crafts such as embroidery, pottery, and linocuts remind Sage of how important the physical/tactile world is and keep us from being “lost in digital space.” Three years into her design career, Sage hopes to mentor others some day.

Coming Soon…

Coming soon-ish is a new line of LJB’s merchandise. Sage is also busy with a number of other projects but will soon be looking for other local non-profits to volunteer for and local entities to help. If you’d like to collaborate with Sage, she’d love to hear from you. What is certain, though, is that Sage will continue to bring bright colours and fun to the 613. One of Ottawa’s treasures, she makes the city a brighter, warmer place.


Sage Mosurinjohn is an Ottawa graphic designer and illustrator. When she’s not in front of her computer, she can probably be found embroidering something or talking to her houseplants. To see some of her work, check out her shiny new website: www.sagemosurinjohn.ca or follow her on Instagram or Dribbble

Advertisement: