Alison Garwood Jones

Custom Home Portraits

October 20, 2020

Gift Idea: I can draw your home.

CUSTOM HOME PORTRAITS make a unique holiday gift. 

I like to plant the seed in October to give me enough time to complete your one-of-kind drawing. 

HOW IT WORKS: I create the high-res art in PhotoShop, and you take the digital file to your favourite local printer/framer. 

That way, we avoid sending original art through Canada Post/US Mail, both notorious for their seasonal backlog. 

Feel free to email me for more details: alison (dot) garwoodjones (at) gmail (dot) com

Alison 

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Empowering Women

October 14, 2020

When Nargiz asked me what change I wanted to see in the world, my thoughts turned to women. 

Nargiz grew up in Azerbaijan, one of many countries now in political turmoil.

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The following clips are from my interview with Nargiz Mammadova, the co-founder and CEO of the Destin AI app, an AI-powered virtual guide that simplifies the immigration process to Canada. 

Nargiz and I met a few years ago after I delivered a talk for IABC Toronto. She came bounding up to me. 

It turns out, while building the Destin AI app with her team, she was simultaneously filming a web series of interviews with creative entrepreneurs, both as a way to fuel and encourage herself through the day-to-day challenges of building something that didn’t yet exist, but as inspiration for her friends, also trying to make their way through disrupted workplaces and the evolving technological landscape.

Our conversation was shot pre-Covid. 

You can check out all of Nargiz’s full interviews (including this one) at Insights With Nargiz.

Produced by Nargiz Mammadova • Videographer: Gary Chen • Video Editing: Elnur Valiyev • Extra photos and text added by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Avoid the hard sell

October 8, 2020

Avoid the hard sell - content marketing cartoon by Alison Garwood-Jones

As a University of Toronto (SCS) instructor in #DigitalStrategy, I like coming up with different ways to explain what it takes to build a commercial relationship with your audience, without being obnoxiously salesy or transactional. #AdBlockers

When you want something too much  … it doesn’t happen. #Desperation

The art of persuasion is about laying down a string of breadcrumbs with your stories and ideas, and letting your readers come to the conclusion: “I need what they are offering.” #LightbulbMoment

It’s kind of like a marriage: sometimes you have to let the other person think that your idea is theirs in order to get what you want. 

In this cartoon, I’ve drawn an imaginary conversation between Virginia and Alice. two persuasive storytellers.

Inspired by the teachings of Ann Handley, CC Chapman, Gini Dietrich, Marcus Sheridan, and Jay Baer.

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My Freelancer Life: Think Diversification

October 5, 2020

In these clips with my interview with Nargiz Mammadova, I talk about:

  • Learning magazine writing on the job
  • Preserving my naivete, and not giving in to fear
  • My dashed dreams of being a newspaper columnist (don’t be a dinosaur, Alison)
  • Why the media business model is still in flux
  • Adapting constantly
  • Why the old markers of success — where you went to school and who you know — are losing their power.

Nargiz Mammadova, the co-founder and CEO of the Destin AI app, an AI-powered virtual guide that simplifies the immigration process to Canada. (@destin.ai)

Nargiz and I met a few years ago after I delivered a talk for IABC Toronto. She came bounding up to me. 

It turns out, while building the Destin AI app with her team, she was simultaneously filming a web series of interviews with creative entrepreneurs, both as a way to fuel and encourage herself through the day-to-day challenges of building something that didn’t yet exist, but as inspiration for her friends, also trying to make their way through disrupted workplaces and the evolving technological landscape.

Our conversation was shot pre-Covid. 

You can check out all of Nargiz’s full interviews (including this one) at “Insights With Nargiz.”

• Produced by Nargiz Mammadova • Videographer: Gary Chen • Video Editing: Elnur Valiyev • Extra family photos added by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Growing up in an artistic home

October 5, 2020

The soil I grew up in was planted with art, music and literature. Mind you, I didn’t start seriously reading until university. I was too busy staring at the layout of my marker sets. 

The following clips are from my interview with Nargiz Mammadova, the co-founder and CEO of the Destin AI app, an AI-powered virtual guide that simplifies the immigration process to Canada. (@destin.ai)

Nargiz and I met a few years ago after I delivered a talk for IABC Toronto. She came bounding up to me. 

It turns out, while building the Destin AI app with her team, she was simultaneously filming a web series of interviews with creative entrepreneurs, both as a way to fuel and encourage herself through the day-to-day challenges of building something that didn’t yet exist, but as inspiration for her friends, also trying to make their way through disrupted workplaces and the evolving technological landscape.

Our conversation was shot pre-Covid. 

You can check out all of Nargiz’s full interviews (including this one) at Insights With Nargiz on YouTube.

• Produced by Nargiz Mammadova •Videographer:  Gary Chen •Video Editing: Elnur Valiyev • Extra family photos added by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Do you have to be an extrovert to be on social media?

September 28, 2020

Photo: Gary Chen

I only take to social media when I feel I have something compelling to share.

Compelling for me is not about waving your arms or starting fires, it’s about being quietly and deeply human. It’s about embracing the original ideals of social media — namely scaling empathy through the power of self-publishing.

In these clips, I talk about how you don’t have to be an extrovert to be on social, but you do have to learn and practice “getting outside of yourself.” The following clips are from my interview with Nargiz Mammadova, the co-founder and CEO of the Destin AI app, an AI-powered virtual guide that simplifies the immigration process to Canada. (@destin.ai)

Nargiz and I met a few years ago after I delivered a talk for IABC Toronto. She came bounding up to me. It turns out, while building the Destin AI app with her team, she was simultaneously filming a web series of interviews with creative entrepreneurs, both as a way to fuel and encourage herself through the day-to-day challenges of building something that didn’t yet exist, but as inspiration for her friends, also trying to make their way through disrupted workplaces and the evolving technological landscape.

Our conversation was shot pre-Covid.

You can check out all of Nargiz’s full interviews (including this one) at: https://bit.ly/2FK0olj

Produced by Nargiz Mammadova • Videographer: Gary Chen • Video Editing: Elnur Valiyev

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Avoiding a scoreboard approach to social media

September 23, 2020


Taking a competitive “scoreboard” approach to social media is guaranteed to mess with your mind, but even more so when you are an artist. 

Somehow, though, we have to balance creativity with being our own PR and Marketing Departments. I have opinions on that.

The following clips are from my interview with Nargiz Mammadova, the co-founder and CEO of the Destin AI app, an AI-powered virtual guide that simplifies the immigration process to Canada. (@destin.ai)

Nargiz and I met a few years ago after I delivered a talk for IABC Toronto. She came bounding up to me. 

It turns out, while building the Destin AI app with her team, she was simultaneously filming a web series of interviews with creative entrepreneurs, both as a way to fuel and encourage herself through the day-to-day challenges of building something that didn’t yet exist, but as inspiration for her friends, also trying to make their way through disrupted workplaces and the evolving technological landscape.

Our conversation was shot pre-Covid. 

You can check out all of Nargiz’s interviews at Insights with Nargiz on YouTube.

Produced by Nargiz Mammadova • Videographer:  Gary Chen • Video Editing: Elnur Valiyev

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“Toronto Made”? Yes please!

September 14, 2020

Ok, artists and creative entrepreneurs, the ground is rumbling. 


Could this be the start of the repatriation of manufacturing? 
If you want to source products and services (t-shirts, totes, pins) from Canadian, better yet Toronto-based, companies, and stop relying on cheap foreign labour, please take a few minutes to fill out this survey.

I’d like to see this for my design store, PenJarProductions.

The City of Toronto’s Economic Development & Culture division (EDC) is currently examining the feasibility of a “Toronto Made” brand for locally-produced products. Such brands exist in many other cities in Canada and the US including SFMade (San Francisco), Made in YVR (Vancouver) and Made in NYC (New York City).

City of Toronto’s Economic Development & Culture division (EDC)'s Toronto Made survey

Thank you,  Liv Mendelsohn for bringing this initiative to my attention.


Finally, I would love to see my Toronto Island Ferry Pillow made with fabric produced and printed in Toronto. It was designed in Toronto (by me) and until last February was printed in Toronto. Now let’s close the circle and have it made in Toronto too.

Toronto Island Ferry Pillow

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My next IABC Keynote Address

September 11, 2020

When Covid-19 sent us into lockdown in March, I spent the rest of the month, and all of April, endlessly scrolling on my phone, with no focus and zero discipline. 

By May, I was taking notes on how the pandemic was rearranging the economy. 

By June, I was ready to put myself back out into the world with freelance pitches. Using my notes on the economy, I adjusted my marketing strategy to meet the changing needs and behaviours of customers and clients. To wit: I only marketed skills that would best serve this moment (in my case, drawing), plus I paid careful attention to tone in all of my messaging and storytelling. 

If you’re a freelancer and would like to learn more about my “pandemic process,” join me on October 15th from 6:30-7:30 pm for my next IABC Toronto keynote address, “Creative Ways to Market During a Pandemic.” (via ZOOM) 

My title slide:

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The official invite:

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Bye for now,

Alison 

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Outdoor dining in Winter

August 22, 2020

Muskoka chairs in winter?

Steve Behal’s apres-ski routine. Photo: Jeannie Catchpole

Why not? Then add some portable fire pits, picnic tables, and a team of servers in tuques and goose-down jackets. 

Ski resorts, mountaintop bars, carnivals, and private Muskoka cottages have all figured out the logistics of outdoor dining in winter. We’re Canadians, for gosh sakes. 

Has any friend in your apres-ski pod ever said, “I’m not going outside with my beer and club sandwich! What if I catch a cold or hypothermia?” No!

Instead they contracted rosy cheeks, a nice beer buzz, and a sense of camaraderie. And they dressed for it. 

All that’s left to make this work in cities, as winter approaches, are pedestrian-only streets to accommodate our pandemic-weary selves. Our favourite local restaurants deserve some fast thinking.

Like so many things during Covid, the proposal to make Toronto’s main streets European-style pedestrian hubs has gone from pie-in-the-sky to how do we make this work in the next 8-12 weeks?

Prediction: I see an uptick in sales of snowsuits IF the city of Toronto embraces our current need for “open streets,” a concept Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has been studying since 2012. Her powerful essay on open streets and spatial equity appears in the September issue of Toronto Life. Check it out!

Personally, I’d love to see “open streets” happen in my hood. The challenge: Roncesvalles Ave. is a major artery on the East/West streetcar line. And while extending patios across the sidewalks worked this summer — meaning you felt the breeze of passing red rockets as you dined on your cashew chicken — there are snowbanks to contend with during the winter. From a social distancing standpoint, nothing short of moving the whole line up of restaurants into the street would work.

I leave it to the experts to figure out the logistics of shorturning streetcars and adding buses, or opening up laneways to deliveries. Car traffic will still not be at pre-pandemic levels this winter, so those hellbent on accommodating cars first don’t even have two legs to stand on.

What matters most is the science: when it comes to Covid, exercise, dining and schooling are safer when conducted outdoors. Let’s figure it out.

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