Loop is changing the face of design one border at a time | Interview

With just one idea marked on the blueprint to use design for social change, Loop has become Toronto’s poster child for how an image can speak a thousand words.

Josh Layton and Ryan Felix are the co-founders of the multimedia maven’s nest who met at The University of Waterloo practicing Urban Planning. Felix, originally from the Philippines, has always found design as a comfort blanket throughout elementary and high school. As a fan of SimCity, Ryan expanded his curiosity by taking it to an academic level. For Josh, on the other hand, spent his time travelling to different parts of the world to see the realities people face. Layton realized design could help address these challenges, whether it be poverty or a humanitarian crisis. The two stated that even though they studied the same field, they were never classmates and even had a rivalry at one point.

After university, Josh and Ryan faced the same tough decisions that thousands of students have to make on a daily basis. Since Josh was already working at Starbucks, this sparked a conversation with Ryan who thought it would be the best option at that point to become a barista. Throughout those months they connected with a customer named Roly that seemingly held great interest in what both Josh and Ryan really wanted to do outside of brewing a great bean. He invited both over for dinner, which led to them showing Roly their portfolio. With immense praise from once just a customer to a person of wisdom, Ryan and Josh quit their day job and let their talents lead the way.

Following that discussion, Ryan and Josh laid down the groundwork, which bloomed the birth of Loop.

In between the development process, Layton and Felix were interested in looking to take a position in the field of design but ended up realizing that a lot of firms out there didn’t leave much room for creativity. For Loop not only would their company be a place for impact but the ability to be surrounded by other individuals interested in spreading similar messages. Ryan and Josh felt like the building process of having a cozy group of team members was organic, and since they felt the start-up struggle syndrome, a social impact space became useful as it is filled creatives from videography to photography which are vital parts of the design process.

Placing Loop in a time machine, the agency built their roster of major clients through mindfulness, by providing the needs to the audiences they are serving. Loops’s impressive list includes the MLSE Foundation, Teach for Canada, and many more. Josh believes design is only as good as the usability of it. Loop can craft an identity that translates from staff to donors. They also ensure that communication and language are compelling enough to feel compelled by the message.

To continue their conversation, Loop wants to build awareness about projects they were not necessarily knowledgeable in until they got their feet into the trenches. For Josh it was a re-branding process for a violence against women’s shelter in North York that caters predominantly to those of color and unique backgrounds. As a white male, Josh felt like it was a moment in design to really put yourself in your place, listen before acting, and take ques from those fighting the fight. To him it’s a lot about checking in to make sure the organization feels they are on the right path.

Recently, Loop was able to work with WWF, which animal conservation was not a language Ryan was fluent in even though they have touched on environmental issues in the past. This project encouraged a new perspective for Ryan as living in Toronto you are never heavily exposed to the ecosystem. As climate change is a hot topic, this is a reminder to be conscious no matter where you are for a healthy planet.

Where does the Loop see themselves taking their mission in the future? One idea they originally had on their drawing board was creating design hubs in developing countries where they do not have the design infrastructure like major cities. Not only would locals be taught design but have a platform to market their own tools for hire.

Since Loop has had clients such as in Kenya, they believe humans should design for the context they are in even though they are grateful for the outpouring of interest.

From my perspective, Loop, Ryan, and Josh are the role models our society needs which with no doubt will encourage the transition of their social change in design platform into a worldwide movement.

Jarrod Daley