Northern Exposure: My Canadian Trip with CorelDRAW

I absolutely love talking about all things design, and when I’m talking about my love for design it’s only natural for me to also talk about my love for CorelDRAW. That is why I enjoyed doing my webinar earlier this year. Shortly after it was finished, I touched base with Cecile Brosius who has become my main contact and is the worldwide product marketing manager at Corel. If you happened to catch my webinar she’s the one with the wonderful French accent. Anyway, after we finished the webinar, she began talking about the upcoming release for the much anticipated CorelDRAW X6. She then invited me up to Ottawa, Ontario to visit the Corel Head Quarters during the X6 Release Party. Since everyone knows that the people of Canada are so polite, how could I refuse, eh?

So a few months pass by and with passport and tickets in hand, I boarded the plane for Ottawa. I was half expecting that even though the news said it would be somewhat warm, I would still need to whip out my winter jacket. “Warm” for Canadians is a bit different than “warm” for me. Fortunately I must have brought the warm weather with me. It felt like a warm summer’s day the entire time I was there, and everyone appeared to be in good spirits because of it. Everyone except customs that is…

Apparently a José Diaz somewhere out there has done something that would warrant being placed on the “no fly” list. And they had to make sure I wasn’t that evil master mind. In all seriousness they were just doing their jobs, and I’m more the willing to go through some vigorous grilling as long as these guys are doing their jobs and keeping us safe. Well… As long as I’m not being stripped searched that is, which didn’t happen by the way.

My 3 days in Canada were well planned out. As soon as I got off the plane I would meet with Tony Severenuk, User Experience Designer at Corel and resident hockey expert. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and visited about a number of things including CorelDRAW. Then we went straight to the Ottawa Senators Game (against New Jersey). This was my first NHL game and what better place to go than in Canada whose national sport is…. Lacrosse??? I know right? Anyway it was a great game even though the Sens lost.

The next morning I visited Corel’s headquarters. Cecile gave me a real quick tour of the building. We stopped by the web designers’ work area for a quick hello and then I met with the PR Team in Catherine Hughes’ office. I had met Catherine once before. Last year she visited our shop in our hometown, so it was nice to see a familiar face. We all had a nice chat about CorelDRAW and my business and time must have flown by because before I knew it I was off to meet CorelDRAW’s lead designer Chantal MacDonald, and Greg Wiens the Creative Director. We hung out for a few minutes at their desks where they showed me the new box art for CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 and few other projects they were working on. We talked a bit about their work process and noted the similarities and differences in what we do. Chantal walked me through her thought process on the marketing for CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 launch. If you have a moment check out her blog post about it.

Soon after that, Chantal, Greg, and I went to a board room on the next floor and met with several other designers, writers and the web team. They asked me about our business and how we use CorelDRAW. It was a nice relaxed and casual conversation which was followed by a lunch that hit the spot.

After lunch we snuck down to the X6 launch event. My cover was almost blown as we walked into the party. Apparently my being there was supposed to be somewhat of a secret even though I had been walking around the office all morning. But there were still a bunch of people I hadn’t met yet. Luckily Maureen Miller, another friendly face that I had met in New Orleans last year, swooped in to save the day and quickly rushed me out of the room to a new hiding spot. I waited there while Nick Davies, Senior Vice President and GM of Graphics & Productivity gave a presentation about the release of X6 and some of the positive feedback they have received so far.

I was then invited to the front of the room for a few words. I can’t remember exactly what I said but I more or less told everyone that as a longtime CorelDRAW user I was grateful for all of their hard work and was looking forward to trying out X6. Afterwards, we had cake and I got to meet a lot more Corel employees.

In the corner of the room they had a laptop set up running the new CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6. I eventually made my way over there. A few of the developers were playing around showing off the new features they had worked on. I had a few questions that were easily answered. That small gathering morphed into the next meeting of the day which happened to be with the development team. They put a laptop in front of me which was hooked up to a projector and they asked me to walk through my process. We discussed the tools I liked to use and talked about some of the newer features.

Now I’ve designed in front of people before, no problem. However, it was a little intimidating doing so in front of the people that actually make the software. There is so much to CorelDRAW , that I know I don’t use every single tool that’s built in. I’m sure a few were wondering why I used this tool rather than another tool. But that is what is so great about Draw. There are so many different ways to approach the same design challenge. Corel DRAW’s new tagline is: “Show your true design style” and that was exactly what I was doing.

After meeting so many people and absorbing so much information, before I knew it, the day had finally come to an end. Several of us went out for dinner and the food was great. I barely had a bite to eat because I was so engrossed in conversation. Roger Wambolt was there, another member of Team Corel that I had met in New Orleans. He knows my love for all things murals, and we took a quick walk down the street to take a look at a great mural on the side of one of Ottawa’s buildings. After we all said our goodnights, I was dropped off at the hotel I was staying at.

The next morning Laura picked me up and was nice enough to buy me breakfast. We headed up to the same boardroom that I sat in with the Creative Team, but this time I would enjoy visiting with the User Experience Team. Again, I was asked to play around in CorelDRAW so that everyone in the room could see how I use the software. We talked a bit about my favorite features and even features that I would someday like to see implemented. After visiting about all things CorelDRAW it was time for lunch. We went to a pizza place and the weather was so great that we sat outside. I had a great conversation with everyone at the table. After a long relaxing meal it was time for me to say my goodbyes and head back to the airport.

There was quite a bit of contrast between the airport and my time at Corel. While at Corel I was treated like a rock star, and was constantly involved in conversation. At the airport I was alone, another face in the crowd. It was nice to wind down on the flight back, but I was already missing my new friends in Canada.

Thanks Corel!

About Joe Diaz

Joe is the 2011 CorelDRAW International Design Contest Grand Prize Winner. He helps run a family owned sign shop and design firm in Pontiac, IL called Diaz Sign Art ( His work has been published in several trade magazines and he also teaches seminars on design. Joe is heavily involved in the Walldog Movement ( Joe specializes in logo design and vector illustrations.
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1 Response to Northern Exposure: My Canadian Trip with CorelDRAW

  1. Sonny Franks says:

    You ARE a rock star, bro. Keep up the good work – we’re very proud of you…….

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