#WRTalk About Your Job - Common Sense Design (@nigelgordijk)


Nigel Gordijk is the sole owner and creator of Common Sense Design, which provides “design-based marketing strategies, including website design and social media programs, as well as print advertising” for companies. “Most notable is my recent work for Wilmot Responds, which is Wilmot township’s response to the refugee crisis: www.wilmotresponds.ca. I designed the logo, created the website, and manage the social media. My news releases have led to several articles about the organization in the New Hamburg Independent and the Waterloo Region Record.”

His company is almost 16 years old, first developed in his native country of Britain, and now operating in Canada since 2007 when he moved to New Hamburg. Wanting independence and autonomy in his work, Nigel decided to start his own company. “I thought it was ridiculous someone in their late-30s had to ask permission for time off when it had no impact on my ability to meet a deadline. That’s when it clicked I would only be autonomous if I was my own boss.”

Nigel and his wife left Britain to set roots in New Hamburg, so that they could be closer to their granddaughter and family. Nigel and his family love the sense of community and belonging found here. The small town lifestyle has allowed him free time to spend with his granddaughter, and to develop a love of health and fitness. 

Nigel and his Toronto-born wife, Cheryl, have also participated in various charity work. “There are plenty of opportunities in Wilmot for making a contribution to the community. Cheryl and I have co-organized the Wilmot Terry Fox Run since 2013. In 2015 – the 35th anniversary of Terry’s Marathon of Hope – our fundraising total exceeded the previous 7 years combined.” Nigel’s work through Common Sense Design has also impacted the community as well. “The best example was when contributions started to flood in for the Wilmot Says Welcome video project I worked on in late December 2015. That showed the campaign was working and that the local community was reacting positively.” 

Nigel currently offers a free 30-minute social media audit by phone.


What is your background/experience/education?

I did a one-year art foundation course at Middlesex Polytechnic (now called Middlesex University), followed by three years studying for my B.A. (Hons) graphic design degree at the London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication).
I worked at a few small design consultancies in London before getting a great deal of experience freelancing at bigger firms in the city, including Newell & Sorrell. I would often get booked for a couple of weeks and end up staying there for several months. I learned the secret is to try and make yourself indispensable!

What do you want people in Waterloo Region to know about you or your business?

As soon as I arrived here, I became a member of the New Hamburg Board of Trade. Soon after, I joined the Board’s executive as its first-ever marketing director (a volunteer position). That threw me in at the deep end, forcing me to learn about the town and its people very quickly. At our first meeting, we were reviewing the Board’s by-laws, and I came across the term “civic responsibility”. I had no idea what it meant, so then-president Paul Knowles had to explain it to me! I hope I’ve made up for that initial lack of knowledge since then. 

I redesigned the Board’s logo and created two websites – one for members and the other to promote the town’s businesses to the public. I also set up the Board’s social media program, which I managed for four years from 2011. 

In November 2015 I stepped down from the Board’s executive after 8 years, so that I could look for other pro bono project opportunities. Five days later, Wilmot Responds fell into my lap.

I’ve been extremely lucky to work with some fantastic clients since I moved here, and I think they’ve inspired me to do the best work of my career. 

What sets you apart from your competitors?

There are many designers who will do exactly what a client asks them to do, but a good designer will ask lots of questions. Doing so enables me to devise a unique solution to a client’s business problem that hadn’t occurred to them. When a new client tells me what they want, my first question is always, “Why?”

Being a one-man company means that my professional and personal reputations are intertwined, even more so in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. It’s important that I give my best efforts every time, otherwise that will affect how others think of me. People talk!

What do you wish you knew (but didn’t) when you started your business?

There are inevitably times of feast (lots of work) and famine (not enough).  Designers need to market themselves before they come up against a slow period. The advent of social media has made that easier, but it can still become just another task on my desk when I’d prefer to concentrate on servicing my clients.

Also, paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork. I’m a typical creative person who wants to focus on coming up with ideas or making things, not filling out business forms. (This one is an exception!)

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs in Waterloo Region?

It’s important to form real bonds with the people around you, and not just look for a quick sale. We’re only as strong as the connections we make, so get to know what makes people tick. That way you’ll learn the best way to service their needs when the time comes.

I don’t like the term “giving back”, as that suggests a quid pro quo. However, if there’s someone in need and you’re able to help them, then why wouldn’t you? As someone once said, good work nourishes the soul. More pragmatically, I think some of the best work I’ve done has been free of charge for charities.

See? I told you I’d learned the meaning of “civic responsibility”! 

For more information, please contact:

Common Sense Design

Phone number: (519) 569-9551
Address: 16 Amberdale Way, New Hamburg, ON  N3A 0C1
Website: www.commonsensedesign.net
Twitter: @nigelgordijk
Facebook: Common Sense Design
LinkedIn: Nigel Gordijk
Google+: Common Sense Design

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