CASL is coming. Are you ready?

The new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation goes into effect July 1st, 2014.

CASL outlines changes to the rules and regulations pertaining to many day to day electronic communications currently being sent out by organizations of all kinds. After July 1st of this year any Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMs) such as email, instant messages, social media postings as well newsletters will be subject to the new legislation.

Here is a quick overview of the legislation and how it will affect you:


  • You must have the consent of a person before sending any Commercial Electronic Messages to them.
  • The consent must be the result of an affirmative action. For example, you can no longer use a pre-checked box on forms as consent.
  • You must be able to prove and track that you have received the consent.


  • The identification of the sender must be clearly stated and include both the physical and email address of the sender in every communication.
  • If you are sending CEMs on behalf of another individual or organization, both parties must be identified.
  • You cannot use any false or misleading subject lines.


  • An unsubscribe mechanism, that takes effect within 10 days must be included in every message.
  • The unsubscribe link must be valid for 60 days after the send date.
  • You can no longer send an “are you sure you want to unsubscribe?” email.

Remember, you must gain consent prior to July 1st, 2014 from your existing contacts in order to continue sending electronic messages such as your organization’s newsletter to your clients.

To learn more about how the new legislation will affect both individuals and organizations visit the Government of Canada’s website at

CASL and your newsletter-two things you must do

With CASL’s new regulations, two things that will be paramount to the survival and ongoing success of your company newsletter will be getting consent and keeping consent.

Get Consent

As outlined above, you must get explicit consent from your readers. You will want to make sure you add a CASL compliant consent form to the subscription links in your emails, newsletters, social media pages and website. You should clearly state the kinds of communication you will be sending out to your subscribers. Remember to make it equally easy to unsubscribe with a link to do so in every piece of communication.

Keep Consent

Getting consent from readers is one thing, but keeping them interested in what you have to say is another. Your reader base might shrink initially. Keeping your remaining readers engaged will be paramount. Knowing your audience and what types of articles they would find value in reading will be key. If your content doesn’t hold any real value for your readers you will lose them. You should focus on less selling and more articles where you establish yourself as an industry expert in your field.

Ricksticks Interactive

I’d like to announce the launch of our new website for Ricksticks Interactive! went live earlier this week.

While our original Ricksticks Creative site focuses on branding and print communications, the Ricksticks Interactive site was designed to showcase a growing portfolio of web-based work. Ricksticks has been helping organizations create online communication strategies, interactive websites and web applications for over 15 years, but with trends shifting to web-based solutions there is a growing demand for this work and we thought it was important to create an entire site dedicated to highlighting our web products and services.

Ricksticks Interactive provides results driven, long-term strategy and consulting services to both public and private sector organizations, as well as SEO and social media marketing solutions to businesses of all sizes. Our team is in-house which allows us to offer full service web design and development customized to your exacting needs including easy to use WordPress sites and web development applications of all kinds.

We believe web applications should simplify your work by performing and automating tasks for you. Our programmers can create custom web applications and backend solutions to meet any web-based need.

Some examples of web applications we have built for our clients are:

-       Online registration applications
-       Conference scheduling applications
-       E-commerce capabilities
-       Mortgage calculators
-       Debt repayment calculators
-       Job search management
-       HR Surveys
-       Performance management software

You can try out some of our free web app demos through our services page.

To learn more or to find out what we can do for you please visit our new site or contact us for a free consultation.

Stay connected! We love feedback; following us on Twitter or like us on Facebook and leave us a comment on the new Interactive website.


Our Work With Essential Skills Ontario

This month Ricksticks collaborated with Essential Skills Ontario (ESO) to create a logo for their new initiative-Strengthening Rural Canada. ESO works all over Ontario to find practical and innovative ways to provide adults with the skills and education they need to thrive in our modern world.

The Strengthening Rural Canada initiative aims to provide a framework by which local community partners can come together to discuss, strategize and develop practical plans to help alleviate the problems caused by the migration of people away from rural areas in Canada.

ESO is launching this new initiative with equivalent partner organizations in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. These partners had an equal and fair voice in strategic decision-making, so it was important for the Ricksticks team to keep in mind that any designs would need consensus and approval from the various parties involved.

The logo needed to reflect the importance of rural and farming communities in Canada and the big role they play in the success of our nation.

The need to incorporate English and French in the logo was also discussed, as at least 3 rural francophone communities were being targeted.

Talk of having two separate logos (English and French) was discussed, but our design team made a strategic decision and advised our client to create one logo that incorporated both English and French. This would make future applications and use of the logo much more varied.

Initially, two bilingual logo concepts were sent to ESO. They conferred with their partners and recommendations were taken on board. Subtle changes in shape and type position were made to both concepts.

After consultations with the client and our design team, a concept that incorporated water (blue), prairies (yellow) and mountains (green) was unanimously approved by all decision-making groups.

Our team was able to work with ESO and leaders of the Strengthening Rural Canada initiative to come up with a memorable and meaningful logo that compliments their strategy and messaging.

The final product reflects the strength, environment and diversity of rural communities in Canada.






To learn more or to find out about what we can do for your organization, contact us or take a look at our portfolio.

Our campaign for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario launched this week!

This week we helped launch a new campaign for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. HEQCO is third party education analytics organization in Toronto that works with higher education institutions, the government, and other stakeholders to improve higher education in Ontario.

The research initiative, called ‘The Graduating Student Survey on Learning and Work,’ is part of a provincial research study that includes online surveys of students and faculty at 14 Ontario postsecondary institutions.

HEQCO needed materials that would explain the initiative and promote it to graduating students. An online portal was designed (, along with a kit for each participating postsecondary institution which included posters, banners and print ads, in both English and French.

HEQCO project website and poster

Having worked on the pilot project, we understood that our greatest challenge in the design process would likely be the necessity to appeal to a very large group of stakeholders, including representatives from each participating postsecondary institution, as well as student body groups.

The client had previously requested that we directly participate in a series of conference calls with all representatives in order to get an idea of what was required for the creative – imagine 20 people trying to get across their own personal agendas! This proved to be less constructive than the client had hoped as too many voices meant little direction could be ascertained. We plugged away at the time, but the pilot proved to have been a good lesson in how to approach the launch of the campaign.

This time around, I suggested we bypass the conference calls and look to a smaller group of decision makers from which we would develop the direction and a brief. All representatives could approach the lead group, however, final decisions would come from this cohesive voice. This structure allowed an efficient process and more stakeholders seemed to be satisfied with the end result.

As we approached the launch date, all parties approved of the creative, and our client was very happy with final results. The campaign is ongoing and we hope to see some positive results emerging over the coming months!

Special Report on climate change adaptation for the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

A Special Report on climate change adaptation for the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario was released today. We were delighted to be involved in the project, designing both the report and the posters for ECO.

ECO Adaptation Report

The following, taken from the ECO website, gives an outline of what Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is responsible for:

“The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is the province’s independent environmental watchdog. Appointed by the Legislative Assembly, the ECO is tasked with monitoring and reporting on compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights, and the government’s success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in achieving greater energy conservation in Ontario.”

We’ve worked with ECO in the past, and they called us in to design the report which required sensitive treatment of a topic of significant importance.

The commissioner’s office, though independent and non-partisan, must play a political game to make sure it gets the most out of its opportunities to inform the public on how the provincial government is performing on environmental issues. There is a give and take in terms of when it is best to be critical of the ministries and when praise is appropriate.

The original report was a scathing 85 page illustration on how the province was largely negligent in their obligations to prepare infrastructure for the potential disruptions brought on by climate change. However, just prior to its release, the Ministry of the Environment proposed a plan which eased ECO concerns on future preparedness. With this new initiative, the commissioner’s office moved quickly to praise the strategy in a revised report, however the sudden shift left little time before the scheduled release.

With a pressing deadline, ECO handed the project to us to turn around. Always up to the challenge, we were all hands on deck to produce the report on time and on budget. We crafted an even-handed look that set the tone for Gord Miller’s thoughts on the new initiative. ePUB versions and posters compliment the release of the report. Download the report here.

Case Study No. 3
University of Toronto IEP

International English Programs
The Challenge

The University of Toronto is host to several International Programs that are specifically designed for foreign students, one of which is the International English Programs. We were asked to create a brand around the program that would appeal to Asian, Latin and Middle Eastern Markets in order to revive the program.

International English Program work

The Solution

The design strategy was to appeal to students by conveying a sense of excitement, while expressing the tradition of one of the most prestigious universities in Canada. It was important that the visual elements would also work seamlessly with the established U of T brand.

The Outcome

Over the years we’ve worked on the program, it has continued to build and grow. We have been praised by the university executive for our leadership in ushering in a refreshed look for the program. Success here has opened opportunity to be involved in several new programs at the University of Toronto.

Case Study No.2
Tornado Medical Systems

Digital Imaging Technology
The Challenge

Tornado Medical Systems is an early-stage medical imaging and spectroscopy company that provides high-end digital technology to clinicians and scientists alike. They required a contemporary website along with promotional material for their featured products to enable them to distribute to potential customers at trade shows.


Tornado website and folder


The Solution

A clean, contemporary design and a cool colour palette of grey and blue was implemented throughout the material to give the company a high-tech, medical feel. A company folder and sell sheets featuring each of their products were also created.

The Outcome

The end result presented a cohesive package that elevated Tornado’s brand identity and positioned them ahead of their competition.

Case Study No.1
World Society for the Protection of Animals

Animal Protection Charity
The Challenge

We were tasked with reviving the appeal of a stale brand in order to engage with the existing constituent base whilst also attracting new donors. Important considerations were the organization’s non profit status, the need to be fiscally conservative and the committee-based decision making that would influence the direction of work.

The Solution

Our focus was to reinvigorate the brand and create a fresh and engaging look for WSPA. We broke away from the rigid guidelines in the brand book, establishing a new visual language of bright colours and dynamic curves.

The Outcome

A positive response from WSPA, complimented by the Canadian Regional Director commenting on the high quality of the work, confirmed success of the brand refresh. We continue to have an ongoing relationship with WSPA, producing effective direct mail pieces and a range of other printed material. In fact, our designs have traveled far and wide to the UK and Australia as they were used as templates for reproduction in these chapters!