Making art more accessible. That’s what Nuvango is all about.

Nuvango (rhymes with “mango”) is made up of a small team of designers, makers, business-minds and communicators that work as a collective to bring art and design to the public in an innovative, non-intimidating way.

As Queen West’s newest gallery-slash-retail space, Nuvango offers locally manufactured products like clothing and accessories on the first floor, while the second floor is dedicated to showcasing design from around the world. Italian husband-and-wife duo Carnovsky is the latest to transform the gallery space with “RGB: A VOYAGE” – an ongoing project that experiments with the interaction between light and RGB prints.

We didn’t think Nuvango could get any cooler. That is, until we sat down with their crazy-cool marketing and communications guru, Dawn Laing. Laing chatted with us about the concept behind the company, how it’s transforming the design scene, and why the disciplines of communication and design are more intertwined than ever.  

Laing will take our Instagram followers on a trip through Nuvango in the third installment of Inside the Designer’s Studio, November 20-22.

TO DO: What’s the story behind Nuvango?

Laing: Like any good entrepreneurial story, this one starts with two unemployed 25-year-olds with idle time, a problem to solve, and not a whole lot of money.

Nuvango’s co-founders, Drew and Jamie, saw a problem and came up with a solution. In this case, the problem was an ugly, scratched iPod and the solution they came up with was a creative decal to protect the iPod. The guys thought to themselves, “wouldn’t it be nice if instead of these scratches you could look at the work of your favourite artist or designer?” This idea was put into action as they began collaborating with local and international artists to apply existing prints and patterns to their products. At this time, the company was called GelaSkins.

It wasn’t long before GelaSkins transitioned into to the full-fledge fashion and lifestyle brand Nuvango, making art accessible beyond just your tech accessories. Now, when you walk into our store you’ll see the unique work of artists and designers on clothing, tech accessories and décor.

TO DO:  What sparked the idea to add a gallery above the retail space?  

Laing: Nuvango is all about making art and design accessible. The gallery provides a non-threatening space for people to get a taste for what’s happening on the local and international design scene.

Our two-storey setup offers an experience for newbies and experts alike. On a given day, someone might walk out with a $10,000 original piece, while the next person in line is picking up a $35 iPhone case.

TO DO: How did you get involved in Nuvango?

Laing: Well, like most people in the creative space, I have a very unconventional background. I attained a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Geography, a Masters in Ornithology and Natural Resources, and a Masters in Business Administration. I attribute this mixed bag of credentials to my addiction to learning (…know of any meetings I can attend?). It was really this thirst for learning, creativity and problem solving that led me to the design industry.

I’ve been with the company in some shape and form since almost the very beginning, and now I apply my professional background in communications to bridge the gap between art and people by effectively telling its story.

TO DO: A lot of people would look at communication and design as two very distinct disciplines, but the truth of the matter is that it’s hard to have one without the other. Can you tell us more about this relationship?

Laing: Absolutely. From a design perspective, we’re seeing more and more people working in teams as a collective. So, where does communication come in? You need someone to tell the story.

Artists and designers know their work better than anyone, but they aren’t always able to put it into words that the public can understand. I act as a creative knowledge broker for them and their audience, taking the story behind their latest design and making it digestible.

TO DO: Nuvango is located in Queen West – a young, vibrant community in Toronto. Do you think neighbourhood influences your work?  

Laing: My personal opinion is that Toronto as a city has, and continues to, influence Nuvango. Toronto created a platform for two unemployed, educated dudes with inspiration to become entrepreneurs. Toronto provided a platform to incubate these ideas and bring them to life and as we startup again the city gives us that same energy and edge.

Nuvango owes a lot to this city, and we try to give back as much as we can. All of our products are manufactured locally in our Junction studio, and our first two gallery shows paid homage to local artists in our gallery. We’re lucky to be situated in such a supportive and creative city. I’m a maritimer and I still can’t believe I ended up here and I that I actually LOVE Toronto. Don’t tell my maritime friends.

TO DO: Is there any one particular gallery show that stands out for you?

Laing: I think if you ask anyone on staff, every single show stands out in its own way. But top of mind for me right now is definitely Carnovky’s RGB installation that will be open to the public this week! It’s a grandiose, fully immersive art experience. We’ve literally drenched the entire space in light. These lights turn from red, to green, to blue each colour effecting the space and the surrounding art work differently. The space changes around you, so you don’t have to walk anywhere, or do anything but take it all in and enjoy the ride.

TO DO: Is it safe to assume our Instagram followers will get a sneak-peek of RGB: A VOYAGE during your takeover?

Laing: Oh, hell yes! They’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at our gallery, our studio and our products. Like everything we do at Nuvango, the photos I share will be creative, interesting and unexpected.

*Laing will takeover TO DO’s Instagram account Nov. 20 – 22. Follow @todesignoffsite and the hashtag #TODOigtakeover to see what she’s up to. TO DO festival-goers will have the opportunity to learn more about Nuvango (and maybe even meet Laing), during a studio tour in January. Check out our festival program to learn more.