Canada Games medal designer inspired by athletes
Growing up in St. Catharines, Shaun O’Melia wasn’t a big fan of organized sports.
“I am a skateboarder at heart,” the 28-year-old said. “Instead of competing against other people, I like to compete against myself.”
Thankfully, his philosophy about sports didn’t carry over into the world of design. The freelance graphic designer, who is based in St. Catharines, bested more than 45 other designers in the contest to design the medals that will be presented to athletes who end up atop the podium at the Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games.
The Niagara College graphic design program alumnus was intrigued about the contest for a number of reasons.
“It was so close to home and I try to inject myself as best I can into the community-driven campaigns for anything design related,” the Niagara District Secondary School graduate said. “It was very attractive in that sense and it was something that I could challenge myself with, especially with everything going on with the pandemic
“A lot of my clients and projects are on hold and I had more than enough time to hunker down and focus on putting my best foot forward.”
He was motivated by the eventual recipients of his design.
“I decided what needed and what didn’t need to be there, and how best to make it all work together to tell a story and create a memorable token for the athletes who get it.”
The athletes were foremost in his mind.
“These guys are going to cherish it the rest of their lives and I really hope that it is special to them as it is to me,” he said. “To be honest, I didn’t think I would make it all the way to the end but here we are. It feels great.”
One of his other recent projects was a community-driven campaign. He created a screen-printed poster, called In This Together, that highlighted some small businesses in St. Catharines directly impacted by the pandemic. The poster sold out and proceeds were used to help the businesses and Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold.
O’Melia, the owner of O’Melia Creative Company, agreed there were challenges with coming up with a design that would fit on a 2.75-inch medal.
“With a small canvas and not a lot of real estate to work with, I really wanted to try and utilize the space as best I could,” he said. “With the criteria that the Canada Games had, there was a lot of information to compress and make sure that everything worked together, especially within that size. I tried to take my mind away from that and pretend that it was a bigger surface I had to work with.”
That being said, the criteria proved beneficial for O’Melia.
“I work with some clients where there is an open field and you can do whatever you want. It’s a blank canvas and sometimes those are the most difficult ones.”
It took time for O’Melia to come up with the design.
“I park the idea in my brain, I let it sit there for a little bit and marinate and then as I start working forward. I try to do a lot of research and discovery and make sure there is an intellectual approach.”
Once he feels his idea his strong enough, he begins to build it.
The design will be revealed next April during Niagara 2021’s 100-Day-Out Event scheduled for April 2021.
“We are extremely fortunate to have had so many talented applicants participate in this process and we are thrilled to have selected an artist as gifted as Shaun. We look forward to sharing the ingenuity of his design at our 100-Day-Out Event,” said Doug Hamilton, Chair of the 2021 Canada Games Host Society.
O’Melia will receive a $2,000 honorarium for his design, a set of commemorative medals and he will participate in the first medal ceremony during the Games.
“Shaun O’Melia took an idea, a community of inspiration and a unique landscape and wove these elements into a medal design that will be another moment of firsts at the 2021 Canada Summer Games held in Niagara next year,” said Debbie Zimmerman, a member of medal design committee.
Teck Resources will supply the metal and oversee the production of every gold, silver and bronze medal.
The Games will be held Aug. 6 to 21.