Our First Venture

Venture 01The Frontier

A quick note about this section

Ventures Update is a recurring feature that tracks the progress of one of our own creative projects. The inaugural Venture is the design and development of a Canadian Icon: The Tuque.

Design Project by

An Icon

In Canada, the knit hat is not only a potent national symbol, but a vital necessity in what can often be frigidly cold winters.

These woolen hats were ubiquitous throughout much of the world in the 16th century. They were worn by seamen, labourers, fishers, hunters, soldiers and sailors because their design so effectively provided warmth in cold weather. Known then as “Monmouth caps”, they were so vital to the British wool industry that Queen Elizabeth passed an edict in 1571 that required that male commoners wear them on Sundays or face fines. Their popularity extended into popular culture and they are mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry V. And because they were worn by British explorers, today they’re found all over the world in places with cold climates where they go by a variety of local names.

Their design made them particularly useful in the British colony of Canada, where they took on the name ‘toque’, a word that came from Breton immigrants who settled in New France. They spoke Middle Breton and the word ‘tok’ was a word that meant ‘hat’. A red version of the tuque became a symbol of French-Canadian nationalism during the 1837 Patriotes Rebellion inspired by the French Revolution’s Phrygian cap but modified to be better suited to cold climate warfare.

From that point onward, the knit cap maintained its status as a functional hat well suited to a variety of tasks and was popular through World War II with the U.S. Navy. That popularity persisted with the help of people like Jacque Cousteau and even David Beckham.

Design Challenge

A part of the appeal is their simplicity. They hug the head, keeping the hat secure, and are usually tapered at the top. There are many variants. Some with tassels, some with folded brims, some loose fitting, and others tight.

In every case, they are a cold weather necessity. Whether heading into the woods or the city, they protect against the cold so that focus remains on the bigger task. But there is always room for improvement. It can be a challenge: Finding exactly the right wool that doesn’t itch, a shape that covers the ears properly, and a thickness that actually keeps your head warm.

Design Brief

We are asking ourselves some questions: What would it take to design and produce the best tuque in the world? How can we tap into the lessons learned by tuque wearers everywhere to design the next great one? Our goal is to design a new Canadian icon in a way that respects the past but responds to the present.

Design Process

We will share our progress as it unfolds. Over the coming months, with each issue of Frontier Field Guide, we will post project updates: sketches, photos, stories from the field. And ultimately, we’ll make it available in our shop for purchase.

helping hands

Giving Out Helping Hands

The inception story of the nonprofit, e-NABLE, which is little more than a year old demonstrates what happens when strangers meet and collaborate, their collective skills creating something revolutionary. It all started when American Ivan Owen shared a video of a mechanical hand he had made for a Steampunk convention. Across the world, in South Africa, a carpenter named Richard Van As saw it as a solution to his plight. He had lost a few of his fingers in carpentry accident. He reached out to Ivan, asking for his help. Ivan agreed and together they went to work on creating a prosthetic.

Read More


Today’s Frontier

It's the hardness of the land that makes people soft. Newfoundland is an unforgiving landscape. It denies the pathetic fallacy, but at the same time reinforces an irrational love of the place.

Read More

robot dna thumbnail

Forming Robots From DNA

Fighting cancer effectively means attacking only the effected cells. DNA Robots seem to show great progress.

Read More

girls at lowline

Where There’s Sunshine Underground

Major cities are centres of construction. Condo after condo, new office towers, sports centres and more each take their own slice of the city, each evolving it and sharing it with their own footprint. Eventually, land runs starts to thin and we realize we've missed one important thing: public green space.

Read More

project row houses

The Not-For-Profit Sculpture

Rick Lowe was creating political art, works infused with messages of social change. This is not new. Many artists have done it. From the likes of Shepard Fairey to Eugene Delacroix.

Read More

ice cream thumb

Collaborative Ice Cream

Ice cream will never be the same. With flavours that include ‘Black Olive Brittle & Goat Cheese’, ‘Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons’ and ‘Toasted Coconut with Candied Macadamia Nuts’, an ice cream company is changing the way we think about this dessert. On Yelp, one customer wonders, “How do they pair such perfect flavours together?”

Read More

dance thumbnail

Designing Dance

Itamar Kubovy believes that ignorance can be a powerful ally. The Executive Director of Pilobolus, a New York based experimental dance troupe, constantly works to redefine the company and how they approach their craft. In recent years they have paired up with non-choreographers to push the practice forward, working with dance outsiders like illustrator Art Spiegelman and illusionists Penn & Teller.

Read More

baxter robot thumbnail

The Humanity in a Factory Robot

Baxter is a red robot with two large arms and a screen featuring two eyes. "Not a week goes by when somebody doesn't comment to me”, told Jim Lawton, Chief Marketing Officer at Rethink Robotics, “‘Wow, I love working with your robot. They're so engaging and friendly and I just love the smile".

Read More

quotidian record and player

What Does Data Sound Like?

Brian House effortlessly flows from data to code, artistic expression, music, and back again. This intersection of skill and understanding lends uniqueness and exacting clarity to his art. It's evident that only someone of his multifaceted nature could come up with his work; he is an artist who is helping us feel data.

Read More

openrov thumb


In the early grades of school, we learn about explorers. We hear about their journeys: how they traversed the Atlantic, pushed through heavy North Pole snow and planted their feet on new soil for the first time.

Read More

align thumb


Reimagining something familiar is one of the most ambitious things a designer can do. The chair is one of the most difficult of all. Despite the diversity of chairs out there, how can you improve on the basic design?

Read More

seaboard by computer


One such instance is the Seaboard. What first looks like a wonky George Foreman grill turns out to be a musical keyboard. But unlike traditional pianos, all its keys are black and, even more unusual, they are made out of a malleable material. That makes the keys soft and creates a continuous playing surface. This […]

Read More

robotic printer thumb

Mini Mobile Robotic Printer

Jonathan Stein noticed something about printers. The ubiquitous devices that sit on our desks were, in fact, quite simple. In effect, he realized that it was just a box that moved from side to side and “printed” the document.

Read More

Ototo thumbnail


Kids these days. They play on iPads and iPhones tapping on fake birds in slingshots and skeuomorphic drums. Adults might lament and wonder if kids are gaining anything from all that tapping. Whatever happened to turning a cardboard box into a car?

Read More

plumen 002

Plumen 002

“Don’t you think it’s strange”, comments Nicholas Roope, Founder and Design Director at Plumen, “that the lightbulb, an object so synonymous with ideas, is almost entirely absent of imagination?”

Read More

estimote stickers

Estimote Stickers

We’ve all heard of wearables, but nearables might be the next device that empowers your life.

Read More

map notebook

Best Made Map Notebook

Here’s a question: are you still discovering a neighbourhood if Google Maps is acting as your real-time guide?

Read More

myo thumb


“No, you can’t be Magneto.” What a 20th century thing to say. The creators of Myo may have brought that power one step closer.

Read More

an american diary

An American Diary

In the Summer of 2014, Anthony Gerace embarked on road trip across America, armed with a map and 2 film cameras—a Hasselblad c/m 500 and a Yashica T4. What he captured on his journey feels both entirely familiar and strangely foreign. That combination felt like a perfect fit as we were gathering content for this first issue of Field Guide.

Read More

power of frontiers

The Power of Frontiers

It was as a 27­year­-old news reporter that I found myself in one of the most remote communities on earth, seeking out a few of the most adventurous, downright badass guys anywhere.

Read More