It’s not something you see everyday: A grown man who has led a successful company for more than 20 years, dancing in a shark costume. If you know Warren Wilansky, though, it likely doesn’t come as that much of a shock.
The origin of what is now a Plank mascot of sorts, came from one of Warren’s deep loves: Baseball. When Gerrado Parra of the Washington Nationals chose the children’s song Baby Shark as his walk-up-to-bat song, Parra’s success inspired his team as well as their legions of fans. The unlikely song choice, made by Parra’s young daughter, became a rallying cry. An indispensable presence that led the team all the way to a win at the World Series in 2019. Warren attended games 4 & 5 of that World Series, by the way.
So, that’s why Warren bought the shark costume. Technically, it’s Left Shark. The 7-foot shark that made headlines dancing rather awkwardly on the left side of Katy Perry during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2015. Warren is a baseball fan, not a football fan, so Left Shark was a bit of surprise to him. But Warren was happy because it got him the costume.
Now if you’re a parent, you’ve likely heard the Baby Shark song on repeat for hours (days?) at a time. Perhaps you even swore to slug the next person who inadvertently put the song in your head. Here’s the thing about Warren: He loves anything playful or silly — so that song, and his new costume, were used for just that.
Baby Shark, when worn by Warren Wilansky, became endearing. Because he made it that way.
Baby Shark is played regularly at Plank, much to groans from some and laughs from others. The costume is used for gags, photo shoots, pranks, gimmicks, guest appearances, stickers and social media posts. Over time, Warren’s shark has evolved to become somewhat of a company mascot. He pops out when someone needs a laugh or when costumed representation seems like the best and, silliest, option.
Many thanks to the very talented Keith Race, who has been photographing the Plank Team since 2015.
It is one of the things I love most about Plank — its commitment to giving back. There is a desire to help those in need with the expertise they have to share. And in today’s world, that experience goes a long way. Helping organizations build and boost their digital presence so that they can communicate their message, raise money, share stories, purchase tickets or sell a product that helps them survive. It’s important and it’s the sign of a company that cares.
I want to advocate for a more humble approach to entrepreneurship.Warren Wilansky, Founder, Plank
In the Spring of 2019 Montreal’s Nazareth Community was chosen by the Plank team in their bi-annual Plank Gives Back campaign. It offers 80 hours of free work to help improve an organization’s online presence. That can mean a few things: a small website rebuild, a styling refresh, help with a content strategy or a digital transformation plan. In Nazareth’s case, their outdated site desperately needed a refresh. We updated their website, improved the design and usability, and made it much easier for them to update themselves. That was really important to them.
We began by visiting Nazareth to feel connected to the people and the place. The longtime nonprofit is located only 15 minutes from the Plank office, and we liked knowing they are helping people in our own Montreal backyard. Nazareth provides homes for people struggling with homelessness, mental health issues and addiction.
Like many small nonprofits, money for their digital presence was not a priority. Site administrators wanted to tell their stories and help raise funds but they didn’t have the tools to do that. It often left them feeling frustrated.
What Plank was offering was something we had looked for but could not afford. And not being able to afford it you kind of put it on the back burner, and along comes Plank and we get to push it to the front burner, and there it is burning now.Father John Walsh, Present & CEO, Nazareth Board of Directors
The Plank team gets back as much as they give, of that I am sure. Pushing a site live is always an exciting time, but pro bono work feels a little extra special.
Social causes need to have a strong online presence more than ever. We were thrilled to build a digital platform for Nazareth where they could really share their stories.Steve Bissonnette, Managing Partner, Plank
Plank will continue to give back. Especially now, as COVID-19 forced many organizations to change traditional ways of doing things, and has made an online presence more critical than ever. Our next campaign begins this Fall. We’re all looking forward to meeting the next nonprofit or social change organization that we can both help and learn from.
Highlights from Plank’s latest In Conversation webinar – securing government funding for your digital project. This talk focused on Arts, Culture and Heritage Institutions and answered questions around Canada Council and Virtual Museum of Canada grants.
Deadlines are fast approaching and it’s not always obvious how to take advantage of these potential sources of funding. What’s involved, how can a digital partner help, even ideas of what kinds of projects these can be.Tarah Schwartz
Plank Founder Warren Wilansky says each of these programs are pretty specific in what they are looking for, and that’s a good thing.
In the case of the Virtual Museum of Canada they are actually looking for museums to develop online exhibits. Not a new version of their website, but an actual exhibit. A project that can stand on its own.Warren Wilansky
Projects that are unique and engaging. Another criteria is that museums or heritage institutions must have the capacity to pull off the project they are pitching. And that’s where a digital partner can help.
Having a digital partner in place allows somebody like Plank to work on the proposal with the organization, fill in the design and technical details and then produce a better document. Which gives it a better chance of succeeding.Warren Wilansky
After our latest In Conversation webinar Plank created a Digital Marketing Strategy Template specifically geared toward nonprofits. Our goal is to help point you in the right direction, share expertise, offer guidance and advice. Ultimately we want to give you whatever tools we can to help you build your online presence to the benefit of your organization. If you’d like a copy of the strategy, just sign up to our mailing list and we’ll send it to you for free.
Take a look at highlights from In Conversation – Helping Nonprofits During Challenging Times.
With the world going through such a challenging time, it is wonderful to be able to offer some good news. The Plank team has chosen La Transformerie as its winner for the Spring 2020 edition. We are so happy to welcome them into the Plank family.
La Transformerie is a nonprofit working to reduce food waste, something that is so important in the world right now. It also focuses on raising awareness, and implementing concrete solutions to resolve the problem of unsold food. At the core of their mission, is a deep down belief that eliminating food waste is possible.
Much of what La Transformerie collects from its partner grocers in Montreal is offered to food banks. Most of what remains is transformed into delicious jams sold in a variety of stores. The money from these sales helps to power the organization. It also shows how discarded food can be transformed into something beautiful and edible.
How Plank Can Help
The e-commerce section of La Transformerie’s website is where they are focusing their 2 pro bono weeks. By enhancing the ability to sell their product on their own site, the entire operation will benefit, not to mention all the people that they help.
Thank you to each and every organization that reached out. We appreciate and value you all.
If you’d like to stay on top of all that we do at Plank, sign up to our mailing list.
At a time when being responsible means keeping our distance from people, we want to assure our clients, partners and friends that we’re here. We’re present. As a tech company we value all forms of online communication, but there is no substitute for human connection. While Plank’s team is fully remote, our Project Managers are diligently working to stay in as much contact as needed. They understand the enormous pressure of a digital project, and will be there every step of the way during these challenging times. Below is our Project Management Pledge. Stay safe everyone.
Expertise: We don’t just get the job done, we suggest ways to make it better. Your dedicated digital project manager makes sure, from design to development from launch to support, there are no surprises. We ensure your project gets done on time and on budget.
Openness: We ensure clarity and honest communication. We send detailed reports each week to go over work we have done, and to discuss what’s ahead. We believe that collaboration is key. We also schedule regular meetings to review progress, provide status updates and celebrate project milestones.
Transparency: Be as hands-on as you want – dive into our tools if you’d like to see your project taking shape (Slack for communication, Trello for decisions.) If not, rest assured, we have you covered every step of the way.
Availability: Your project manager is your « person », and we work alongside you throughout the life of your project. Acting as a single point of contact, you can rest easy knowing there’s always someone you can contact, no matter the question.
Personal Relationships: We thrive on successful partnerships. Your questions, comments and concerns are important to us, and we never leave you hanging. We become attached to our projects and the people behind them.
Compassionate: We understand the stresses and pressures that come with launching a project. We’ll make sure this process is smooth, efficient, and in the end, something to celebrate. We have your back, always.
We come across it every day on our laptops, phones and desktops. In the books we read, the magazines we flip through, the billboards we glance up at. Typography. And using it correctly is an art.
Making something as readable and appealing as possible involves myriad choices: from the perfect font, its size, decisions about line lengths and spacing. At Plank, our designers use typography on a daily basis, making sure each site we craft is perfectly suited to the subject, and a pleasure for users.
If typography is done well, all you notice is how effortless it is to browse. It’s the unsung hero of every website. With that in mind, here are some fonts we love, why we love them, from the people who use them most.
Jennifer Lamb, Creative Director
Bodoni STD Poster Italic
My ultimate favourite typeface is not in my top spot for its versatility. Bodoni STD is purely an aesthetic favourite. The lowercase italic f’s are a pure delight!
I’m also really digging Balto, a Humanist Sans typeface, aka « The American Gothic for the 21st century. » I look forward to working with it, often, and for a long time to come.
Sidenote: Check out the Arrows section of the Balto family page. It’s a whole lot of fun.
Avenir Next is a beautiful Geometric Sans with a Humanist vibe and a wide array of variants. It looks great on screen and is one of the most readable typefaces I’ve ever come across at small sizes, which explains why LG adopted it for the buttons on its cell phone.
Steve Bissonnette, Managing Partner
My top font pick is a non-standard one. The way the “zy » in the italic fits together alone makes me smile. It’s got a classic, easy to read feel and diverse family. The small caps are sublime — especially the Q. Let’s not even get started on the ligatures.
Véronique Pelletier, Interactive Designer
Apercu is a grotesque sans-serif font that was released in 2010. I like it because it’s versatile, comes in a variety of weights and styles. I also like it because it’s quirky, it has a fun playful side to it that other sans-serif fonts don’t have.
Christina Garofalo, Backend Developer
I love this typeface for body text, in both print and web. I like Roboto because it is open source, has Helvetica vibes without being Helvetica. It’s clean, easy to read, and has a full range of weights for variation. For a simple font, it’s fun to design with.
Added bonus: My favorite font site is Font Squirrel. It’s free for commercial use!
Megan McEwan, Front-end Developer
Sans-serif typefaces often feel modern and are generally considered well suited for the web. As someone who loves modernity and spends a lot of time looking at screens, I almost always prefer them to serif typefaces. Futura is a particularly special one in my mind. Released in 1927 and featuring clean, geometric lines, it is both classic and modern at the same time. Simple yet full of personality, it has a way of feeling retro-futuristic which is a design aesthetic that I find endlessly intriguing.
Massimo Triassi, Backend Developer
Lemon Milk is my favourite for a number of reasons; firstly it’s really angular and sharp, giving it a futuristic look. Secondly, it’s the first font I used as a brand font for the Robotics competition run by CRC Robotics, so in that regard it holds some sentimental value to me. Lastly, it helps that it’s free to use for non-profit purposes.
The fact that we still mark International Women’s Day, means women still have much to fight for. In some areas of the world it’s the right to vote, drive and work. In others it’s the right to make decisions about their body, expect equal pay, and have a voice in how the world is being shaped.
As a child, I had no idea that I was growing up in a world where I was not equal. It simply never crossed my mind. The young don’t see inequality. There is of course an awakening, as a teen, through school, and then in later years when I entered the workforce and found my employers were consistently men, and that my salary at various points was lower than that of my male colleagues. It seemed an unfair battle to wage, and one that has been fought by women long before me, who continue to slowly but surely change the world.
Role Models and Mentors Are Key
There is no shortage of extraordinary men who have mentored women. Plank is led by two wonderful male leaders who have ensured their team is diverse, and that equal pay for equal work is clear and transparent. At Plank, almost 50% of people including backend and frontend developers, designers, directors and project managers are women. To say that’s unusual in the tech industry, would be an understatement.
I was extremely grateful to join Plank as its first marketing and communications director. My voice is a new one in the leadership of the company, and I feel that it is valued. As Plank grows, it continues to strive for diversity, and that commitment should be emulated by others in the industry.
I am also supported as I seek out the company of other women leaders to exchange, engage and learn with them. There is something about the shared experience of being a woman that offers a unique perspective. Differences that should be celebrated and encouraged. With few role models during my early working years (but strong and beautiful colleagues!), I vowed to offer young women all the advice, encouragement and compassion that I could. I truly believe that you give back what you are given, and I hope that will continue on down through the generations. It’s important that women in particular learn early on, that encouraging each other, not competing with each other, makes us all better. Showing young women what’s possible instills hope, and hope is a very powerful force.
Leaders of the Future
While the percentage of women working in tech is still far too low, the number of leaders is even lower. There are still far too many companies led by men alone. Too few entrepreneurs, CEOs and leaders are women, and women’s voices are painfully absent from boards and decision making entities. Encouraging young women to explore and engage within this industry is crucial moving forward, to bridge that divide and provide a more balanced, equal industry for us all. Everyone benefits when there are more diverse voices, no one loses when equality is a priority.
The theme of Equality for this year’s International Women’s Day, is an opportunity to highlight what should have been ours all along. It’s an opportunity to collectively shout, as loudly as possible, for change. Change on so many fronts, including encouraging women to explore tech, promoting them as leaders and allowing the youngest among us to grow up in a world without boundries.
Happy International Women’s Day from all of us at Plank.
We are very excited to share our collaboration with Montreal’s Nazareth Community. Nazareth was chosen as a Plank Gives Back recipient in late 2019. Find out how we helped, pro bono, to improve their digital presence. Nazareth Community works to help those who struggle with mental health issues, homelessness and addictions. It was a very meaningful project for us all.
At Plank, we provide our clients with a meaningful digital experience. We specialize in designing the highest quality responsive websites and mobile applications and believe deeply in developing long standing partnerships. We are so thrilled our work has been acknowledged by Clutch, placing us on their Top 1000 Global Companies 2019 list.
Clutch is a research platform that uses verified client reviews to connect businesses with solutions providers that best meet their needs. As a Montreal business, it is our honor to be receiving this global recognition, since it places us at the top 1% of Clutch’s database of around 160,000 businesses.
This recognition would not be possible without reviews from our clients which outlines their work experience with us. Each one reminds us of why we do what we do.
It means a great deal to be selected by Clutch as a Top 1000 Company. After 21 years in business we still value each and every client.Warren Wilansky, Founder & President, Plank
We have also been recognized on both of Clutch’s sister sites, The Manifest and Visual Objects. The Manifest’s market research shows which businesses are the top in different fields at various locations, while Visual Objects displays successful projects from solutions providers by serving as a portfolio-sharing platform.
We are immensely proud of our entire team. If you would like to discuss your digital project, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
What a year it’s been! We dove into 2019 determined to take our 20 years in business and get even more focused on doing what we love. Designing and building websites and mobile apps for clients that we value feeds our collective souls. It stimulates the team, encourages collaboration and creativity, and when we launch a project, there’s a collective cheer. Every time. Here’s to 2019, and all the unforgettable moments of cheer we’ve had along the way.
We’re really getting up there
Plank turned 21! Moving into a new decade encourages self reflection, and that’s exactly what we did. What would the next years look like? How did we want to change things? How could we improve our skills? Growth is important in a business, and we wanted to grow. We’re awfully proud of our success story and knew we could continue to inspire our community and ourselves, by embracing a new side of our agency. One where we showcased our love of digital design and moved into our 21st year with energy and enthusiasm. We were excited about new projects and clients, and grateful to all the relationships we had built up over the years. So what did we do first…?
Bring in the extroverts
What better way to throw oil into the Plank fire then by adding some natural extroverts to our notoriously introverted group. Ours was a quiet office, but no more! We said hello to our first Director of Communications, Media & Marketing, two new project managers, a couple of back-end developers and one ridiculously cute dog.
But with every hello, there are some good-byes. We bid a fond farewell to much loved project manager Chloé Freslon and her dog Mila. But we always enjoy their visits!
A great big thank you
Showing appreciation for our team has always been a part of Plank culture. We want them to know that we genuinely care about them, and that each and every one is valued. So in 2019 we invested in some good old fashioned schwag. Even Bernard got on board! A big thank you to InPrint for their fabulous work.
And then there’s the annual Plank Appreciation Day, which is always a good time. From the feedback we received, it seems this was among the best ones ever. It started with a few hours playing pinball, Pong and air hockey while sipping cold beers and some pretty awesome cocktails at North Star Pinball in Montreal. As you can imagine, this led to some truly awesome photo opportunities.
We then moved on to dinner at L’Gros Luxe where the Caesar Cocktails were mighty impressive. Some people even made a meal out of them! We loaded up on carbs and laughed through table wars and ate far too many deep fried pickles (yes that’s a thing!). We will admit our office was quieter than usual the next day. All in the name of good fun.
Bring on the Plank
With a wonderful yoga studio on the same floor as our office, we began a private weekly yoga class at Ashtanga Yoga Montreal. Seven members of Plank look forward to it each week. We even got them mats that match our green logo. We are a digital design studio after all.
Who doesn’t love a good field trip?
Fueled by the energy of Plank’s Creative Director Jenn Lamb, we booked a field trip to Montreal’s Habitat 67. It’s a famous landmark in the city originally built as a pavilion for Expo 67, that was then transformed into a housing community. It’s a fascinating piece of architecture with an equally fascinating history. You can read about our visit here. We believe taking time out of the work day to be inspired by others, inspires us in return. We’ve already booked a next field trip for January!
This is what we do
In the end, it’s all about our work. And we love it. We have made some wonderful new partnerships, continued iterating on sites we designed long ago and have exciting projects on the horizon. Here’s who we welcomed into the Plank family in 2019.
And here are the loyal clients we work hard for everyday.
We launched Plank TV! OK, it’s not quite a TV station, but it’s a darn good series of videos. We created almost 20 videos this year showcasing our work, our Hack Day process as well as our clients. We also shared about our culture and our staff. You can see them all on our YouTube channel.
Plank Gives Back
We are truly proud of our Plank Gives Back initiative. We have always done pro bono work, helping non-profits or social change organizations with their online presence. But this year, we rebranded our initiative, and reached far and wide for those who needed help. We were introduced to some amazing organizations. Ultimately our team chose Montreal’s Nazareth Community, and we spent two weeks helping to improve their site. With such a wonderful response, Plank Gives Back returns in Spring 2020!
On the road
With 11 events and conferences behind us in 2019, Plank members were able to sharpen their skills, engage with others, build their expertise, meet new people and then bring it all home. Here’s what we attended:
- Owner Summit | Austin, TX | Warren | February 10-12
- Museums and the Web | Boston, MA | Warren | April 2-6
- Canadian Museums Association (CMA) | Toronto | Warren | April 14-17
- Community Foundations of Canada Conference| Victoria, BC | Warren | June 6-8
- Festival of Live Digital Art (foldA) | Kingston, ON | Warren | June 12-15
- Awwwards Conference| NYC, NY | Jenn, Vero | September 25-27
- Digital PM Summit | Orlando, FL | Jason, Kayla, Annika | October 20-22
- Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts | NYC, NY | Warren, Tarah | October 23-25
- Museum Computer Network | San Diego, CA | Warren, Tarah | November 5-8
- Gather North | Mono, ON | Tarah | November 15-17
- Operations Camp | San Francisco, CA | Steve | November 6-8
Dinner is served
We just love hosting dinner parties. It’s a great way to meet new people in industries we value. We threw one in Montreal in the Spring for non profits, and another in Toronto in the Fall for the Theatre community where Michael Wheeler from foldA talked about the power of digital. Both were filled with wonderful opportunities for sharing, building connections, learning from and inspiring each other. And of course, we ate well and sipped good wine.
Warren on the radio
Plank founder Warren Wilansky hit the radio waves, making multiple appearances on Todd van der Heyden’s Viewpoints, and on the CJAD morning show with Elias Makos. As a digital culture and tech expert he can talk about it all. He even made his first TV appearance on CTV as a panelist. We also hosted events, gave talks and led a choir! Fun times.
Taco Tuesday (or any day that ends with a “y”)
It’s no secret, at Plank we love to eat. We have a large lunch table that fills up around the noon hour. We also love to throw theme lunches, and inevitably tacos get top tier. But we don’t stop there, why would we? We’ve done myriad pizza days, waffle breakfasts, ice cream excursions, cookie decorating, salad extravaganzas, donuts show up regularly, and beer on Fridays. We work hard, but we play hard too.
Which brings us to…
Tomfoolery. It is proudly a part of our office culture. We believe it makes for a happier work environment. Fun and quirky moments happen on a regular basis, but nothing comes anywhere close this year to Warren’s baby shark costume. He ordered it for Halloween, but it was used long after that. In fact, it became a bit of an office theme towards the end of 2019. How could it not? It’s baby shark after all, and there’s no beating this!
From all of us here at Plank, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season, and all the best for 2020.
We sat around a long table inside a wine cellar filled with bottles and warm wood. Many of our 11 guests knew each other from the Toronto theatre scene, but sitting down to dinner like this was a first.
The reaction to a Plank dinner invite is usually uncertainty. Are you selling something? No, no we’re not. Plank has a passion for arts and culture, of which theatre is a huge part. We enjoy gathering people from industries that are meaningful to us and sharing an evening of food and drink. Our goal is always to bring people together, exchange ideas, learn something new and walk away feeling inspired. And of course, to have fun.
Thank you for hosting the Plank dinner party! It was a rare delight to sit down to a nice dinner with fellow theatre makers and marketers. Can we please do this every month?– Tanya Doroslovac, Director Marketing and Communications, Crow’s Theatre
Our keynote speaker was a cherished friend and collaborator. Michael Wheeler is the Artistic Director of SpiderWebShow which puts on foldA, a festival of live digital art. Plank has been the festival’s digital partner for the last two years.
I was excited to attend the Plank dinner in Toronto after attending one in Montreal two years earlier. This year was rewarding in new ways, the conversation had shifted from what digital COULD offer to live performance to what is happening NOW.– Michael Wheeler, Co-Artistic Director, SpiderWebShow
Plank has several theatres as clients, two in Montreal and one in Cincinnati. The abundance of powerful visuals and videos always make designing and building these websites exciting and stimulating. Each theatre is unique, with its own challenges and vision, and each has a wonderful story to tell. We help tell that story online. Plank clients also include multiple festivals as well as heritage and cultural organizations – we designed and built the website for The Canadian Encyclopedia. Plank also spent 10 years working with Culture Days, a national celebration of the arts. When we say we love arts and culture, we mean it.
It was a pleasure to attend the dinner party hosted by Plank. I very much enjoyed the food, the conversation with my friends and colleagues and above all Micheal Wheeler’s remarks on the power of digital.– Soheil Parsa, Artistic Director, Modern Times Stage Company
Ultimately these dinner parties allow us to to get to know people who share our passions. Our hope is to form friendships, build bridges and expand our networks. And to encourage each other, in whatever ways we can. We strive to make the internet a beautiful place – working with inspiring people who do inspiring work pushes us to be our best. We thrive designing and building sites that are meaningful to us.
It was truly an eye opening experience being exposed to the vast theatre culture and community that exists in Toronto. The conversation flowed easily between the concerns the digital era poses, and how that impacts the theatre to family and community.– Kayla Keizer, Project Manager (The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati), Plank
To everyone who attended our evening, thank you. We hope to meet again. And if you’d like Plank to host a dinner party in your city, reach out, we’ll make it happen.