George Brown College student along for an Olympic ride

Josh Dornan’s graphic design work headed to the Olympics with Canada’s bobsleigh and skeleton sleds

Josh Dornan may not come away from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games with a gold medal. But a part of the George Brown College (GBC) student is in Pyeongchang, or at least his work is.

In his final year of study in the graphic design program, Dornan joined forces with Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) to produce the unique design for Canada’s bobsleigh and skeleton teams. But this creation also comes with a special connection for Team Canada.

The relationship BCS has with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) came into play as bobsleigh and skeleton athletes had completed some training exercises with RCAF members to prepare mentally for the games. The design of the sleds is based on the Canada 150 CF-18 jet, whose look was created by Jim Belliveau, a former 410 Squadron graphic designer. As for Dornan, he had been at a TFC soccer game and was amazed at seeing the CF-18 roar over BMO Field and it formed the theme for his work.

However, while paying tribute to the partnership with the RCAF was key, the Saskatoon native wanted to strike a balance, too.

“It’s a celebration of our country, it’s not flexing any kind of military muscle,” Dornan explained. “It happens to be on a jet which is this fantastic design that I think, it elicits more of a prideful view in Canadians when people see it.”

The design process, which got underway in September, saw the GBC design student also create the look for Canada’s World Cup sleds. Perhaps even most impressive was how the whole production was kept a secret, with even only a couple of BCS staff members having seen the product before its unveiling at the Jan. 24 bobsleigh and skeleton team announcements.

“We didn’t share it around, we didn’t send it to anyone, we wanted it to be a surprise, so the athletes had never seen it until the team announcement, which is great,” said BCS high-performance director Chris Le Bihan.

The crisp new look is also earning high marks from those that will be in the sleds.

“Not only is it exciting that there’s a really cool design, but the fact they have incorporated it with the Canadian Armed Forces, it’s pretty special,” said two-time Olympic bobsleigh gold medalist Heather Moyse.

The design of the sleds is based on the Canada 150 CF-18 jet, whose look was created by Jim Belliveau, a former 410 Squadron graphic designer.

The design of the sleds is based on the Canada 150 CF-18 jet, whose look was created by Jim Belliveau, a former 410 Squadron graphic designer. Photo: Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton  

One of the more interesting features of the design is actually on the bottom of the sled. As it turns out, Dornan was back home in Saskatchewan last summer and ended up learning from a friend in the air force about what a “false canopy” is (a fake cockpit on the bottom of an aircraft to confuse the enemy). When he was later asked about an idea for the bottom of the sleds, Dornan already had it.

The creative element has earned solid reviews, especially from those with a connection to planes, such as the installer of the decals on the sleds who is an amateur pilot and, as Dornan recalls, “said that it was the coolest thing that he’s ever seen in his life.”

The 27-year-old’s wild journey all started with a simple email to BCS. The Saskatoon native was aware the BCS used a look created by a student for the Sochi Games in 2014 and wanted to see if they already had somebody lined up for 2018. While Dornan said it might have been nice to win a competition such as the one held four years ago, “it’s equally as rewarding to be the person that just sent an email, took the initiative, and that’s really all it was.”

While he won’t be in South Korea for the Games, rest assured Dornan will have his eyes glued to the television, where his work will be showcased on a worldwide stage.

“I still haven’t had the emotional kind of oh my God (moment) yet. I think that’s going to come when I see them at the top of the track, when I’m looking at the TV and you just kind of think, I made that, and it’s in the Olympics right now. That’s crazy.”

Team Canada skeleton action gets underway on Feb. 15 while the bobsleigh competition opens on Feb. 18.

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George Brown College student along for an Olympic ride