Lessons from the School of Design

I’m glad that I chose design as my career for its flexibility, its challenge, and its constant room for growth and diversity. As a family-oriented woman, I loved the idea of being able to work from home as much or as little as possible doing freelance design.

I am currently working as the brand advisor for Edmonton International Airport. I have recently acquired this position after working on contract with them as a graphic designer for the last year and a half. I also work on as many or as few freelance projects as I can take on – I work on some items for MacEwan University as well as some other smaller clients. Sometimes I even collaborate with a few other designers to provide the best solution to the client.

 For now, I absolutely love my job and can see myself working here for a number of years. I don’t ever want to lose my skill or the ability to be creative and do hands-on design. I feel that I’ve found my “fit” in corporate design and will most likely continue as an in-house designer for the length of my career – keeping a little bit of freelance on the side for some variety and portfolio diversity.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do. I bounced back and forth through a number of potential careers. My mom said “sometimes it’s best to look back to what you loved to do as a child to figure out what makes you the happiest” – which was playing school. I had my own classroom in the basement and absolutely thought that teaching was the answer.

In 2006, I planned on getting a general Business degree (at the University of Alberta) then following the path to Education. It was only in the middle of calculus that I realized my favourite part of school was designing the cover sheets for all my assignments – when trying to find yours in the midst of 150 other papers with identical fronts, I realized I needed to solve that problem. (I have flashbacks of my first encounter with graphics software – I’d make signs for everything! Greeting cards, calendars, lists, you name it!) From then on, my assignments were coloured, easy-to-find “branded” assignments.

I connected all of the dots – I didn’t love teaching, I loved creating my “classroom.” Charts, posters, bulletin boards, wallpaper, class lists, creating tests, layouts and organizing.

In 2007, I began researching design programs, finished my one year in Business at the University of Alberta and made the switch to MacEwan.

I chose digital media as my major. Digital media is up and coming – and I felt that having an understanding of web and animation was something new. Wanting to ultimately be a print and type-focused designer, I felt that I would be better off with further in-depth knowledge in web trends and multimedia.

Trends are constantly changing in design. Right now, I’d say that design in general is really focusing on being simple, clear and transparent. In corporations and with upward rising importance of social media, companies are being forced to be very open and personal with their brand and core values, design that is basic and straightforward proves this – the elimination of bells and whistles is more and more common, and people like to see this.

Good design is simple. It’s the solution to a problem. Most of these solutions are visual, but there is also a deeper layer – does your design provoke emotion? Does it make the viewer feel valued in seeing something unique, beautiful and do they feel comfortable with it? Does your design achieve a goal? Does it inspire? If yes, you’re doing it right.

I draw inspiration from a bunch of different designers. I like to look at the local design community – companies like Calder Bateman, RED the Agency, and DDB Canada are some of the big ones – it’s important to know and understand your local community.

I subscribe to Applied Arts magazine which showcases and features great design in Canada. I also subscribe to HOW magazine to be able see design on a more international level. There’s something about receiving a paper magazine that I LOVE – gets you away from the computer!

I follow a lot of blogs, and keep up with current design events and what is happening in my community. Usually once I see something I like in one of those mediums (magazine or blog), I will follow the path to research the designer.

Most of my inspirations are firms, and not generally individual people. Some of my favorites include Pentagram, NYC http://new.pentagram.com/ and David Airey, a graphic designer in Northern Ireland – author of the web blog and book Logo Design Love. http://www.davidairey.com/

Advice to a prospective student considering a career in design? Always remember what makes you smile and what makes you happy. If you aren’t happy and inspired, your work will reflect that. If you are an artist and want your work to have a function, to be challenged and to be a problem-solver, this career is for you. It isn’t definitely just pretty pictures – it is strategic, thorough, and diverse. It’s also generally very fast-paced and continually evolving so you will never be bored – there is always something new to learn or improve on. It’s about details and finishing touches and perfection, it’s about prioritizing and organizing. Design is EVERYWHERE. It’s a flexible and fun career!

Jill Wawryko graduated in 2010 from MacEwan’ s Design Studies program. She interned at the international ad agency, DDB . She is a member of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada and the Advertising Club of Edmonton. Jill W_Resume

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