DesignThinkers Scholarship Program inspires emerging designers to embrace authenticity

To help emerging designers attend DesignThinkers Vancouver 2018, four $500 scholarships and free registration were awarded to those who expressed enthusiasm for attending the Conference!


Sharing the conference experience with individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend is part of RGD's effort to foster the career development of Student and Provisional RGD Members, encouraging exploration of what the industry has to offer, highlighting possible career paths and offering the chance to build connections with fellow designers. 


Scholarship winners shared the following highlights from their experiences...


Sarah Butt Student RGD, University of the Fraser Valley

As someone who is very new to the design community, I had no idea what to expect for my first DesignThinkers Conference, but I was pleasantly surprised. For starters, attending the VIP dinner was an amazing opportunity to be in a room with so many incredibly talented designers - people who share my passion. There, in addition to eating the delicious food, I had the pleasure of meeting the other scholarship winners, with whom I discussed school, jobs and how Ellen Lupton was standing RIGHT BEHIND US! I knew that, if that first night was any indication of what’s to come over the next 2 days, I had a lot to look forward to.

At the start of Day 1, I visited the Designer Marketplace which was filled with vendors who were giving away so many cool samples. Needless to say, I ended up with a heavy bag full of designer goods by the time the first presentation was announced. Meg Lewis was the perfect speaker to kick off the conference. From her presentation, I learned how important it is to showcase your personality in your work and how it can make a difference in the success of your business.

Another speaker that really inspired me was Gemma O’Brien, who ended the day encouraging us to understand the value of being authentic and that sometimes doing things by hand can be more interesting than doing things digitally. These two presentations were so motivating for someone like me who is just starting out in the industry and looking for a way to stand out.

On Day 2, the highlight for me was seeing Brian Hill, Founder and CEO of Aritzia and Ryan Holmes, Founder and CEO of Hootsuite discuss their approach to design thinking in establishing successful businesses in Vancouver. Lastly, to end off the Conference I attended the So(cial) Good Design Awards to receive recognition for my winning project, which was a completely surreal experience to see other people admiring my work in a public space for the first time.

DesignThinkers is truly one of the most incredible opportunities I have ever had. I have learned that my job as a designer is to make a difference, whether its building campaigns or just inspiring other designers I am truly grateful to have this responsibility and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

“Art inspires community. Design builds community.” –Josh Higgins


Paul Ching Student RGD, OCAD U

Having attended DesignThinkers in Toronto twice before, I was especially excited for the Vancouver Conference because it would give me the opportunity to meet and network with designers outside of my usual circle.


On the first day, I participated in the roundtable network session, where my group discussed “Advice for Emerging Graphic Designers.” As a recent graduate, this was an excellent opportunity for me to talk with other students and professionals working in Vancouver and the U.S. to gain valuable knowledge on taking the next steps in my career. It’s incredible how DesignThinkers can bring designers from various backgrounds together and expose us to different perspectives in design.

I was especially excited for Grace Hwang’s presentation, where she spoke about designing for behavioural change. I was incredibly inspired by her work including her redesign for child-friendly MRI experiences and her app hardware+software to help people stop smoking. Krys Blackwood’s talk was another highlight, where she discussed UX design at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. Her work inspired me because the users for who she designs are all experts with specific needs in dealing with complex information. While the outcome may not be as visually appealing to the average person, it works exceptionally well for the users, which really showcases the value of UX design.


One of the lightning talk presentations that stood out for me was from Angèle Beausoleil, a professor at Rotman School of Management in Toronto. She discussed the different types of emerging fields in design, and how the value of design will change and adapt to the future. This information is incredibly useful for designers and recent graduates to understand and keep up with the fast-changing industry.


Lastly, the Designer Marketplace, filled with exhibitors, is another DesignThinkers highlight. Many print and design companies get to show off the quality of their products and give out free sample books and prints that are incredibly useful for future reference. I found the quality and amount of merchandise given away at the conference alone to be worth the experience.


I really appreciated the experience, and I hope to get an opportunity to come back here in the future. Thank you so much to Engine Digital for sponsoring me and giving me this opportunity to grow as a designer.


Sam Mollicone Student RGD, Humber College

This year I had the opportunity to attend Vancouver DesignThinkers with the help of the RGD and Pound and Grain. The entire experience was incredibly rewarding and each day brought new inspiration that has helped fuel new creative energy.


My experience began with exploring the refreshing atmosphere of Vancouver’s dog walking, yoga practicing and fresh air breathing community. After a quick stop at the hotel, we were off exploring the innovative architecture, views of the city and taking a ride on the Aquabus.


The next day I participated in the Studio Tours. I had the pleasure of speaking with the teams at Subplot, Pound and Grain and Digitalist, who were very welcoming and willing to answer all of our questions, making this one of the highlights of my trip. It was really great being able to compare Vancouver’s design industry to that of Toronto, and see the strong design work being developed by these agencies. I was especially impressed by the branding done by Subplot for the Petcurean Gather line of dog food.

Later that night I had the honour of attending the VIP Dinner where I was able to meet the other scholarship winners and other industry professionals including Angela Bains. Her talk on diversity in the industry was incredibly impactful and resonated with me well after the conference.


The next day marked the first day of the Conference, and as a recently graduated student preparing to enter Toronto’s design industry, I was eager to hear from the diverse lineup of speakers throughout the day. Meg Lewis was an awesome choice to open up the conference as she had people engaged and brought a lot of much needed morning energy to the theatre. Her talk was a big inspiration for me as a new designer, as she spoke about finding what you love to do and doing it, whether or not others approve. The entire day had me engaged and excited to start creating thanks to speakers Sebastian Padilla, Ellen Lupton, Aaron Draplin and Gemma O’Brian, whose closing talk inspired me to put away my laptop and dig out my pencils and paint.


The last day of the conference brought just as much stimulating information as the day before. I was specifically inspired by Grace Hwang who reminded me of the importance of understanding your user/audience and storytelling within design, as well as Bob Hambly. I have always been inspired by the work created at Toronto agency, Hambly & Woolley, and was extremely excited to hear Bob’s talk. As someone who had just spent months of sleepless nights preparing for graduation, it was a nice reminder to take moments in life to pursue your dreams and “enjoy the ride” because life often flashes by too quickly.

Overall, I had an unbelievable trip that ended with a bike ride in Stanley Park and many moments of appreciation for the once in a lifetime opportunity provided to me by the RGD and Pound and Grain. See you next time, Vancouver!


For more information about DesignThinkers Scholarships, click here.