DesignThinkers Scholarship student winners return from Vancouver inspired and excited for the future

This past May, four $500 scholarships were awarded to emerging designers who expressed interest in attending RGD's inaugural DesignThinkers Vancouver.



As part of RGD's effort to foster the career development of Student and Provisional RGD Members, helping them to attend DesignThinkers encourages exploration of what the industry has to offer, highlighting possible career paths and offering the chance to build connections with fellow designers. A special thank you to the program sponsors for making this possible.


Watch the winning application videos here: 

Uyen Nguyen-Cwinn Student RGD, Humber College (Sponsored by Pound & Grain Digital Inc.)

Jordan Jackson Student RGD, Humber College (Sponsored by Cause+Affect Design Ltd)

Sarah Dowling Student RGD, Algonquin College (Sponsored by Carter Hales Design Lab)

Rachel Eden Hwang Student RGD, University of the Fraser Valley (Sponsored by 123w)


"One Twenty Three West is very proud to be a part of the design community in Canada and we believe that to thrive, we all need to support the education of the designers of the future. The RGD scholarship program is a great way to do that and we will continue to sponsor the program for years to come." Jeff Harrison, Founder, One Twenty Three West


"Pound & Grain jumped at the chance to get involved with RGD's Scholarship Program. We're big fans of doing what we can to foster the growth of the design community. Sponsoring a student to attend the event was a great way to show this support and hopefully inspire someone to go on and do something great - no pressure Uyen!" - Sandy Fleischer, Pound & Grain

Check out the Pound & Grain's post on the DesignThinkers event here.


RGD already has three $500 Scholarships confirmed for DesignThinkers 2017 in Toronto. The call for entries will launch in early September.


DesignThinkers Vancouver Scholarship winners shared the following highlights from their conference experience: 


Uyen Nguyen-Cwinn Student RGD, Humber College

Attending DesignThinkers was both fun and educational. Throughout the conference and associated events, I had the chance to share creative stories and learn from the experiences of designers from across Canada.


The first speaker I saw was Timothy Goodman. I was blown away because he is such an inspiring and down-to- earth person, and as a graphic designer who dabbles in illustration and typography, I was able to relate to his message: “being as human as possible”. He emphasized the importance of being able to tell your personal story through your work. This probably has become a cliché, but for me it still holds true “a designer is a story teller”. The impact of that phrasing is often lost due to overuse, but Timothy's presentation re-ignited my belief in the sentiment. It is important, he explained, that we be driven to create not just beautiful things but things that matter to us, to the world around us, and to champion our values through our work.

Another speaker that resonated with me was Dana Tanamachi. She is one among many graphic designers to whom I look up in terms of personal venture. For me, her presentation instilled the message that you never know what little things can bring you big opportunities if you throw yourself into it and let your passion shine. Dana’s story taught me the importance of realizing what you really enjoy doing and do it, pursue it, and then make it your career.


The delegate party was another amazing experience. There was good food, drinks and outstanding company. It's like a backstage pass that allows you to hang out with celebrities. I was able to meet and talk to speakers that I was inspired by, and being able to connect and network with them was surreal. I also made many new friends from the Vancouver design field. After the party I truly felt like I was part of a creative community that is shaping the visual marketplace that surrounds us. 


Overall the conference reminded me how important it is to be vulnerable and brave when pursuing design projects. To put yourself into your work is a gift that comes back with dividends. Not every stumble is a failure and these “ghosts of the past” actually have a lot to teach us. I was reminded take design seriously and with a light hearted and humorous energy. I came back to my design work full of creative energy and ready to try big things.


Jordan Jackson Student RGD, Humber College

Day One was looking like an amazing start to the conference. Some names I recognized, others I didn’t. But that didn’t matter because I was truly blown away all day long.


VP of Design at Airbnb, Alex Schleifer gave a fantastic talk about the tools and processes Airbnb uses to deliver the best user experience possible. One of these being AirShots, which is a tool that Airbnb developed to allow any of their employees to view any screen, in any language, on any device worldwide. Both in design and in code. With this kind of power, the company is getting much closer to effectively designing at scale with no hiccups. So cool.

Emily Lessard was another favourite, as she discussed three of her intriguing re-branding stories. One of those stories was her rebranding efforts for New York City when she was a Creative Director for NYC & Company. By utilising the extensive historical records of the City of New York and the internet, they were able to create two unique typefaces and an entire brand that SCREAMED New York City. It was cohesive, tasteful, and incredibly well executed.

Day Two started off with Pentagram partner, Emily Oberman (whom I later got to meet!!!). She discussed the notable projects that she and her team at Pentagram have worked on - from SNL title sequences to marijuana packaging for Snoop Dogg. It was great to hear the insights behind Emily’s work in such a casual and enjoyable delivery.

DesignThinkers Vancouver 2017 was an experience that I won’t soon forget. There are so many amazing memories to be had when you connect a group of talented, like-minded, and passionate individuals in one place. It creates a sense of community that I truly appreciate. I anxiously wait for the next time that I am able to return to Vancouver for DesignThinkers.


Sarah Dowling Student RGD, Algonquin College

Attending DesignThinkers Vancouver was a key part of my transition from student life to the professional world. I used the last four months at Algonquin College to define three personal goals and am using these to grow as a designer. I plan to: keep challenging myself by expanding my knowledge, understanding, and skills; seek out the perspectives of other determined design thinkers to inspire and guide my own journey; and keep asking “why?” I took these goals to Vancouver to create an even more personal and meaningful experience to take back home to share with the Ottawa design community.

I was enabled to follow these goals at DesignThinkers 2017 when I was awarded a scholarship from Carter Hales Design Lab. I had the honour of speaking with very talented individuals and experience inspiring talks in an amazing city. Participating in the Speed Mentoring and having the opportunity to meet speakers in the lobby, at the book signings, and at the delegate party really made the experience more impactful. I am so thankful for the opportunity to collect pieces of the speakers’ stories, wisdom, failures, and insights and allow them to guide me in my transition. I made note of the speakers’ words that really struck a chord with my current journey and hopes for where I may go next.

Rachel Hwang Student RGD, University of the Fraser Valley

Upon arriving to the DesignThinkers venue, I was surprised to have met so many attendees from around the world, and was even more excited to hear from the variety of speakers from wide ranges of disciplines presenting their perspectives on different topics.


Emily Lessard's presentation on ’Rebranding and Authenticity’ was a personal favourite because it helped me to think differently about a current rebranding project on my plate. As well, the five-year plan that Dana Tanamachi spoke about was very helpful, as it made my personal plan seem less abstract and much more practical than it did before hearing her perspective. 


Here are some of my favourite quotes from throughout the conference:


‘Approach design as a practice, not as a profession.’ — Timothy Goodman

‘Because you have power, who, in return, is flourishing?’ — Dana Tanamachi

‘Be loyal.’ — Emily Lessard


‘I loved the client. I wanted to grow with them.’ — Emily Oberman

‘Design is about helping people understand themselves.’ — Maria Giudice

‘Shared knowledge leads to rapid growth.’ — Ellen Wong & Mark Beechy

‘Master the rules in order to pursue excellence.’ — Scott Dadich


The best part about these inspiring takeaways is applying them and seeing results in the real world. After my first design conference with DesignThinkers I am looking forward to attending many more.