Final Year Advice for Students from Recent Grads
We asked recent graduates what advice they have for students entering their final year of graphic design school, and here's what they had to say.


Create projects you're passionate about

Have fun! This period of our careers is so special in that we can experiment and really explore the different avenues of design and see what we have an affinity for. It is extremely helpful to take the time before you start each project to consider some key questions, especially if it is self-directed or flexible in application/scope. How can this project best reflect the type of design I want to pursue? What subject matter or field of research outside of design would I like to explore? How can this project feel successful beyond simply getting a good grade? ie. a portfolio piece I am proud of, something to put on my website, or a project I could talk in-depth about during an interview. 

- Paul Twa Provisional RGD, 2018 Grad of the University of Alberta


Sometimes it is easy to settle for projects which meet the minimum of the brief, but if you have the time to take that extra couple of days to think about how you can push the envelope to make something you will be proud of, it can make all the difference. This is your chance to talk about issues you care about and show that design has power to communicate, educate, and involve audiences about those topics.

- Paul Twa Provisional RGD, 2018 Grad of the University of Alberta

Paul Twa's "Please Touch" branding for University of Alberta's 2018 Bachelor of Design Grad Show. Student Award winner 2018.


I think it's important to remember that your thesis doesn't have to define your practice, but it can if you want it to. While I think participating in the year-end thesis show was an important part of my art school experience, there was also a lot of unnecessary pressure around the entire process. Thesis should feel almost like a break where you suddenly have an entire school year to explore something you're passionate about while receiving guidance from people who have been instrumental to your educational career. Having access to studio space, software and printing equipment is something to treasure while it lasts! Thesis can be an opportunity to explore something that will guide you as a recent graduate while you search for the next thing to do or begin a project on your own terms. It can be a method of feeling out where in "the industry" you want to be, but it can also be a time to work on something completely unrelated to what you want to do when you're out of school. There's no reason your project needs to be finished by the time you graduate– I think the best ideas are the ones that can keep growing way past your given deadline. Regardless of what you choose to focus on, have fun with the process, take advantage of everything you have available, and try to let go of some of the internal pressures that come with thinking about graduating. 

- Laura Rojas Provisional RGD, 2018 Grad of OCAD University


Make genuine connections

Make sure you’re networking, but do so in a way that is not a “hard-sell”. Focus on making genuine interactions and relationships with people. It will last longer, and will have a higher probability of benefitting you.
 Make sure to also create genuine relationships with your teachers. In many cases, they are very connected to the larger industry. And if they appreciate you, your work, and your attitude, they will recommend you for everything they can. Most teachers love helping their students succeed.

- Jordan Jackson Provisional RGD, 2018 Grad of Humber College


I'll never forget what one industry leader told my class in our final year: "Every year at graduation time there seems to be a sudden influx of Creative Directors." My advice is to be humble, take advantage of every little opportunity, and don't think that you have to be always promoting yourself. It is often just as beneficial to have a casual chat with a designer you admire rather than trying to corner them for a portfolio review.

- Mackenzie Gooch Provisional RGD, 2018 Grad of Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Mackenzie Gooch's "Gutless Vegan" Butchershop Branding. Student Award winner 2018


Manage your time

Your final year of design school, especially your final semester, is really about polishing your portfolio and making it the best you possibly can. My peers and I were shocked at how little time we had to invest in making new projects that were high quality while also finishing our portfolios. So my best bit of advice is to really focus on getting quality projects out in the fall semester. That way you can use the winter semester to polish your portfolio, expand your network, and start looking for internships.

- Jordan Jackson Provisional RGD, 2018 Grad of Humber College