"Nicola is an absolute powerhouse and working with her has been an honour. She is an inspiring leader with a forward-thinking vision, a passion for creating spaces for diverse voices in the industry and a remarkable dedication to our community of 4,000+ creative professionals. Nicola has a gift for connecting with others on a genuine level and bringing out the best in them, on and off the stage. She challenges the RGD and all of us to continue growing, adapting and staying relevant in today's world. Her eight years of volunteering in various roles are just a small testament to that. The RGD Canada is lucky to have her. Thank you for all that you do and for teaching us to embrace the scaries in these gnarly years, Nicola!" — Mel Sutjiadi RGD, RGD Board Member.
Q: How long have you been volunteering with RGD and in what capacity?
I was a Student RGD while studying at Humber College, but I let that lapse when I started working. My first job, at The Grid, was incredible. I was working for one of the most exciting publications in the country, with a world-class art team, building international connections. When The Grid folded in 2014, I realized I had very little connection to the graphic design community here in Canada. So I became a Provisional RGD and started donating my time on the Provisional Committee. I completed my Certification in 2016 and joined the Communications Committee. Eventually, I was elected to the Board of Directors and acted as VP of Communications from 2017-2020. I was elected President in April 2020. TL;DR: I've been volunteering for 8 years, in more capacities than I can count.
Q: Of the RGD initiatives you have contributed to, what are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of the way this community were there for one another during the pandemic. I took the role of President right on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic and the way our Staff and Volunteers pivoted our programming and navigated all the difficult decision-making was pretty incredible. The way our community showed up, virtually and now in-person again, always makes my heart swell.
Q: What is your most memorable experience as an RGD volunteer?
Virtual 2021, I was asked to run an In Conversation with Debbie Millman
. Debbie is the most phenomenal design interviewer of our generation. She's incredible. And I'm just learning, which means I'm a pile of nerves. I have my 14 pages of notes — a lesson I've learned from Debbie herself — laid out on the desk in my living room. It's a virtual conference, remember. And just as I'm about to log on to the call, the cat flies into the living room at top speed. She has a bird. A real, live bird she's brought indoors and is now flapping around our living room. The same room I'm meant to stand in while interviewing the Debbie Millman. I'll spare you the chaos that followed and sum it up by saying that my adrenaline was high going into that conversation. It's a memory I access quickly, whenever I think about our virtual programming.
Q: What have you gained from being an RGD volunteer and why would you recommend it to other Members who might be thinking of getting involved?
I've gained a stronger, broader connection to the design community and gained a pile of new friends, colleagues and champions. Giving back to an industry that's given me so much feels right. I think others should get involved for that same sense of community and the valuable insight you gain from sharing space with other knowledgeable designers.
Q: What is the most surprising/unexpected thing to come out of volunteering with the RGD?
The big one for me is public speaking. I've never shied away from speaking in front of an audience, but I didn't know how much I enjoyed it until I was given that role. Volunteering with the RGD can open up a whole host of opportunities for growth!
“I truly enjoyed seeing Nicola host the DesignThinkers Conference this year. She is such a natural presenter with an honest and easy-going style, which makes you feel entertained and welcome,” says Stüssy Tschudin RGD, Past RGD President and Principal at Forge Media + Design
Q: What have you learned about the industry since volunteering for the RGD?
The Canadian design industry is bigger than it feels. There are over 68,000 of us spread out across the country, according to Stats Can
. And it's really diverse: there are designers working in rural print shops, designers working for global ad agencies and everything in between. We each have our own view of what graphic design is, but volunteering with the RGD has shown me just how broad it is.
Q: Based on your experience volunteering with the RGD, how would you describe the role of the organization in the industry?
From my perspective, the RGD's role is as a facilitator. We provide access to resources, connect designers to opportunities and to each other and offer designers a platform to share, all in the interest of giving our Members opportunities to grow.