Design students and provisionals share insights from DesignThinkers Toronto 2019

Seven Student and Provisional RGDs were awarded Scholarships to DesignThinkers Toronto 2019 for embracing self-reflection as they critiqued their previous design projects. To cap off their DesignThinkers experience, they have highlighted their main takeaways from the Conference.


The call for DesignThinkers 2020 VAN Scholarship entries is now open! Toronto will launch in June 2020. 


Kody Cavers Student RGD | Red River College

Sponsored by Pound & Grain

(Awaiting write-up)


Tess Heinricks Provisional RGD | Graphic Designer at Tess Made This

Sponsored by Fusion Design Group

Two incredibly full days of DesignThinkers resulted in a lot of creative inspiration, reflection, and contemplation. As a new grad, and at my first DesignThinkers conference, there was no shortage of creative insight, challenging dialogue, and drool-worthy marketplace swag (looking at you Swipe Books) to take home each day.


Specifically, I found that interacting with Frontier's Live Magazine (all of the wonderful folks running the show) was a great way to reflect on what you were experiencing and gaining exposure to throughout the conference — not to mention they had some incredibly witty takeaways that highlighted some of the weekends more memorable moments. 


A personal favourite was Adam J. Kurtz, who spoke candidly about life, love, and all things in between. His talk was a nice balance between hyping up our abilities as creative thinkers ("huge fucking tools") and reminding us that we have the ability to define our own experiences. I also really enjoyed Matt Luckhurst's talk, not only for its commitment to Dada poetry, but because he spoke so passionately about how The New Company is challenging conventions and providing new voices and narratives to inspiring communities. 



DesignThinkers Toronto did a great job in bringing together such a wonderful community of people. Not only was I able to make incredible local connections, but I was able to meet some of the bigger names in the industry as well. It was inspiring to meet and converse with so many individuals of varied interests and achievements at events and workshops and I look forward to doing the same for many years to come. 


Overall, it was inspiring to see such an incredible breath of individuals interacting with the conference's content — whether that was by asking hard questions, exercising creative vulnerability, or just straight geeking out, it was a pleasure to participate and I look forward to carrying the insights I gained forward with me as I continue my career.


Courtney Lamb Student RGD | Capilano University

Sponsored by Davis

When I got the news that I would be able to go to DesignThinkers Toronto, I was over the moon. Having attended DesignThinkers Vancouver, I was excited for the opportunity to immerse myself in the Toronto design scene by attending the studio tours, listening to the fantastic speakers, and connecting with other designers and students along the way.


The first event I attended was the studio tours. It was great to explore the city and see all the exciting things happening in different studios. We stopped at Vice, Virtue, Huge Agency and Forge Media. All the studios had different processes and it was interesting to see how each place used their skills to help their clients. It also gave me a chance to connect with a few people that would be at the conference and get excited for the next few days of learning. 


The most significant difference between DesignThinkers Vancouver and Toronto is the opportunity to choose between many different talks. The first keynote speaker was Tina Roth Eisenberg, the legend behind the blog Swiss Miss and founder of Creative Mornings — a global creative meet-up that I was able to attend in Vancouver. It was awesome to be able to hear from speakers on what inspires them. Tina recognizes that our work is more than our job and believes that it's important to be playful at work to stay inspired. She also acknowledges that kindness is our best advantage and many of her projects expanded because she found people that she connected with through compassion. 



I also had the privilege of listening to Ti Chang, an industrial designer who showcased how good design can create a space to talk about stigmas and change the conversation around female pleasure. Other talks I attended were by Lorna Ross, which focused on the future of technology and design and, the importance of research when designing for people with Meena Kothandarama. 


Overall, my experience at DesignThinkers Toronto was amazing. I am in the final year of my program at Capilano University and sometimes it's easy to lose sight of what you're trying to work towards. DesignThinkers inspired me and got me out of my student bubble, by helping me recognize how much of what I am learning in design school can be applied to many different sectors. I can't thank RGD and Davis enough for the scholarship which enabled me to attend the conference. It was a fantastic learning opportunity that I hope continues to benefit Canadian design students for years to come.


Katarina Perkovic Student RGD | Cambrian College

Sponsored by Design de Plume

The selection of speakers that presented at DesignThinkers Toronto this year was unique and insightful. I enjoyed hearing from the women's panel in particular. Hearing the experiences and advice of other women working in the design industry was valuable because female designers share many of the same challenges. It was also great to hear more about RGD and its role in regards to female employment. It serves as a positive example of a design organization that employs women in higher-level positions and I hope that they will inspire more organizations and business to do the same. 



Ti Chang was another speaker whose passion could be seen and felt during her presentation. The advice she offered was easily translatable and applicable to any type of design work. Like Ti, I hope that my passion for design and helping others can some day help create positive change in the lives of others. 


Attending DesignThinkers 2019 was refreshing, inspiring, and it allowed me the opportunity to hear from an array of passionate designers. Although this was one of the busier months of the school year, I was very fortunate to attend and receive a scholarship to help fund the trip. I am looking forward to future DesignThinkers conferences and to learning even more from some of the most inspiring and interesting designers in the world. 


Shayna Plett Student RGD | Red River College

Sponsored by Hambly & Woolley

Burnout culture can be a common occurrence in college and often in the design community. As 10 refreshed design students can tell you, the cure is DesignThinkers. Believe me when I tell you that DesignThinkers was good for my soul. There was so much to learn and think about, and so much that inspired the young designer minds.


A personal favourite talk for me was the opening keynote from Tina Roth Eisenberg, aka swissmiss. Tina shared seven rules that she lives by and practical ways to put them into practice. I found it so interesting to hear her talk about the role kindness plays in her business. It's a concept that I personally believe in, but kindness is often seen as a good practice that will end up costing you in one way or another. For her to say that she used it as her competitive edge was a bold and definitely encouraging statement. 



Another concept Tina brought up was the idea that the best way to complain, is it to make things. "She said, "If you're repeatedly complaining about something you either need to let it go or do something about it". If we notice something that looks bad or isn't easy to use or understand we have the opportunity to improve on it. And because we're designers, we can make it look professional so it will be taken seriously from the beginning. Sometimes the best solution is to put out a better idea for people to see what wasn't working. It's a beautiful perspective of how designing should work, using what we've put the time and effort into learning to solve problems and improve how we communicate ideas. 


Just being able to see the studio Tina created and the positivity she puts into the everyday life of her employees was incredible. You could tell how genuine she was, and how much she cared about not only the work she was doing but the people she was doing it with. Tina started the conference off on a soaring high note, and for me her talk managed to hold that top spot for the entire weekend. Of course, having our group get a little shout-out from the Swiss Miss herself (courtesy of one of our instructors who let her know we were coming) didn't hurt. 


If the couple of weeks leading up to the conference drained our design batteries, Tina and the amazing other speakers at the conference charged them right back to 100%. RGD put on an amazing event and you can bet that I will be making the multi-province journey back!


Noah Robinson Student RGD | Cambrian College

Sponsored by Red Path Mining Contractors and Engineers

(Awaiting write-up)


Anna Varlamova Student RGD | Red River College

Sponsored by Cosmic Design

The DesignThinkers conference left a big impression on me! I came with the purpose to discover new designers who have the same values and beliefs as me, and whose work would inspire and guide me through my future career. I was hoping to find one or two speakers to resonate with me, but after the conference I realized that almost all of the speakers had something valuable to say, so it's safe to say I had a much greater experience than I expected.




One of the speakers that caught my attention was Tina Roth Eisenberg, also known as Swiss Miss. She told a very inspirational story about her design journey — moving from Sweden to New York, a city she always dreamed of living and working in. She talked about her studio and the importance of working with people who share the same values, and shared her seven rules she follows in life and in design.


Another speaker that had a very informative talk was Jason Oertelwhich was about the future of social media with some important tips for designing for the future, along with Adobe's predictions of what content will be valuable in the next couple of years. Other talks I found interesting were McLean Donnelly, who explained how important it is for designers to know finance and Susanna Nygren Barret, who shared a quote by Paul Rand — "ideas should be reduced for clarity without sacrificing beauty"



One of the most useful, rather than inspirational talks was by Jason Pamental, who talked about the endless possibilities we now have with type on the web and shared the changes we can incorporate into our design to improve UX and make it more accessible. Lauren Hom's talk was the most inspirational for me personally. She talked about how design doesn't have to be complicated — anyone can start off with simple, silly ideas which could later turn into more serious projects. She shared a quote that resonated with me, "don't worry about finding your style, focus on finding your voice instead". Her words made me rethink my approach to design, and I plan on taking her advice in finding my voice. 


There were many other speakers I connected with such as Brian Collins, Ti Chang and Sagi Haviv. Besides the amazing speakers, the decorations, organization and atmosphere also made it a motivating and exciting experience! I truly felt like I was a part of the design community — a community strong enough to change the world!



Thank you to Cosmic Design, Davis, Design de Plume, Fusion Design Group, Hambly & Woolley, Pound & Grain and Red Path Mining Contractors and Engineers for providing this year's Emerging Designers' Scholarships for DesignThinkers Toronto!