Navigate through the Graphic Design Industry

Fresh out of school, entering the world of design can be exciting yet daunting. Learn from Provisional RGD Members who have successfully navigated their first few years in the industry. In the first instalment, Paul Twa Provisional RGD and Aidan Searle Provisional RGD share their journey. 


Paul Twa Provisional RGD



Paul is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. A 2018 graduate of the University of Alberta's Bachelor of Design program, he works in the areas of branding, advertising and illustration. With a keen interest in history, Paul enjoys studying the art and design of the past as a way to inform the work he’s making today. Paul is a recipient of the RGD Student Awards, the RGD So(cial) Good Design Award and the GDC Ray Hrynkow Scholarship.


Q. What are you currently up to?
I’m working full-time at a marketing and creative agency in Edmonton. For the 6 months following my graduation, I tried a few different things. I split my time working for two one-person design studios. One was in an internship position and the other was as a part-time production assistant. This period was fruitful in learning how different designers run their business, but by the time that first fall season came around, I was craving long-term stability. I tried picking up my own freelance projects but I still had a lot of questions on how to execute the projects I was doing. This made me realize I needed to spend more time learning about the industry and working alongside other designers to gain more creative confidence.
I was able to find that stability in my current position. For the time I’ve been there I have learned more about the inner workings of an agency, navigating different projects and levels of busyness. Additionally, to a much greater degree than I had as a student, I am learning to collaborate with creatives in other disciplines to execute projects and saw how different skillsets can come together to elevate the work.
What was your biggest challenge transitioning from being a student to a working designer?
As a student, I had spent 4 years learning how to tackle school projects as an independent creative. By the time I finished my degree I had a process that I could apply to most projects I was given: from initial research and trips to the library to how I presented sketches and pitched my work during class critiques. 
Once I started working, I discovered I needed to adapt my process to work more collaboratively. There was also the challenge of seeing how different designers work. There is not always a right answer to what is more successful so I had to personally analyze which new processes I could apply to my practice to improve my own workflow. Understanding what to take on and what to let go of has been challenging.
How does having a mentor early on in your career help?
Finding mentorship was my #1 priority upon graduating. It’s invaluable to have a mentor you can go to with questions as you navigate the industry. Someone who is willing to give you their own insights so that you can hopefully avoid some of the same struggles they experienced. Some
things I had to work through myself, but having people I admire that I can debrief with afterwards has been incredibly important. I ended up needing that even more than I expected upon graduating as I experienced new challenges I had been naive to. There’s no guidebook for the ‘right way’ to begin your design career so I’ve spent time defining for myself the
direction I want to pursue. Much of this work has been aided by talking to mentors whose career paths I admire and want to emulate. The RGD's Mentorship Program was extremely useful for this. Mentors helped me find my strengths and understand what steps I needed to take to get where I wanted to go.
What does your future look like? 
The future, as I’m sure a lot of emerging designers are experiencing, feels very uncertain. But I’m encouraged in knowing that I always have the power to keep learning and developing despite external circumstances. Over the next several years I want to cultivate more of a reputation around the work I love doing. As a mentor once reflected back to me, my interests lie
within the intersection of branding and illustration. I’m working to better my craft and technique in these areas and become more confident in communicating their value. I love employing illustration in my design work and would love to one day have that be an asset that people come to me for. I strongly believe that a personal practice, centred around your interests, can help propel you in the direction you want to go, so I’m invested in developing a body of work that defines how I want to position myself as a designer.
Show us a project or image of something you’re doing outside of work but is related to your goals and how this is helping you with your plans.
After graduating I found more time for self-directed experimentations that really enrich and fuel me my career, and began to incorporate lettering into my illustration practice. The combination of custom type and image felt like the purest way to express myself and has been a fulfilling vehicle to process my life and the world around me. It’s also an avenue for me to experiment with different styles and techniques that I can bring to future client work.

Aidan Searle Provisional RGD



Aidan moved to Prince Edward Island four years ago from Saskatoon to study graphic design at Holland College. In his last year of study he was selected by a jury to represent PEI in the BMO 1st Art Invitational exhibit for post-secondary students in the visual arts field. His work was portrayed in Canadian Art Magazine and displayed in the Justina M Barnicke gallery at U of T. Since graduating in 2017, Aidan has worked on visual identity programs for the University of Alberta as well as illustration and graphic design for the Charlottetown Confederation Centre of the Arts. Most recently he created over 120 illustrations for Advertising Week, the leading national event for marketing, advertising and technology professionals. Ultimately Aidan just wants to keep making cool stuff and challenging himself creatively every day. Aidan, currently resides in Halifax. 
What you are currently up to? 
I work as a media/product designer at a software company. My first job right out of school was with a fintech company as a junior graphic designer. Since graduating, my small freelance design business has grown quite a lot. It provides me with opportunities to feed my experimental and edgy design needs.
What was the biggest challenge transitioning from being a student to a working designer?
My biggest challenge has been being confident in my design abilities and knowing when to say "hey guys I don’t know how to do this, can you please help me?" It turns out people love to help and share knowledge on design. And as I learn more, I love being able to give younger designers advice!
How do you ensure you are learning the skills you need and meeting the expectations of your employer in your role in this WFH environment? 
I am fortunate to work for a company that has daily meetings where we find out what everyone else is working on. This makes it helpful when working from home. Setting weekly goals and having an open dialogue with your supervisor is key. As well as using a ticketing system like Jira, GitLab etc.,  communication is key! I have also been spending 2-5 hours a week on research/professional development, which my employer supports.
What does your future look like? 
Some of my career goals for the next 3-5 years include branching out from the way I currently do video work. I’d like to learn more about cameras and stop motion. I would also like to carve out more time to work on fine art projects. I am currently writing a business plan with a good friend to start a small agency that will specialize in institutional design, branding and consulting.
Show us a project or image of something you’re doing outside of work but is related to your goals and how this is helping you with your plans.
These are some stills from animated music I am working on (not released yet). I got Procreate for my iPad last year and it brought back my passion for painting, which is a wonderful feeling. I do a lot of music videos for indie bands and over the next 3-5 years I'd like to develop my motion-graphics stop-motion and film work. 


Stay tuned for the next instalment where Simerdeep Haer Provisional RGD and Daniela Buitrago Provisional RGD share their experiences.

More Articles: 


Should you pursue Masters in Design?


Building your Career as a Unicorn Designer

Certified and Provisional Members who are interested in contributing content to the RGD website via Resource ListsTop 5s and more are invited to email Rushika at .