Student Award-winners ponder upon their educational experience, achievements and offer insight on joining the professional industry. First up, Josie Guenther Provisional RGD, winner of the 2020 G&S Award for Editorial Design for Being Good Magazine Spreads.
Josie is a graphic designer based in Gatineau, QC. She received a diploma in graphic design from Red River College in 2020 and also has a BFA in printmaking and textiles from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She currently works at Palliser/EQ3 as a graphic designer focusing on designing social media assets. She is interested in editorial design, branding, and packaging — as well as Seinfeld, the Office Hours podcast and Tony from Survivor.
Were there any unexpected benefits of entering the RGD Student Awards?
After finishing all my courses, applying for the Award gave me a chance to reflect on my assignments. I reviewed my projects in a new light, recognizing that this would be an opportunity for them to possibly be seen by an audience of industry professionals. If I hadn't entered the Awards, I don’t think I would have added the finesse needed to improve my submission. It also made me reflect more intentionally on my design choices, other than just handing the design statement last minute for school. Finally, applying gave me talking points for job interviews, to let them know what I was up to after graduating!
What advice would you have to a student considering or planning to enter the Student Awards in 2021?
Do it! Pick some projects you’re proud of and take the time to really polish your presentation of them. I know it can be hard to revisit assignments you did in school, but it was helpful for me to rework just a couple of projects. It allowed me to learn from these pieces, increasing my appreciation of them. Then you can move on to new things!
What was the most valuable thing you learned in school that helped prepare you for the working world?
Learning the basic elements of design theory gave me a good foundation for working in graphic design. Knowing how to use hierarchy, balance and negative space gave me the confidence to know what works and what doesn’t. I know I have a lot more to learn, but having a good foundation in these areas has been really helpful. Learning about the history of graphic design also contextualizes different existing trends. Studying graphic design history provided a lot of insight that, in many ways, inspires my work now. When I did my internship at Palliser, I frequently used Josef-Muller Brockman's Grid Systems in Graphic Design as a reference. During school I also referenced Joseph Albers colour combinations for inspiration quite a lot as well!
Looking back, what do you wish you had spent more time on while you were in school?
Honestly, I wish I spent less time on coming up with the perfect idea for a project and instead took more time on the actual design and the various aspects that could go into it. A lot of our school projects were fairly open-ended, which was great, but it led me to overthink the first step of coming up with an idea. I put too much pressure on myself to make something relevant and unique. I wish I had given myself more freedom to play and explore. In first year, I made more creative and artistic work since it was less about the concept and more about exploration. I got too rigid and nervous in second year because I wanted a really good portfolio. It’s hard to find a balance between exploration and fun while also trying to determine what’s smart to have in your portfolio.
I think that’s why the Being Good project was one of my favourites. It was from the beginning of second year, before my anxiety about school had kicked in and I became too focused on coming up with the best projects to make my portfolio perfect.
How did you get your current position?
I’m currently working at Palliser Furniture/EQ3 as a junior graphic designer. Before I started graphic design school I wanted to work at EQ3. I liked their design aesthetic and I was interested in furniture and textile design. It was always sort of in the back of my mind when doing school projects, which may have given me a biased “EQ3 look”! I mentioned to my advisor that I was interested in working there and ended up getting placed at Palliser (EQ3's parent company) for my school internship. Luckily, they were hiring shortly after I was out of school.
Can you describe your day-to-day responsibilities?
I’ve mostly been working on the social media design for EQ3. I work really closely with the EQ3 content marketing team and design posts following the EQ3 brand guidelines. These include Instagram posts, stories, Twitter and Facebook posts, pins for Pinterest and almost daily e-blasts. It’s been fun being able to do a diverse range of projects within social, from gifs to videos, to using photography and text, all in a format that’s easy for people to digest. It’s also really amazing to see all the behind the scenes; product design, construction, photoshoot styling, photography, sales, copywriting and graphic design.
What have you found the most challenging since you started working? Have you identified any strategies to address this?
I guess it takes time, but learning about the different areas of the business, such as the difference between a casegood and upholstery item has been a challenge. Also, learning all the names of the different products, and what’s unique about them. My design team is super helpful though! And I feel really comfortable asking any questions, which I’m grateful for.
Show us a project you are working on or recently completed that you are excited about/proud of.
EQ3 uses a variety of materials to make their products. Through Instagram stories, we highlight some of these materials. Here is an example of an Instagram story I designed that describes what terracotta is and what EQ3 products are made from it.