Post Graduation Check-In with 2020 Student Award Winner Samantha Mok Provisional RGD

Student Award Winners share their educational experience, achievements and offer insight on joining the professional industry. In this installment: Samantha Mok Provisional RGD, winner of the 2020 q30 design Award for Brand Design for In Dogs We Trust Branding.  


Samantha is a visual content creator based in Toronto. A 2020 graduate of Centennial College’s Graphic Design Program, Samantha also has both a B.A. and B.Ed from the University of Toronto and has been freelancing in the design world since 2016, working with companies such as H&M. She currently runs a small-batch dog treat company called “IDWT", inspired by her dog Walter — whom she loves very much.
Were there any unexpected benefits for you entering the RGD Student  Awards
The funny thing, I almost didn’t submit anything because I was only about halfway done with my thesis project and didn’t feel confident enough for it to be submitted to the RGD Student Awards. I had a handful of unfinished submission forms with other work, but didn’t really make a decision about submitting until a few hours before the deadline! In that regard, I’d say the biggest unexpected benefit was that entering gave me some clarity and direction about where my thesis project was going, what needed to be finished and how I was ultimately going to present it.  
What advice would you have for a student considering or planning to enter the Student Awards in 2021? 
It’s advice everyone knows, yet never really follows – START EARLY, and write drafts! The process will sometimes feel overwhelming, especially if you’re still in school and have a million other responsibilities to see to, but the nice thing about the submission forms is that you can start them but then put them on pause and come back as often as you need to. I can’t even begin to tell you how many revisions I ended up making to mine! 
Also, do as many submissions as you’re allowed to! Even if you don’t win, it’s a great opportunity for feedback from industry professionals that you don’t often get outside of school. 
What was the most valuable thing you learned in school that helped prepare you for the working world? 
This is a question I see often and I could talk about for hours! There’s a very long story to this, but the short version is that I had a brief career as a teacher before landing in graphic design. The  most valuable thing I’ve learned from being both in ‘school’ and ‘the working world’ simultaneously is that everything is an opportunity to try your best and good grades are nice, but not the most important thing in the world. Failure is a great teacher if you’re willing to learn from it and people will take notice of the risks, growth and successes that you’ve shown in your work, more than your GPA. 
Looking back, what do you wish you had spent more time on while you were in school? 
This doesn't exactly answer this question, but I actually wish I had made the  decision to go to school for design earlier! When I enrolled in 2017, I really struggled with the idea of going “back to school again” in my late 20s, considering I already had a relatively safe career direction (albeit one that I wasn’t really happy with or excited about). In retrospect, I should have spent less time debating and just gone for it right away, since I’ve always been passionate about design. Although now that I think about it, going back as a “mature” student did give me a lot of clarity and direction that I don’t think I would have had when I was younger – so at the end of the day, it is what is! 
How did you get your current position? 
In my final semester, I had an internship and a few job opportunities waiting for me after graduation and then — as you might be able to guess — the pandemic hit and all those opportunities were put on an indefinite pause. I ended up filling my time by doing freelance graphic design and photography for local businesses. Incidentally, the combination of freelancing and winning an RGD Award for “In Dogs We Trust” made me think. Why not just start my own business? So that’s what I did! I launched ‘IDWT’ (a small  batch gourmet dog treats and deserts company based) in August of last year and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.  
Can you describe your day-to-day responsibilities? 
IDWT is more or less a one-woman show. I handle every aspect of the business. That means I’m the one doing the designs and content for the site, social profiles and packaging, but I’m also the one doing the accounting, order processing, customer service, etc. And most importantly, I create all the recipes and make everything by hand in my home kitchen (that’s also the fun part!).
I should mention that as hectic as things can be running your own business, I get to make my own schedule – meaning I’m still able to do freelance work as a designer and content creator. Having this balance is important to me because it lets me treat IDWT as a passion project rather than a financial obligation and also gives me other opportunities to continue growing as a content creator. 
What have you found the most challenging since you started working? Have you identified any strategies to address this? 
Honestly, as much fun as I’m having with my current situation, part of me does really miss being part of a structured work environment. Freelancing is great, but anyone who does it will tell you it has a fair share of pros AND cons — I often joke about how much I miss having dental benefits. Truthfully, sometimes too much ‘freedom’ can be daunting. In order to stay productive, I try to give myself a lot of structure in the form of to-do lists, agendas and planning — i.e. what needs to get done today, this week and this month. Having everything laid out in front of me also helps me set  boundaries and reasonable expectations for both clients and myself in terms of what I’m able to get done without feeling overwhelmed or burned out. 
Show us a project you are working on or recently completed that you are  excited about/proud of. 
Obviously, I’m going to have to take this as an opportunity to plug IDWT, which has grown quite a bit compared to what I submitted to the RGD Awards! Since the launch in August, we’ve done three pop-up menus and developed over 30 varieties of treats, including dog ice cream, ‘pupsicles’ and biscuits. It’s been super fun coming up with the recipes and designs for each of them, but it’s been even more rewarding being able to connect with a bunch of cool people (and their pups) through the business. So far, we’ve conducted all our business via our Instagram and online store, but I’m hoping that we’ll be able to do a few physical pop-up shops this summer, pandemic permitting!