Post Graduation Check-In with 2020 Student Award-winner Hillary Chen Provisional RGD

Student Award-winners ponder their educational experience, achievements and offer insight on joining the professional industry. Up next, Hillary Chen Provisional RGD, winner of the 2020 Polyester Award for Motion Design for Our Solar System.


Hillary is a graphic designer and illustrator born and raised in Vancouver, BC, currently living in Toronto. She graduated from the York Sheridan Design Program (YSDN) in 2020 and is currently freelancing for Regimen, Hypercare, Daybreak and Friendly Studio. Her aim is to design, draw and animate to make people smile. Lately, she has been working on telling stories through comics and animations. She loves the intricacies of illustrating pop-up books and presenting data in unique and fun ways. In her spare time, she loves exploring/sketching in nature and bothering her younger brother. 
Were there any unexpected benefits for you entering the RGD Student Awards?
One benefit that I was pleasantly surprised with was the great insight and critique that came from the judges regarding my entries. Having other experienced designers take a look at the work with their perspectives gave me the opportunity to see my own work in new ways. It helped me formulate and ideate on how to improve the submitted projects as well as plan for future ones.

Our Solar System, 2020 Polyester Award for Motion Design Winner

What advice would you have for a student considering or planning to enter the Student Awards in 2021?
I would say that taking a bit of extra care in the project write-ups is super worthwhile. The write-ups can be used on your website portfolio and force you to think about how you want to position your work in interviews as well. Aesthetic is a large part of the work but it is also about the process, thought and care that you put into your work. These should be emphasized through your write-ups.
One last thing, try not to do it the night before.
What was the most valuable thing you learned in school that helped prepare you for the working world?
The most valuable thing was learning how to give and take critique from professors and peers. What I loved about school is that we were always in an environment where we could learn from each other. Learning how to take suggestions or when to stand by your decision is an important part of the process. Considering the different viewpoints of others helped me widen my perspective.
Looking back, what do you wish you had spent more time on while you were in school?
I wish that I spent more time preparing for presentations and learning how to pitch. In school I would worry much more about how my slides looked compared to what I would actually say. Being articulate, confident and cohesive when presenting your work is an essential part of the workplace. The ability to explain the design choices you’ve made and to back up critical decisions with logic really helps your coworkers understand your thought process. How the slides look is as important as what you say about them though!
How did you get your current position?
Currently, I am a full-time freelancer as a graphic designer and illustrator. Post-graduation, I wanted to try a variety of positions and types of work to get a feel for what I enjoy. As a freelancer I work on product illustration, animation, marketing, packaging, etc. Clients have come through referrals and from people who have found my work through my portfolio. I have also been contacted by people who saw my profile through the RGD Student Awards.
Can you describe your day-to-day responsibilities? 
Since I am working freelance with multiple places it is extremely important to stay organized. I usually start my day by making a list of tasks based on priority and meetings that I need to attend that day. This helps me keep on top of things and that I don’t forget anything! Day-to-day tasks vary depending on the day but generally I work on Regimen social media posts, Hypercare marketing assets and illustrations for the design agencies. It has been a really interesting experience learning how different teams communicate and stay organized. I’ve also learnt about how different people work through the design process.
What have you found the most challenging since you started working?
The most challenging thing has been finding ways to maintain a good work life balance during quarantine. With freelance I did not have to set strict hours and I found that I was often working long hours and finding it difficult to make clear distinctions between time that I should be relaxing and working. Since I was so tired I was not able to focus fully and was getting burnt out.
Strategies I found really helpful are to give myself a schedule and to work within it. This meant forcing myself to not touch work after 7PM, muting my phone and emails. I would write out everything I would need to do in the day so that I felt organized and not overwhelmed. This helped me accomplish everything I needed to do and prevent burnout and live a healthier lifestyle.
Show us a project you are working on or recently completed that you are excited about/proud of.
Recently made some illustrations and animations for the launch site of an app called CLYX. Loved designing how they would enter the screen and making sure they embodied their characteristics!
Read: Post Graduation Check-In with 2020 Student Award-winner with Josie Guenther Prov. RGD, Samantha Mok Prov. RGD, Anushka Todi Prov. RGD.
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