2020/2021 Committee Report
RGD logo with Designers Supporting Designers to the right beside it

Presented by Faron Dawe RGD, VP of Education, Committee Chair at the AGM on April 24, 2021


Pdf of accompanying presentation


As the future of our profession, students are imperative in our efforts to raise professional and ethical standards in our industry and subsequently, increase awareness of RGD and the RGD designation. However, last year we re-visited the mandate to be more inclusive of educators—to create platforms for career development and collaboration. The primary mandate of the Education Committee now is to develop programs and services by which students, educators and practitioners may enhance and/or share their knowledge, skill and effectiveness as graphic designers.

I am happy to report that our Committee has grown in size, with 18 Members. I would like to thank the RGD Members currently serving:

  • Daniela Buitrago Prov. RGD
  • Bianca DiPietro RGD
  • Patrick Foster RGD
  • Wendy Gray RGD
  • Gillian Harvey, Affiliate Member
  • Hyein Lee RGD
  • Tomomi Lo RGD
  • Amelia Nash Prov. RGD
  • Richard Plantt RGD
  • Milena Radzikowska RGD
  • Ania Shichkova Prov. RGD
  • Ryanne Spies RGD
  • Elisabeth Springate, Affiliate Member
  • Diana Varma RGD
  • Michelle Wiebe RGD
  • Valérie Yobé RGD
  • Kristianna Zukowski Student RGD

As well as past members who have contributed during 2019/20: Paul van Dongen RGD
Derrick Oduro Prov. RGD; Joseph Thoong Student RGD and Ashley Tomlinson Prov. RGD

Currently Student Membership is $40 annually. Despite the global pandemic and its effect on post-secondary education, our numbers for Student Members are close to the previous year, currently at 2,212 compared to 2,282 in April 2020. This includes our Automatic Student Membership Program which has the participation of 20 programs across Canada.


In March of 2020, the Design Educators Webinar series was born. The series consists of 5 webinars, formatted as a panel discussion, tackling a topic in the design education space. Over all 5 webinars, we had 219 registrants and 153 attendees. Based on the success of the webinar series, it was decided to host the series again in 2020, with the intention to start in August and continue into December. Thank you to Bianca DiPietro for the initial work involved in executing the series and to Milena Radzikowska, Ryanne Spies and Hyein Lee for their ongoing work on this initiative.


Last fall, the Committee decided to relaunch the Design Educators Conference in a virtual format, with the goal to leverage online content and share ideas from educators across the country. With education now migrating to synchronous delivery, we also decided that recorded sessions, and asynchronous discussions would be flexible with educator’s complex schedules while living through a pandemic. The webinar-based conference had 5 themes: Empower, Embrace, Expand, Engage and Equity. Speakers were selected based on submitted abstracts and were held every 2 weeks from January to April 2021. The Conference included 2 keynote presentations, 12 themed concurrent sessions, as well as discussion sessions hosted on Discord. In total, we had 28 registrants. Thank you to the sub-committee Members Bianca DiPietro, Gillian Harvey and Daniela Buitrago.


The RGD has been organizing an annual Student Awards since 1998 and has distributed $343,000 in cash in recognition of student excellence. The success of this program relies on the many sponsors who contribute the cash prizes and assist with the judging. The 2020 Student Awards received  808 submissions from 400 students attending 41 schools across Canada. The Students’ work was reviewed by 81 judges who identified 27 Student winners with 91 honourable mentions and approx. 125 finalists.


For 2021, RGD will present $15,750 in cash awards to student work in all areas of communication design selected by panels of senior industry professionals. One of this year’s goals for the Student Awards was to develop a program to run as part of the 2021 RGD Student Awards, for student support that celebrates design students from under-represented or marginalized communities rather than only excellence in their work. Education Committee Members worked in conjunction with Members from the Diversity and Inclusion Committee to develop the new Awards. With their efforts, the RGD is proud to launch the new Awards of Special Recognition. Together with our generous sponsors, we will celebrate and recognize the unique journeys and barriers many students face as they develop their design skills. $5,000 has been allocated for this special fund. To date, the Award of Special Recognition has 22 students registered and chosen to be considered for this award (out of a total of 80 entrants).

This year’s Student Awards deadline is May 14 with 21 confirmed sponsors: .design, Context Creative, Design de Plume, Domtar, Entro, 52 Pick-up, Forge Media + Design, Frontier, Gravity Inc, Greenmelon, Haft2, Intent, Nurun, Pivot, Polyester Studio, Premise, q30, Quake, SLD, Works Design, and Zulu Alpha Kilo. Thank you to Committee Member Wendy Gray for her time and effort on this initiative, as well as Fe Wyma RGD from the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and Jay Wall RGD for their help and input.

A goal of the committee was to review and revise different communication strategies for design students, and to share the value of Student Membership within the RGD. A sub-committee was tasked with creating an updated version of the student presentation. This would take all of the information shared during the in-person seminars and place them into a condensed version online. This was the perfect time to work on a project such as this, given that all the student presentations now must be virtual.


Our aim is to reach design students in their element and provide design educators a useful resource to promote and raise awareness of the RGD. The team was able to draft a new transcript and piece together the updated presentation. We had assistance on the voice-over recording from Nicola Hamilton, RGD President. Further support was provided by RGD Staff members Hilary Ashworth and Sissa Morgado. The video presentation is now live on the RGD Vimeo page. Thank you to committee members Richard Plantt, Ania Shichkova and Elisabeth Springate for their hard work.

RGD solicited nominations of educators who had made outstanding contributions to student development and research. Members of RGD's Education Committee reviewed the submissions and selected our 2020 winner: Aidan Rowe. Aidan is an Associate Professor, Design Studies and Coordinator of Art & Design Fundamentals at the University of Alberta.

In late 2020, A sub-committee was tasked to re-visit the program in order to make recommendations to revise the program to make it less academic, to make it more accessible for students, fellow faculty members and/or school personnel to submit nominations. In addition, it was important to adjust the program to avoid submission requirements from the nominee. With assistance from the RGD board, the education committee is currently making the necessary changes to align with the above goals. Thank you to Valérie Yobé and Bianca DiPietro for their contributions to this initiative.

RGD Designathons are 12-hour design challenges where design students and recent grads work in teams on real-life design projects for non-profit organizations with senior designers acting as mentors to each team. At the start of the pandemic, the decision was made to table the event because it was not possible based on the requirement for large teams to gather in-person, in a confined location, to work on projects for 12 hours. Although an in-person event like this is still not feasible, the committee has decided to revisit it as a virtual event. We have had some initial discussions among the committee and in the coming months, will create a sub-committee tasked to review, collaborate and ideally, adapt the event to the virtual space.


Last year, the RGD launched their newest Awards Program, the UltraBold Awards, which celebrates emerging designers who are making an impact on the design community and beyond. This national award is open to Canadian designers 35 years of age and younger or any Provisional RGD Member in good standing and is judged by prominent designers part of the RGD community across Canada.


The first-ever UltraBold Award concluded with a total of 30 applicants, narrowed to 7 finalists, with the winner of the Award announced at our 2020 Virtual DesignThinkers Conference in November. During the winning announcement, Jay Wall stated that he was donating his $500 winnings back to the RGD to support a new set of Awards of Special Recognition as part of the 2021 Student Awards. The award, finalists, and winner were featured in video exposes created with the RGD’s video partner, Storia across RGD channels such as the newsletter, online and via social media.


This year, we’re focusing on where we can improve the UltraBold Awards from marketing and submissions to judging and showcasing. We met with finalists and judges to gather notes and feedback and created a short survey for all applicants. We received very positive remarks with the majority of suggestions to focus on submission form clarity and what is expected in the entirety of the process. From this feedback, we’re improving submission criteria and the entry form, re-evaluating the judging criteria for improved ease of scoring, exploring the idea of hosting an informational webinar as well as a blog post. We are currently creating a document accessible to all interested in the Awards program outlining key parts of the process such as video requirements if they win.


Key decisions from discussions this year are to allow finalists to re-submit after a one-year hiatus, applicants can submit again, and winners are not allowed to re-submit once they’ve won an UltraBold. The plan is that judges will select 5 finalists this year with our goal to double submissions from 30 to 60 for the 2021 UltraBold Award. Currently, our intent is for entries to open May 10, just after the Creative Directions conference, with an entry deadline of July 9.


We appreciate the hard work put forth from committee members Richard Plantt, Amelia Nash and Elisabeth Springate.

In conclusion, It is an honour to be Chair of the Education Committee over the last two years, doing what I could to support, encourage and collaborate with an amazing group of professionals. Considering the challenges of the current education landscape in relation to the global pandemic, the amount of initiatives that were progressed by the committee is quite impressive and I am so grateful to be a part of it.