Volunteer of the Month for September

The RGD thanks Catherine Charbonneau RGD, Michelle Hopgood RGD and Alana McFarlane RGD for their contributions to the RGD community.


"The super trio! Alana, Catherine and Michelle have done a fantastic job at developing the Certification Sprint and making the RGD Certification process more approachable for aspiring candidates. They are a dream to work with; goal oriented, always ready to take initiative and never out of great ideas to help in achieving the Committee's goals. We are very grateful and proud to have Members like them on our Committee." — Victor Szeto RGD, RGD Treasurer & Chair, Certification Committee


How long have you been volunteering with the RGD and in what capacity?

Catherine: Since I joined the RGD in winter 2021, I realized that the strength of the Association is the commitment of its Members to share knowledge and support with the community. I joined the Certification Committee in January 2022 and worked on the Certification Sprint with Michelle and Alana and advocated for a French version of the RGD Certification process. I also participated in a few portfolio reviews and most recently, as a Student Awards judge.


Michelle: Since 2014, almost 10 years, I've been participating as an in-person and webinar panelist moderator, Accessibility Advisory Board Committee Member, Student Awards and In-House Design Awards judge, Designthinkers speaker and Certification Committee Member.


Alana: I was invited to join the RGD Certification Committee shortly after becoming a Certified RGD in October 2021. It was long-time goal to join the RGD and I saw serving on the Committee as a way to support other designers on this path.


What contribution are you most proud of?

Catherine: I am really proud of helping designers to get their RGD Certification through the Certification Sprint.The process of getting Certified can be daunting. Being part of a study group helps to refresh the knowledge you already have, in a fun and stimulating way. Furthermore, I am happy with the progress of the French Certification application. Language should not inhibit creators to present work in their best light.


Michelle: It is so hard to choose just one! The experience that stands out the most is being a DesignThinkers speaker because I always thought I'd be too scared to do it. I am most proud of the contributions I've been making over the past couple of years with the Certification Committee, especially the development of the Certification Sprint for which I had the best team!
Alana: The Certification Sprint is something that I am most proud. We want to help designers move through the process knowing they have what it takes to do this. I remember my own doubts and how much easier it would have been if I’d had a group to study with and learn from. Stronger together. I’m proud of how the sprint has turned out and excited to see it piloted with the first group.


What is the most surprising/unexpected thing to come out of volunteering with the RGD?

Catherine: I never expected to create a weekend-long event when I joined the Committee. I realized that there is a lot of qualified designers that are postponing their Certification because they struggle to take the time. This is why the Certification Committee is working hard on tools and support programs to smooth the process.

Michelle: I think the most surprising thing is how it has added to my confidence. I feel like I belong to the RGD community and its support helps us all combat our imposter syndrome. 
Alana: Volunteering can sometimes be hard when the pressures of work and life come up. What I learned in volunteering with the RGD is that it doesn’t have to look perfect. I’m in a job now on the west coast that makes early morning meetings tough to make. That’s ok. The RGD and my sprint team have been generous to work around it. 


What have you learned about the industry since volunteering for the RGD?

Catherine: The design industry is in constant flux. It has only been 10 years since I finished my degree, but I know design education looks completely different today. The much-needed shift in societal values is pushing design to evolve towards wonderful frontiers of diversity and accessibility. I am so glad to be part of the industry at this time.


Michelle: I've learned about all the amazing specialities that people have across the design industry and that your career path doesn't have to be "traditional".
Alana: Designers often get lumped into one bunch — creative, collaborative, passionate. Sometime difficult. Since volunteering with the RGD, I’m reminded that we are so much more, even if we’ve had similar jobs and training. It’s easy to forget that when school is many years past. It’s had me look at myself more closely and acknowledge where I’ve come from and what I bring.

Based on your experience volunteering with the RGD, how would you describe the role of the organization in the industry?

Catherine: Being a designer in this day and age can be pretty tough on your self esteem. With over abundance of content and resources, it can get a bit overwhelming. The RGD helps to get you grounded. Having a community that can support your work and help you grow your craft is essential.

Michelle:  I feel that the RGD brings us together as a community, especially for those of us who are solopreneurs or freelancers. We can stay connected, learn and meet designers across the country. As well, RGD helps to elevate graphic design and designers by giving us the platform to show prospective clients that there is a standard of work quality and professionalism within the industry. 
Alana: We need the RGD to keep the profession moving ahead. It’s the place to learn, hear what other designers are doing and be part of a community. Design can be a solo practice much of the time. The RGD is like a home to come back to and refind the love of the work.

What have you gained from being an RGD volunteer and why would you recommend it to other members who might be thinking of getting involved?

Catherine: Volunteering is a never-ending opportunity to discover and learn about yourself. It is not just about helping others. You receive as much as you give. Volunteering is a wonderful and unique learning opportunity.

Michelle: The RGD has always supported me in my career. Therefore, through volunteering I feel that I can really give back and thank them for their assistance while hopefully making it a little easier for the next generation of designers with disabilities.
Alana: It’s hard to sum up what I’ve gained from being an RGD volunteer. I’ve found things that were unexpected and that’s probably the best part. 

Do you have thoughts on what you might like to do as a volunteer with the RGD in the future?

Catherine: I wish to work more on French content for the francophone designers. I would love for all the tools and resources the RGD offers to reach the francophone designers as they help us become better designers and entrepreneurs. 


Michelle: I do not have any thoughts on what I might like to do next. We shall see what is asked and I'll go where I'm most needed.
Alana: I’d like to keep volunteering on design side of things. I never saw myself as a teacher, so this is something new and kind of exciting.