RGD Emeritus Members take a look back at their career journey prior to retirement and share their experiences working in the government. Next up, Ruth Flower-Davies RGD Emeritus.
Ruth's artist mother guided her into art college when she couldn’t see it for herself. She graduated from the Ontario College of Art. The 80s was a volatile economic time in Ontario so she went where the work was which was in Western Canada. Opportunity existed for the inexperienced but willing. She initially worked in retail marketing, then for an architecture firm and finally in government as a member of an internal creative team. Working in government provided a wide spectrum of experiences and also the training she needed to stay relevant to professional standards. Her work varied from safety brochures for fire services, park usage signage, theatre events to black-tie mayor fundraisers. She was lucky enough to acquire the training to move from school taught traditional skills to computers and digital production at work, just when the industry was entering the era of digitalization.
My greatest accomplishment was working in this business for over 30 years — a business where every day I got up wanting to meet the challenge of creating something special. This was despite being told in school that the creative industry was very small and that finding work and being able to earn a living wage would be challenging. I was not what I perceived to be a supernova talent like those that I had met in school and others I met throughout my career. But I travelled to where the work was and I worked hard to be of value and to learn as much as I could as efficiently as I could.
What would you say were the biggest changes to the industry over your career?
During my time, the industry went from traditional pasteup-layout-film to computer-digital formatting. The training I received, and becoming Certified as an RGD, helped me to offer wide-ranging expertise beyond the limits of technology.
It has always been challenging to get recognition for the value of professional design by non-designers. This became more challenging with the streamlining computers provided. Computers gave the 'self-taught in their basement’ the ability to produce printed and digital communications. 'I got it off the internet' (copyright ownership?), ‘It looked good on-screen’ (image resolution in layouts?) — just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. A computer technician can be directed to produce a product that shows the abilities of the program/app. However the computer in the hands of a graphic designer produces something unique that is more than ‘clicks of a mouse’. The client gets something perhaps they didn’t even know they wanted until a designer shows it to them.
What keeps you busy now?
I purposely looked for different ways for creative expression after I retired, while still creating and engaging with people. I like to think of it as 3D design — I started gardening, baking and becoming an extrovert, making many new friendships. For someone who never put her hand up in school to answer questions that she knew the answers to, this is an accomplishment.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far since you’ve been retired?
Say yes instead of no. The familiar is comfortable/safe, but being open can bring unexpected joy and interest.
Is there any advice you could offer to a senior designer considering retirement?
Have a plan. Build towards that plan — your retired life could be a continuation of your career or it could be something completely different. If you retire in your 60s, you may have a second life that is the same length as was your career, which is a long time.