IDEA falls for Montreal—cultural tour for third year Bachelor of Design students
The official name of the excursion that 26 third-year Capilano University's IDEA School of Design students took in fall 2017 was The Montreal Cultural and Professional Trip. A more accurate title might be “They Left Their Hearts in Montreal”.
An annual cultural tour for third years has long been an IDEA School of Design tradition. For years New York City was THE destination, then San Francisco and Las Vegas had their turns. Montreal and the inaugural World Design Summit scheduled for October 16-20, 2017 was the destination for Fall 2017 and while the Summit under-delivered, Montreal shone in every way.
Montreal is made for walking and awash in public art, interesting architecture, abundant street art, enticing food, a cosmopolitan vibe, stylish dress, and one-of-a kind enterprises, such as Drawn and Quarterly. It was a week of daily discoveries and continuous delight.
Murals from the 5th annual Montreal Mural Festival in June were still fresh, and the Cité Mémoire wall projections invited nighttime exploration as part of the city’s anniversary celebrations for its 375th birthday. Another star attraction was a virtual reality exhibit, “Lucid Realities,” at the Phi Centre in Old Montreal. Like New York, Montreal offers a number of wonderful art galleries, and students had time to explore them on their own, including the contemporary space the Darling Foundry.
The biggest draw, however, proved to be the warm receptions extended by five creative studios (Deux Huit Huit, lg2, Akufen and Sid Lee) and illustrators (Raymond Biesinger, Sophie Casson, Patrick Doyon and Gerard Dubois). They all went out of their way to welcome the students, sharing their work and insight into their techniques, trials, and triumphs of the creative life. Not to mention plentiful treats and beverages.
A few students also sat in on Dawson College’s monthly open life-drawing session. As they did, the IDEA School of Design also began making a new institutional connection with Dawson, whose students share with their IDEA School of Design counterparts a habit of cleaning up in design and illustration competitions – and being highly regarded for their industry-ready skills.
More than a few of the IDEA School of Design students said they were thinking that Montreal would be a great place to start their creative careers. In the tours, they had learned that agencies would and do hire anglophone interns/juniors and that the language barrier would be fairly low on the list of considerations. And multiple student illustrators had drawn inspiration from the Montreal-based illustrators who had shared their stories of how they made the city their home base while working with clients around the world.
All in all, it was an eye-opening, confidence-building, and memory-making encounter with an older part of the country that offered a window on new cultural and career possibilities.
Almost all the students said that they would be back, presumably to reclaim their hearts and rekindle their romance with Montreal.
The studio visits really helped me build an understanding and a picture of what my future could look like after the program and what the realities of being an illustrator are like.
Creative agencies can range from 5 people to 500 people. They will look for good portfolios but more often they would look for creatives who would be a good match personality-wise.
I made it to some interesting talks about accessibility. The stand out being a case study on designing sex toys for people with disabilities. My main take away was that no matter how much we think we are aware or being considerate and thinking about everyone, there is always going to be more to learn and things that we would never think of on our own. So trying to remember to be open to being told you're wrong or that there is something you missed, and to even go looking for that. Also made me realize how crazily inaccessible Montreal was! I didn't see ONE person in a wheelchair the whole week.
I learned that taking breaks from work is super important and I burn myself out if I only focus on school. Because of this vacation, I found that I was looking forward to coming back, I was inspired and now that I am back, I feel much more focused and dedicated to my projects than I was when I left.
Digital and traditional tools don't need to be exclusively separate. There's no "right" way—how they are used (together or not) is entirely dependent on what works best for you.
It is entirely realistic to be a freelance illustrator and work from a home studio, raise a family and still make a living while producing good work.
When freelancing, thoroughly organize the business side of things and intentionally separate your work life from your home life.
I learnt that I think I would like to try to work in both a small scale design firm and a large scale design firm over the course of my career as, based on our studio tours, there are definite upsides and downsides to both. The studio tours gave me a really good sense of what to expect and what’s expected of me, which was amazing.
All studios care a lot about the wellness of creatives: At lg2 there’s a napping area and English classes for those who want to up their game. Sid Lee provides unlimited food and a huge space for display art and mural art from local artists.
That there are so many different kinds of studios you can work at and all have bonuses and negatives. The sort of things studios look in a prospective employee/intern. That I don't have to pick a certain discipline within graphic design and that post school my career can change between interactive, branding, etc.
The tours opened up my eyes and heart to what I can see myself pursuing in the future. I would absolutely love to do an internship at one of the studios we visited next summer. Montreal is my second favorite city to Vancouver and I can definitely see myself living there in the future!
Be comfortable with the business/ administrative side of your work. Organize, organize, organize and archive everything. Embrace/ showcase your personality. People value your particular way of seeing things. Take the time to learn new things. The things you see and experience will in turn nourish your illustrations.
Be different. At one tour of an illustrator's studio, he told us how he sent out postcards to old employers and potential employers. This was his hook, this is how he got people to look and say "oh, that's different." Instead of spamming someone with the same type of portfolio over and over again, do differently.
It was interesting listening to the speakers at the World Design Summit talk about architecture, urban design, and nature vs. technology. Subjects I might not have actively explored on my own. There was one commonality that I noticed which was that each discipline utilized strategies of design thinking. Since we have been studying design thinking with Jackie this term, I found it inspiring that design thinking methods are so widely used.
As a designer, I need to remember to look outside the graphic design world and seek out connections across subjects and disciplines. During the conference, I went to very few talks that were specifically about graphic design, most focused on architecture, accessibility, usability, sustainability, industrial design, landscape architecture and urban planning. Despite this every talk I went to was interesting and touched on something relevant to my education and projects.
Art can be all around us. This sounds trite, but living in Vancouver, where our landscape is beautiful but our constructs are largely utilitarian, I think it's easy to forget.
Keeping clients is easier than getting new ones so keep in touch! (Raymond Biesinger)
The murals. I can't stop thinking about how artsy and old-style Montreal is, and it's so nice to see murals everywhere I walk. All these murals are making me think more about our public and creative spaces in Vancouver and I love how Montreal tries to utilize their alleyways and streets to make everything more vibrant and colourful. I hope to learn more in making good use of public spaces to make them more interactive for people in the future.
The second takeaway I had from my experience in Montreal was the way technology is allowing designers to tell stories in innovative ways. For instance the best of the virtual reality scenarios at the exhibit were the ones that utilized the medium to tell a story in a unique fashion.