Joelle Lawrence’s practicum journey at Will Creative in the DTES of Vancouver’s Strathcona
by Joelle Lawrence (IDEA19)
practicum week 1: (will)kommen.
Hello! Welcome to my practicum journey at Will!
1 week down, dang it kinda went fast! I spent a considerable amount of the week just trying to create a mental seating chart in my head. Lots of new faces and names! Hopefully I’m matching them correctly.
I’ve only had a little taste so far, but Will seems like a really amazing place to work (and I’m sure the coming weeks will prove that to be true). Tucked away in the DTES of Strathcona, surrounded by many other offices and firms, Will is a mid-sized creative studio who focus on branding, but do a bit of everything.
My first day I was taken through the basic workings of the office thanks to the lovely Samee. She informed me on meetings, calendar scheduling, and server etiquette–but most importantly how to use the nespresso machine! Jenn (an IDEA grad) also took me through presentation decks and the creative process at Will.
Since then, I’ve worked on creating a brand audit presentation for a university and a feature sheet for a new condo near Metrotown. Both things I felt pretty comfortable tackling on my own with senior creative guidance.
The brand audit is proving to be a good refresher of the many components that make up a brand. Plus it’s showing me a good example of how a brand stays relevant and grows with the future. If you want something to last, you can’t just brand something once and call it a day. Just like a person, the core remains the same but brands change and evolve.
As for the feature sheet, last summer during my internship at Hangar 18, I did a few feature sheets so this was a nice, familiar face to me. It’s currently on hold, which has reminded me once again the nature of the creative agency process. Lots of back and forth and getting red lights, yellow lights, and green lights from the client and accounts team.
I really enjoyed the general atmosphere of Will the most. It’s a very open space, with lots of conversation and laughter (specifically from Allison). The group is very close and transparent with each other, and there’s no room for internal drama at all. Both Nick and Ute are wonderfully funny and obviously caring and supporting of their employees. And there are two furry friends, as well, Pickles and Ben! (Ben pictured below)
There’s a constant stream of music chosen by everyone, but no obligation to listen as it’s totally okay to put headphones on or work in one of the meeting rooms if it’s free. Personally I think it’s good mix of heads down, focused working, and open lively collaboration.
At 2:30pm (almost) everyday, anyone who wants to does a round of squats. There are also fun events planned like birthdays and festive holidays, plus Will Show + Share, which is an opportunity for everyone to come together and share something that you’ve been working on. It can be a sketch, a working file, a brand strategy, a personal project, whatever.
Overall it’s a relaxed but still professional and respectful atmosphere. The fun here seems just as important as the work, and I can definitely see myself in the future at a place with a similar size and environment.
The thing I enjoyed the least was probably just waiting on other people and trying to find other things to do during the meantime. Often times there can be unexpected lulls despite how much you can plan for that, and that’s normal. I can see how these’ll be good teachable moments: learning to be adaptable and maximizing your time, being proactive, etc.
I’ve really enjoyed my first week here at Will and I’m excited to feel more and more like a part of the team!
Leaving you with the most important task of this whole week:
practicum week 2: sweets.
Week two at Will consisted of cake, donuts, and a picking up of the pace.
This week I continued to work on the brand audit, and got to have an internal meeting with creative directors, Nick and Lisa, to see how the audit has been progressing so far. That was good practice in presenting and learning how much information to go over depending on your audience. IDEA grad, Briony, shared with me that that’s a skill that she’s had to learn and refine over the years as some people like to hear about all the details and others are focused on hearing about the big picture, which is interesting and something I’d never thought of before.
The feature sheet is still on hold but I was briefed on varying other projects instead. I worked on creating some website icons for a custom cabinet company and an accessible promotional e-book for a health organization.
For the latter I had to do quite a bit of research into creating accessible documents in programs like InDesign and Acrobat. It was an interesting design challenge for me as I’ve never even heard of accessible online content before. In case you’re lost (as I was), to quote Adobe: ‘A document or application is considered accessible if meets certain technical criteria and can be used by people with disabilities. This includes access by people who are mobility impaired, blind, low vision, deaf, hard of hearing, or who have cognitive impairments’. (If you’d like to learn how to make content accessible using almost any Adobe application, here’s a link to more info.)
Other than those projects, I’ve also been tasked with some internal ones as well. Including one that entails auditing and consolidating the studios creative deck presentation system. Which sounds painful, but I’m excited for it because despite what the state of my room may tell you, I’m all for organization.
I did find myself experiencing moments of feeling mentally all over the place towards the end of this week as the workload piled on, but I think I did a good job of communicating with those around me and prioritizing my tasks/projects. I got most things done by the end of the week, but I’m sure that going forward, that’s something that I’ll get more practice in, and even better at.
Aside from work, we were also treated to some donuts from a client (yay!). And if that wasn’t enough sugar, there were also a considerable amount of birthdays here at Will. Lauren, Paul, Conor, Ute and Nick all had/have birthdays in March, so to celebrate we had cake and went for lunch at Strathcona Brewing Company. I say cake, but obviously in Will fashion, it was a bit more than just cake. See the pics below!
All in all, another sweet (no pun intended) week at Will.
Thanks for reading!
practicum week 3: potatoes.
Week three done and gone!
Early this week, the audit portion of the university client project wrapped up. I had an internal meeting on Monday, and then made some final edits and changes before the client meeting on Tuesday afternoon. It was a phone meeting so perhaps not as exciting as a live one, but it was still very valuable to witness. It was good to see the flip side of presenting for someone over the phone, as it’s obviously harder to gauge someone’s reaction and even sometimes get your point across because you can’t rely on visual cues when you’re taking turns speaking.
Because of those things, I learnt that it’s valuable to be extra clear and concise with what you’re saying, and check in with the client to make sure they’re following along.
It’s also valuable to be able to adapt and remain professional because shit happens! In this case, a different client scheduled for a meeting starting an hour later, dialed in an hour early and was accidentally in our meeting. Oops!
(I got to sit in on that meeting too, which was great. Nick and Lauren were presenting some naming options for a tax business, which we brainstormed on the previous week.)
I made some steady progress on my internal projects, but since they’re internal, they aren’t top priority. Despite me wanting to work on them, it’s been a good lesson in being able to prioritize.
My new main focus is an iconography and template project for BCLC. I’m working alongside David, who’s a knowledgable and accomplished creative director and designer, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to work with him. Samee, the operations manager, has been doing a really great job of making sure I work with as many people and on as many different things as possible. AND still making sure I’m supported with my workload.
In the realm of fun, we were all rewarded at the end of the week with a lovely St. Patrick’s Day party. There were potatoes, scratch tickets and trivia! I also helped cut out masks of Conor’s face (the only Irishman at the office), which he totally loved, I’m sure. Haha! It was a nice way to send Nick and Ute off (they’re going to Africa for three weeks!).
Thanks for reading, see you next week!
practicum week 4: midway??
How am I already half way through my practicum?? Time must fly when you’re finessing pixels and having fun.
The beginning of this week, I was still very much focused on the iconography and template work for BCLC. The project was a nice mix of playful fun (icons) and subdued realism (PowerPoint templates, letterheads, etc). We had an internal meeting on Wednesday and presented to the client (via phone call) on Thursday. They seemed really happy with the results, so that was great! Now, just waiting on the feedback and revisions.
After the BCLC work was out of the way, I was briefed on creating some graphic devices for a university rebrand. I spent most of Thursday and Friday working on this. I surprised myself because with every illustrative project I’ve worked on so far, including this one, I’ve managed to adapt to the styles already in place which is something that I didn’t think I was very good at. Especially because in school you’re often doing work that has been creatively directed and designed by you, and therefore probably has similar styles and attributes. So I’m pretty proud that I’ve been able to adapt and diversify my work and vary my style, so far.
I also had my first weekly check-in (sorry Judy!) this week with Briony. It was a really great experience for me, as I had the opportunity to clearly state things that I wanted to work on more, or things that I wanted to learn more about/get out of the practicum experience. And I also got a sense of how they think I’m doing so far.
Since that check-in, Briony’s already thought of some interesting projects based on my feedback, and I feel much more at ease and confident base on hers. (Yay!) I am most definitely my harshest critique, so it’s good to know that what I’m doing is indeed meeting (and sometimes, exceeding) expectations.
Another thing that was initiated from my check-in, was a meeting on Friday with Jenn where she took me through the process of one of Will’s bigger projects to date: the rebrand of Stanley Park Brewing. It was really eye-opening and helpful to see all the things that were considered and ideas that went into the project. It was a really huge one and lasted from August 2016 to May 2017, so there was lots to show me.
I wrote a lot of notes to myself but my biggest takeaway was that despite it being a seemingly daunting project because of it’s size, it’s important to remember that it’s all being taken one step at a time, and that there’s a process and structure in place, you just have to trust it and follow it. You’ll always have support from your creative director and fellow designers, and the accounts team has got your back with handling the timelines, schedules, organization and feedback. Of course it’s on you to meet your own deadlines and do the best you can do, AND there is an added pressure because it is still a business and money’s involved, but you’re not on your own. It’s scary, but comforting.
Lastly, this week ended with another treat: the Will Show + Share! As I said in a previous post, this is where everyone meets and is invited to share anything that they’re working on. Because not everyone is assigned to every project, some things are missed by others in the office, so it’s a good opportunity to support/congratulate each other and feel good about all the great things happening at Will. There was a lot of yelling over each other and cracking one-liners, and I loved it. I also got my quote of the week during the show and share:
It’s not a rebrand if there’s no USB!
Till next week!