How a simple request from a client quickly became an exciting experience

As a fairly new employee of Phil, I am learning more in graphic design everyday, particularly from our art director. I had basic knowledge in the field before coming here, though I did go to college to learn the trade. In my three years there, I focused some of my efforts in illustration, my second passion, and with the help of other likeminded students, established a drawing club. Creating the club and it’s weekly events made me learn a few things such as : how to manage the board members, when I became the president the following year. The whole endeavour was also greatly facilitated with the mentoring of our drawing teacher.

Recently, a client of ours, who is a teacher at McGill University, heard of a new student venture in creating a McGill design group. Not having any design resources at the university at the time, this teacher reached out to Phil. The students needed a mentor and I instantly saw this as something very similar to what I had done a few years prior, but with a role reversal. As much as it interested me, I also doubted my limited knowledge in design. Shouldn’t a mentor be someone with decades of experience, like my own former mentor? Thinking maybe it might focus a little more on the group or club running and delegation, something I did learn during my time with the drawing club, I did agree to contact the ambitious student who started it all, Sean Regiano.

We met that weekend at a coffee shop. Sean was full of life and passion, and even if he wasn’t sure about anything or how to go about his project, his enthusiasm and interest for graphic design was apparent. We talked about some management aspects in running such a group, but with no idea what the legalities of clubs at McGill, or how a student-oriented business helping the community, could be set up. Then subject quickly changed to design. He wanted to know anything and everything about it, how and what to teach and who he could contact to get people to come in and talk or teach. With the very first session being the next Monday (and with little resources at this point) I volunteered to give an introductory course on design. We parted ways after a few hours of discussion about planning, design and everything in between.

After this meeting, I felt that even if my graphic design knowledge was not as vast as many of my peers, I still had enough to teach these students the fundamentals. I thus prepared a presentation that sunday, reviewing and explaining design principles and rules. Even before the challenge of content and giving a presentation, I challenged myself in learning a new tool: Prezi. That monday evening, I met a dozen of eager students, who listened and participated in my first presentation. With the group exercises, I saw that this group already had interesting potential, and that their passion was just as evident as their organizer’s, Sean. I really started to see a bit of myself, when I first started learning design, in these students. I understood that as long as I give them honest and real information on the subject, they would gladly learn, and feedback would be free flowing. I also realized, at the same time, that I did know design much better then I gave myself credit for.

The following weeks, I kept attending their sessions, which had other guest speakers or simple practical lessons, and I gave my feedback and expertise to the curious and fast learning students. It was refreshing to see what newer generations thought of design but also to take a step back from the rules I had been taught and explore design ideas boundlessly again.

During this time, the group came into its own, defining their mission and values, and already helping their student community with free logos and poster designs. Many potential small social business opportunities were also lining up for them. This is one of Sean’s original ideas that he absolutely wanted to implement from the beginning. He felt that good design was not always accessible to small local businesses and that by providing help while learning would create mutual benefits for both sides. Giving back to the community and helping on a social level was something that I felt very strongly about, and I supported him in following that direction. I later went on to do another session on design methodologies, which helped them greatly in defining their look and logo, and many of their other client projects.

As the structure of the core members formed and got more in the groove of things, I was often consulted by Sean on how to manage certain situations or to solve problems. This is where I learned that you can guide someone as best as you can, but ultimately they make the final decision. This was not my baby, this was Sean’s, and he was the one guiding it.

Now, they are taking a break for the summer session, and with what they’ve learned so far, they are ready to come back full force in the Fall. As for me, I am ready to keep assisting them in their efforts to help local individuals and businesses with design needs. Helping to help others.

Written by Myriam Demers-Olivier, Graphic Designer