On November 17, 2010, ten outstanding graduates from Business, Arts & Design were inducted into the inaugural Alumni Wall of Fame. The inductees represent alumni who have excelled in their professional careers, have been actively involved in the community, and have been advisors and mentors to the students.
Giving Back: An interview with Paul Rowan, Co-Founder of Umbra, and George Brown Alumnus.
Alumnus Kristina Camara
Graphic Design - G102,
When it came time to decide whether or not to accept the job offer, Kristina Camara had what all job candidates would want: a choice. With job offers from multiple employers, Camara, then a fresh graduate of the Graphic Design program in George Brown’s School of Design, chose the offer that came with the most responsibility. She chose the best option to do what she had been trained for.
“I wouldn’t have had the confidence to take the job without my education and experience from my program at George Brown,” says Camara. “I really had to hit the ground running.”
As a Marketing Design and Project Coordinator for David C. Cook Distribution Canada, one of Canada’s largest publishing distributors, she is the point person for the marketing team when it comes to graphic design, whether it’s creating sales and marketing presentations for a new book or a whole line of books. “I’m responsible for taking the marketing strategy and bringing it to life through graphic design, which includes being a part of the thinking process as well as executing the design and production.”
Camara’s well thought out career choices began in high school.
“I took co-op in grade 11 but it was in teaching visual arts,” says Camara, who comes from a family of musicians, painters and visual artists. “But it wasn’t the career for me.” She did, however, enjoy a communications class and was told to consider graphic design, so decided to look into that.
“I researched three year programs and found George Brown’s to be the most unique because it allows people to graduate with a specific focus in an area of design, rather than just a generic one. The way the program is designed gives you the chance to discover yourself first, before choosing a specialization.”
The program’s strong connection with industry, including fulfilling the educational requirement for professional certification from the Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD), was also an important consideration for Camara. She entered and won an award in the RGD Student Awards competition in her final year.
“By third year I could design, but also knew why I was designing. Many of the instructors were also professionals in the field, so they really helped us understand how to apply what we were doing in the real world.” Just as important, however, was the supportive learning environment the instructors created. “My program was a good, close knit group of people and we had lots of opportunities to collaborate on projects. All the professors genuinely care about your portfolio and push you to do well.”
In her current job role, Camara has gone from printing one project for grading, to communicating with printers and suppliers to printing thousands of publications. Not all students initially choose design expecting a future job with such expansive responsibilities, but Camara credits George Brown with giving her the chance to make an informed decision.
“You have to make a choice about what you’re interested in at some point in your life, so better to do that in school than later when you’re in a job.”
Alumnus Kai Exos
In true Creative Director fashion, Kai Exos wants to know what the focus of this article is. As the Chief Creative Officer of an integrated ad agency, he is familiar with asking such strategic questions to define a message, a brand or a campaign. In this case, the focus is George Brown’s postgraduate Design Management program and the role it has played in his success. “The School of Design opened the door, and advertising has led me to everything else,” he says.
'Having recently co-founded SPOKE Agency, that employs 15 “provocateurs” to craft campaigns for Alliance Films and branded content for the likes of Disney and Nespresso, the 27-year-old rock/soul singer-songwriter has also just released his third studio album and is rehearsing for his first national tour. His creative interests extend to writing prose, playing piano and cooking for friends, to name just a few.
For Kai, advertising has always been a way to align his artistic and intellectual impulses toward the pursuit of a living wage, something he started doing at a young age. Growing up in Miami, he was labelled “gifted.” To curb his classroom boredom, he turned to music and tennis. At 16, he began singing in South Beach nightclubs and studied Fine Arts by day in university. To support himself and his music, he started his first advertising agency which, at its peak, employed nine people. The company produced interactive online ads for companies like Virgin Records and Landrover.
Returning to his birthplace of Toronto at the age of 20, he worked in corporate management consulting to gather Canadian credentials while studying at George Brown. The two-semester Design Management program appealed to him because it offered a desired focus on project management and integrative thinking. He was also drawn to the fact that professors and guest mentors were business leaders who understood strategic design from years of lived experience.
With only four students in the 2005 program, he enjoyed an individualized learning experience, and got to study under the tutelage of people like Jim Hynes who he describes as a “legend” in the Canadian advertising landscape.
One memorable class project had students deconstruct the re-launch of the second generation iPod in order to understand how that campaign fit into Apple’s overarching brand personality. “Through projects like that, my professors enabled me to think about the intersection between business and design alongside integrated thinking. That has provided the momentum for my career rebirth,” he says.
Following graduation, Kai went on to work for several global advertising agencies as an Art Director and Copywriter before starting SPOKE with a trusted business partner in November of 2009.
Now a member of the Program Advisory Committee, Kai provides the college with feedback on how to continue to make the curriculum relevant in today’s ever-shifting business landscape. He has also hired graduates of the program and is a true proponent of its value, adding, “To collaborate alongside incredibly talented people who believe in what they’re doing every day is more than I could’ve ever asked for.”
“Everyone can apply business management to their work in order to excel,” he says. “There is something for every creative person in the Design Management program.”
Call it a strategic move.
Alumnus Paul Fleming
Graphic Design - G102
Since graduating from George Brown's Graphic Design program in 1994, Paul Fleming has witnessed major changes in the industry, particularly in how design has affected the explosive growth and development of new media.
" When I was at George Brown, the Internet as a commercial entity was still in its infancy," Paul remembers. "I had a couple of friends who were showing off their Internet connections at the time, and I was struck by how unintuitive and hard to use it was. Back then there were a lot of purely technical people involved - we were part of the first wave of people who recognized the Web as something that needed to be designed."
Shortly after graduation, Paul landed a job with a design firm and worked there for a number of years; drawing on the skills he learned at GBC and adapting them to the uncharted realm of the Web. Over the past decade, he and his contemporaries have been influential in moving design from something regarded by many companies as an afterthought, to its current position as a cornerstone of any good business. "Everything is designed now. It's becoming more and more prevalent that people look for and appreciate good design," he says.
Paul co-founded Red Communications in 1997 with business partner Curtis Achilles, another GBC Design Program grad. Red has won numerous awards and accolades, and has been featured in magazines around the world. "We called the company Red because red's the colour of passion, and I think that reflects how we feel about our work," explains Paul. "Our motto is "Design for the Greater Good" because we genuinely believe that good design goes beyond advertising - it's an important part of life in general, and we keep that in mind when working with our clients."
Paul has remained active within GBC over the years and was recently named Chair of the New Media advisory board for 2005.
" I've gone in as a guest speaker in the past, letting students know what they can expect when they enter the workforce," he says. "Now I'm looking to become more involved; to share my experiences and hopefully implement some of what I've learned into the course curriculum as well."
In addition to the extensive renovations to the facilities, Paul has seen George Brown's design curriculum evolve in response to the dramatic changes in the industry. "When I graduated, the program was a general graphic design program," he says. "Now there are five specialized branches and you take a lot of electives, which allows you to focus your education on what interests you most."
As for Red, the company has recently moved into a new studio on Queen Street West.
" Although most of our clients are Canadian, one of the great joys of our success has been meeting and working with people from all over the world," says Paul. "I've had conversations with students from places like Brazil, Cyprus, and Japan, and that in turn has influenced the work. One of the things that's most exciting about designing for the Internet is that we're developing brand new tools for communicating globally, in ways that are literally going to shape the future."
"Three amazing years at the School of Design has provided me with lifelong memories and friendships with both classmates and instructors. Not only did the School of Design teach me the necessary skills to become a graphic designer, they also facilitated a student portfolio review night with industry professionals. This event organized by the faculty provided me with the opportunity to meet with some leading designers in the community. Brad Usherwood, owner of Yield-ICA - a Toronto based multidisciplinary agency - felt that I had the skills to be an asset to him and his team of creatives. Following our end of year show, I was able to meet with the Yield-ICA creative team and was immediately offered a Junior Design position."
Class of 2005
"The School of Design did much more than prepare me for the job market.
It inspired me, educated me and gave me confidence in my abilities. The School's location - in the heart of the most multi-cultural city in the world - gave me the chance to meet and become friends with interesting and creative people from all over the globe. The School's greatest strength though is its teachers. They come from a wide variety of professional backgrounds, and are always willing to take time out for one-on-one discussions, extra help or even to go out for a drink after school. They became good friends and I have maintained contact with some of them even after graduating. As with any school, you will get out of it what you put into it, and you will leave inspired, confident and prepared for a career in design."
Class of 2003