Why Stay Local?

by Julia Hummel

Bill Watterson is a former Graphic Design student of Conestoga College. I interviewed Bill on the importance of networking and the benefits to working in a local design firm.

Where did you do your co-op in 3rd year?

I completed my 3rd year co-op at a studio downtown Toronto called Underline Studio.

How did you discover your co-op?

Underline came into my knowledge through reading (design magazines, and online publications) about studios in Toronto recognized for their top design work. They win a ton of awards, and get a lot of attention for most of the work they produce. They have always kind of  been in the spotlight.

How did that co-op benefit you in the field of Graphic Design?

My time at Underline taught me what to expect from the world of graphic design. There tends to be this weird barrier in-between the world of design students, and design professionals. Where as a student you never really cross into their world (design professionals), and visa versa. Design students tend to exist in a world of their own, and by going and working in a professional studio, you separate a little from the student world, and are exposed to what the design community is really like. It’s extremely beneficial, kind of like a head start, and the advise you can get from all of your co worker’s is invaluable, and you can take it back to school and build your work around those critiques, and also to a level you know is going to impress people.

Did you reach out to any design firms while being in school, if so which ones? How did they help?

During school I didn’t reach out to any design studios no, but I did however reach out to designers at specific studios that I had met at events, or through friends and teachers, to advise me on portfolio decisions, and possibly even critique my works. I think its important to reach out to someone outside
the school, because those are the people who will be seeing your portfolio when you leave, and possibly even be a future employer.

Where are you currently employed?

I am a Junior Designer at Hagon Design. www.hagondesign.com

Did networking throughout the school year benefit what you are doing now that you have graduated? How?

Networking throughout the school year, whether it be at a conference, with guest speakers, or during your portfolio review with the program advisory committee, is probably the most useful thing you will do throughout your third year. Taking the opportunity to get your name and your work out to public to see and become aware of, is so important to making a good first impression on potential employers, and the design community as a whole.

Networking helped me get to my current position because my boss was one of the people I networked with throughout the year, at the Design Thinkers conference, and during my portfolio review, It was a studio I was very interested in at the time, and I attempted to make that known during my portfolio review, and as soon as I had graduated from the program.

What do you think the benefits of working in a local design firm are?

The service offered by local studios is definitely a benefit of working in a small town setting. We deal one on one with our clients directly, and they are often the heads of company, so that experience again, is invaluable. In the bigger cities, and bigger firms, you get employees who’s sole job is to deal with a client, and keep them impressed, and then they report back to you. Cutting out the middle man is such a great learning experience, especially when you’re still learning, you get to pick up on people’s first reactions, and also how to make them happy and confident in what you’re doing.

Watterson, Bill. Personal interview. 28 Sept. 2011.