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On Nov 2 & 3, DesignThinkers brings together creatives from across Canada and beyond under one roof, offering a chance to grow your connections within the industry. Below, past and current attendees share insights on how to make the most of this opportunity.

Faron Dawe RGD, Designer & Principal, FARON.DESIGN

Whether you are attending your very first DesignThinkers or are a seasoned delegate, the ability to represent yourself and make meaningful connections is valuable. It is easy to go through the motions of being a conference attendee but to maximize your return, there are some things I recommend have your 1-min elevator pitch ready, get out of your comfort zone and purposely introduce yourself to other attendees, make sure to be aware of all the conference offerings and attend everything you can and, lastly, be genuinely interested in learning and listening. You can continue to grow your connections post-conference by joining the RGD and/or volunteering on a Committee

Carolane Godbout RGD, Independent Graphic Designer (Super Studio): 

As long as I can remember, I was always the ‘’talker’’. I was told in business class that to make a great first impression, you had to present yourself confidently, then go over your professional background, (humbly) list your latest accomplishments and lead with a relevant question to stay in control of the encounter. In the last couple of years, I’ve realized that I was taught completely wrong. I have come to understand that the best way to network and make genuine connections is to listen. We are often so focused on presenting ourselves that we forget the power of listening. People are more likely to remember us and have a favorable opinion of us based on how we make them feel. So remember, it’s not about how much you talk—but how well you listen. 

Erin Grandmaison RGD, Graphic Designer at Bruce Power

It is a lot easier to make connections at an event like DesignThinkers, which brings together people with similar interests than in a purely one-on-one setting. Strike up a conversation with other attendees at roundtables, workshops or the delegate party. Talk about the great speakers, insights and new techniques you've learned. It is great to hear what other people’s conference experiences are and what they recommend. Connecting with other attendees will expand your design network and broaden your creative mindset. 

Andrea Rodriguez RGD, Independent Graphic Designer (AndreaCataRo):

DesignThinkers provides an excellent opportunity to exchange inspiring ideas. Be ready to talk about what drives you—whether it's the intricacies of typography, your admiration for some of the speakers or the latest design trends. Finding common ground can spark enriching dialogues and forge lasting connections. Don't settle for just exchanging business cards; instead, share stories and discuss what excites you about the conference. Above all, be authentic and willing to engage. 

Elana Rudick RGD, Founder, Creative Director, Design is Yummy:

Creating connections is at the core of effective networking. But where do you start? Work on appearing approachable by using open body language and smiling so that others will come up to you. Try to put your nerves aside and approach others. Go up to someone standing alone and ask them how they're enjoying the conference. Like most things, the more you practice, the better you'll become at it. When in doubt, come find me to say hi. I love meeting other creatives! 

Victor Szeto RGD, Creative Director at Green Living Enterprises:

A conference like DesignThinkers brings together so many people and it can feel overwhelming to take in so many faces. When you find yourself in a quieter setting or a smaller group—such as a roundtable or workshop—one step to break the ice is to invite conversation. Share your favorite sessions or ask for recommendations on your undecided schedule. Ask to connect on each other’s social platforms, message them through the conference portal or exchange business cards. If you reach out on LinkedIn, remember to include a personal message about your interaction to build a more meaningful rapport (and show you’re not a bot!). 

Paul Wilcken RGD, Creative Director, Humanfolk

As a work-from-home business owner, networking can feel difficult, which means it takes concerted effort. Conferences are a major opportunity to get me out of my comfort zone and out amongst fellow creatives. I tend to feel self-conscious or shy around people I look up to, which is why I stop thinking and take action; lean into feeling uncomfortable. Conferences create spaces to feel foolish and be yourself, a human as well as a creative. The easiest way for me to connect with someone is to acknowledge them. This can be a cool shirt they are wearing, or maybe something they said during their talk on stage. Everyone loves feeling acknowledged, when it is truly human and genuine. Be yourself. 

Ashley Tomlinson Provisional RGD, Independent Graphic Designer:

Try to remind yourself that it’s an opportunity to meet many people IRL at the conference that you might otherwise never cross paths with. Use something that resonated with you from the conference as a conversation opener. For many attending, these two days are breaks from their work routine and part of the reason for attending is to build connections with the larger design community. Don’t stress about how long your interactions are, after the conference you can send a follow-up email. If you want to continue the conversation, suggest a coffee chat or virtual meeting. 

Paul Twa Provisional RGD, Graphic Designer, Frontier

When I look back at the connections I've made at DesignThinkers, making conversation in the line-up at the pop-up bookstore or tapping someone on the shoulder who asked a really good question after a Q&A, these initial conversations happened in between programming. What is notable about these two instances is both of these designers have become close friends of mine in the industry, each from one interaction at the conference. Going up to someone new is always daunting, but when you are in a space with so many other people who love design and creativity, you are all but guaranteed your interests will overlap in some way, making for great conversations.


Victor Szeto RGD

Green Living Enterprises

Erin Grandmaison RGD

Bruce Power

Erin’s creative skills and experience deliver unique insights to the needs of each project. She is an award-winning graphic designer that started her career in Toronto, bringing campaigns to life for one of Canada’s leading architecture and interior firms. Her signage and design within the collaborative team can be found in well-known buildings such as Pearson Airport, York University, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the Hershey Centre. Erin is known for her imaginative work that are still succinct and informative and is currently using those skills at Bruce Power as a Senior Designer. Erin supports wellness and community activism by being a founding and executive member of the local endurance events group, Race Huron and volunteering as a YMCA/MOSSA fitness instructor. She is an RGD member, is on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and has been a Student RGD judge.

Elana Rudick RGD

Design Is Yummy

Andrea Rodriguez RGD

Andreacataro Creative Services

I am a passionate designer and art director based in Toronto with over 12 years of experience in the field. My approach to design is to create solutions that communicate a meaningful message. I prioritize typography, respect the grid and ensure that each piece serves a purpose, following the fundamentals of design. My specialties include illustration, lettering and digital campaigns. I take a 360-degree approach to design that focuses on concept development and visual storytelling. I am committed to working with not-for-profit organizations that support women, minorities and marginalized groups. My education in Canada and France has given me a unique perspective that blends international experience with a commitment to enhancing Latin American representation in Canada. My philosophy is to design with a purpose and create work that my clients and their audiences can be proud of. I also specialize in creating vibrant and whimsical murals that transform spaces with joy and colour. My designs are inspired by the rich tapestry of Latin American culture, especially my Colombian roots. I celebrate nature, lettering and wildlife in my designs, fostering community identity and well-being. My aim is to enrich public spaces, making art accessible and enjoyable for all.

Faron Dawe RGD

FARON.DESIGN

I am a freelance designer, art director and principal at FARON.DESIGN, based in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. I focus on brand visual identity design, web user interface design and consulting in-house teams on larger design-driven projects. With over 20 years of professional experience in the creative and design space, I have worked with clients from various sectors, providing solutions in visual identity, print, web design and more.

During my tenure as a post-secondary design educator, I was the lead instructor of multiple courses, including Design Principles, Visual Branding, Colour Theory, Print and Layout, UI Design and The Business of Design - passing my experience and expertise onto the next generation of designers, teaching, mentoring and directing them in a classroom studio environment.

Currently, I sit on the RGD board of directors and events committee.


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