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NewsJan 24, 2024

Volunteer of the Month: January

Written by Dominic Ayre RGD
Dominic Ayre RGD during a workshop at DesignThinkers 2022

The RGD thanks Dominic Ayre RGD for his contributions to the RGD community.

“Dominic is one of design's biggest superfans. His love of the craft and curiosity about the industry has really informed the DesignThinkers program over the years. He's helped shape every single conference attendee's experience—and for that, we're so grateful.”
Nicola Hamilton RGD

How long have you been volunteering with the RGD and in what capacity?

I am not sure I know exactly when I started! It was before I was officially an RGD (shhhh). It must be well over 15 years now. I have volunteered in various ways— participating in the Mentorship programs, conducting portfolio reviews, hosting Designathons and all of it was inspiring and highly fulfilling. My favourite long-term involvement, however, has been assisting with programming of the DesignThinkers conference. Over the years, it has been a privilege to work strategically with the RGD to shape the Toronto and Vancouver DesignThinkers into the internationally-recognized events they have become.

What contribution are you most proud of / What experience/memory stands out for you?

My 2 message email thread with David Byrne from Talking Heads when we graciously said no to speaking at DesignThinkers :) I would say that I am the proudest when an international speaker or delegate at the conference recognizes how seamlessly run DesignThinkers is (even though they don’t always see behind the curtain). Often, I have been thanked personally for inviting them because the experience they have had has been filled with enthusiasm, respect and professionalism.

What is the most surprising/unexpected thing to come out of volunteering with the RGD?

Probably how much I love it. As a younger designer, I was, like a lot of us, trying to fulfill my checklist for personal success. Growth and recognition was important then. Now I am much more aware of how important it is to be part of a larger whole. I do see that it isn’t for everyone but knowing that I am part of a larger community and one of many helping to shape experiences and be a support to the industry is really rewarding. I would also add, the people are incredible. The RGD team, absolutely, but the wider volunteer group is so engaged and caring that they blow me away with their passion.

What have you learned about the industry since volunteering for the RGD?

I started in Toronto over 30 years ago (at the age of 9… ba ha ha). I came into a community at the time when a lot of the conversations seemed very negative. I found that people spoke down about aspects of the design industry. Sometimes about one another. There was a lot of dismissive dialogue. Over the years though, I have seen the industry go from being very aggressively competitive to being much more supportive and celebratory of one another. The overall sense of connection through the RGD is incredible. I have seen that we can be collectively a much better, brighter and caring community.

Based on your experience volunteering with the RGD, how would you describe the role of the organization in the industry?

When I was coming up, the career of a designer used to be quite one track. You go to school, you graduate, you work at a ’studio’ as a Junior. Then move to an intermediate, then a senior, an art director and then a creative director. You might open your own company or move to design management. Now the opportunities for emerging designers are so wide. Agency, in-house corporate, start-up, freelance, consultancy… the RGD is a beacon within that change. There is a stability that comes from the organization that makes me feel that I can look to RGD Members for support and inspiration. The RGD's strength is its ability to flex with how the world (design and beyond) is changing.

What have you gained from being an RGD volunteer and why would you recommend it to other Members who might be thinking of getting involved?

As mentioned previously, it is ALL about community. It is ALL about network. It is about being part of something that will exist beyond my career. I truly believe in the saying 'plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit' (I think this is an old proverb and I am sure I am paraphrasing). It is becoming more important to me to think about what comes next and that I have such optimism that the generations coming will embrace the challenges ahead. In the meantime, of course, I ain’t done yet.

Do you have thoughts on what you might like to do as a volunteer with the RGD in the future?

I still really like thinking about how to make the DesignThinkers conference line-up the best that it can be. 20+ years ago, the speakers looked very different. They were largely ‘graphic designers’ and represented the myopic expectations of the audiences then. With the world becoming smaller with the help of technology and media, we no longer need to just show a great ‘portfolio.' We want to present the attendees with speakers that matter. As a Torontonian, I am very aware that DesignThinkers is a meaningful event to many. I talk to designers who practice in parts of the country that don’t have as much access to a community like there is in the larger cities. I want to make sure our speakers talk about the cultural, societal and social changes that design is touching across Canada, North America and internationally. I want to work to put people on the stage whose words become an inspiration for those emerging designers who are just getting started.


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