Three design grads create careers at FORREC
"I’ve been lucky enough to work on projects all over the world. It’s not something I expected and it’s been a great experience."
FORREC is a Toronto-based entertainment design company that creates “places of escape and destinations of distinction.” In addition to being home, currently, to three OCAD University grads, FORREC’s creative house is a global leader in the design of theme and water parks, retail and mixed-use developments, resorts and visitor attractions, with built projects in 20 countries.
Steve Thorington, Zeynep Sen and Joo Sung Hong joined INSTUDIO to talk trajectory, training and the element of surprise involved in their careers as designers at FORREC.
INSTUDIO: What brought you to FORREC?
Zeynep Sen (Designer, Creative Studio, FORREC and 2013 Industrial Design grad): I was working at OCAD U at the time and attended a job fair, where a friend of mine, who worked at FORREC, asked what I’d do if I had no worries about money. I said, ‘I’d combine art, design, technology and architecture to design wowing experiences". Well, this friend happened to be sitting next to the creative director, who overheard me. He said, “You’re describing theme parks!” And one thing led to another.
Joo Sung Hong (Junior Architectural Designer, Architecture Department, FORREC and 2013 Environmental Design grad): I studied environmental design and so was trying to find a job in architecture, which is difficult given the competitive job market in Toronto for junior designers. But I discovered FORREC and was struck by its focus on concepts over (or in addition to) buildable buildings. It was so completely relevant to what I had learned.
Steve Thorington (Senior Designer, Creative Studio, FORREC and 2008 Environmental Design grad): My “professional practice” class did a tour at FORREC, which included a presentation with the former creative director, an amazing, exciting guy who showed us all these different videos and projects. Nobody could believe this place existed in Toronto! Fast forward to the following year when, while doing my thesis, I took an internship course and, as an elective, got a placement at FORREC. I did a lot of modelling, which was perfect for me and which eventually led to a career.
INSTUDIO: What has been one of the more surprising aspects of your professional lives so far?
Zeynep: After graduating, I had the opportunity to work on many different types of contracts (for example, with OCAD U and MacLaren McCann). But I was afraid of committing to something specific, and I certainly never dreamed that I’d end up here. It’s been an exciting experience, which has made me realize that I actually know myself as a designer. I know what I like and what I don’t like, and it’s been great in that way.
Sung: What’s surprised me the most is that there’s so much to learn. The knowledge I gained in my program – it gets used differently in a work environment. Here, you have to know how to do things in the most efficient way possible. It’s a way that others have already established, so you have to learn that too, and then make it part of your workflow. The surprise is about knowing how to learn.
Steve: For me, it’s that I’ve been lucky enough to work on projects all over the world. It’s not something I expected, and it’s been a great experience: to travel to places like Asia and to see how projects work in different countries.
INSTUDIO: Can you each name an especially valuable thing that you learned while at OCAD U?
Zeynep: How to approach life. The ability to be resourceful has turned out to be the most important thing I learned at OCAD U. There are the hard skills, of course and the ways of thinking and generating ideas; but being resourceful has helped me the most. And it’s made me resilient.
Sung: My answer is similar. Studying environmental design forced me to be fiercely independent. Much like a work environment, we weren’t taught how to do things. Instead, it was about figuring it out for ourselves — adapting, gathering knowledge, talking to faculty (which is really like talking to a manager). It has all carried over.
Steve: Designing backwards. For me, this means learning how to identify what the end should be as well as what building blocks are needed to get there. This applies to more than just FORREC — it’s about every end result, about project management — and I learned it in thesis, where you have to figure out what you need in order to get where you want to go.
Learn more at forrec.com