Tips and tricks to build a strong portfolio

Don't stress out! OCAD U student Olga Kholod talks to Casey Hinton about how to build a strong portfolio when you are applying to OCAD University

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Abstract artist Callen Schaub

OCAD U student Olga Kholod visits the latest exhibition and performance by abstract artist (and OCAD University alum) Callen Schaub.

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Imagination Catalyst OPEN HOUSE!

Join Us! Thursday, Sept. 28th, 4 pm to 8 pm  - 8th fl, 230 Richmond Street West.

Meet the entrepreneurs working in the OCAD U business incubator. Talk about your business ideas. Learn where to get business assistance. Join us in celebrating innovation on campus! 

The Value of an Art and Design Education

Art and design will always have intrinsic value. We all love beautiful, elegant, provocative and playful things. But when you’re making a decision about whether to spend four years of time, effort, fees and materials costs, we understand that it’s an investment. And it’s reasonable that you want to know what to expect at the end of the journey.

We’ve been telling you “Imagination is the new currency.” You deserve some evidence.

1. WILL I GET A JOB AT THE END OF MY PROGRAM?

This is the question we hear the most often. And it’s a fair one. There are lots of confusing messages out there - whether it be the persistent notion of the “starving artist” or laments about the usefulness of the liberal arts degree in general.

We survey our graduates regularly. While we will never promise you a job at the end of your degree, we can tell you that among the OCAD U graduates of 2011, 82% say they were employed six months after graduation and 88% were employed two years out.

For sure, the first two years after graduation are difficult. Youth unemployment, currently about 16%, is a major problem in Ontario – even more so in Toronto. But the fact remains that a university degree is still better protection against unemployment - and a better predictor of long-term success - than any other form of education. And the market for creatives and cultural entrepreneurs is good - and getting even better.

2. WILL I ACTUALLY MAKE A LIVING MAKING ART?

The idea of the artistic genius working full time in their studio creating works that sell to collectors for tens of thousands of dollars is probably not a realistic goal for most young artists. Yes, some are able to do it.

But most artists will combine their individual creative practice with full or part-time employment, usually related to the arts. We call it “dual-tracking.” They often take short-term contracts or do freelance work, work on community projects, or teach art to adults or children. Some will support other artists or work for cultural organizations, galleries or museums, all the while, carving out time to develop their own practice.

3. OK, SO WHAT KINDS OF JOBS ARE OUT THERE FOR OCAD U GRADS?

Here’s what our recent alumni (graduates from the last five years) are doing:

  • 73% are either currently (59%) or have previously (14%) worked as a professional artist (broadly defined to include designers, fine artists, film makers, etc.)
  • Over 80% either are, or have been, self-employed.
  • Of those working within the arts, they work as graphic designers, illustrators or art directors, fine artists, curators, interior designers, web designers, craft artists, photographers, film and video artists, etc.
  • Among those not working in the arts, they are spread in a wide array of fields including communications, sales, office and administrative support, health care, education and management.

4. CAN I GO TO GRADUATE SCHOOL AFTER OCAD U?

Graduate school is a goal for many of our current undergraduates - indeed over 60% of our fine art students, and 38% of design students tell us they intend to do at least a Master’s Degree after graduating from OCAD U.

Do they do it? Among our 2011 graduates, 9% had already completed another post-secondary credential within two years - the bulk of them (50%) a graduate or professional degree. (And some have even come back to OCAD U for our own graduate programs.) If we look at all of our alumni - stretching back decades and including those who attended OCAD when we did not have degree-granting status - 24% tell us they have gone on to graduate school.

So, yes, if you do well, you have the opportunity to go on to further education at the graduate level.

5. OTHER THAN LEARNING MY ACTUAL CRAFT (E.G. PAINTING OR GRAPHIC DESIGN), WILL I GAIN ANY OTHER USEFUL SKILLS?

Much has been said and written about the value of a university degree, of a liberal arts degree specifically, and, to some extent, the fine and applied arts - much of it casting doubt on the return-on-investment.

Our alumni tell a different story: 86% say their training at OCAD U is relevant to their current employment. Among the skills they say they developed at OCAD U that are most useful:

  1. Creative thinking and problem-solving.
  2. Artistic technique.
  3. Critical thinking and analysis of arguments.

And it’s not just the creative industries and cultural sector that are looking for the skills we develop. A recent article in Forbes listed the “The ten skills that will get you hired in 2013.”  The top two? Critical thinking and complex problem-solving.

Creativity is in big demand in multiple sectors of the economy, driven largely by the growth in customized products and services. A recent study by Adobe found nine out of 10 professionals agree that creativity is required for economic growth.

6. HOW MUCH MONEY CAN I EXPECT TO MAKE?

Salaries vary depending on your field and the choices you make post-graduation. Some professional associations survey their members regularly and post salaries and billing rates. The Creative Group, a leading creative staffing agency, publishes an annual report of salaries across an array of fields. Using a site like Indeed.com, you can search for average salaries by occupation and geographic region. So do your research before picking your major. But the short answer is: you can make a living doing what you love.

7. HOW DOES THE FUTURE LOOK FOR ARTISTS, DESIGNERS AND THE CREATIVE AND CULTURAL SECTORS?

Between 1991 and 2009, the creative industries in Toronto grew at the same rate as tourism and faster than financial services, the medical and biotechnology industries, and the food and beverage industry. By most accounts, this growth is expected to continue. Cities, increasingly, are seeing cultural entrepreneurs as a source of economic growth. Hamilton, for example, has identified the creative industries as one of six key sectors for their economic development plan.

At OCAD U, we hired a consulting company to do a deeper analysis for us around the opportunities available to our graduates. Among the employers in the creative industries they interviewed, more than half intended to hire more recent graduates into their firms over the next three years.

8. WHAT DOES OCAD U DO TO ACTUALLY HELP ME GET A JOB?

Glad you asked. Lots. And there’s more coming.

One of the advantages of attending a specialized school like OCAD U is that you are surrounded by practicing artists and designers, curators, critics, and scholars of culture and visual communication. And all of our career development resources are designed around helping you find your place in the creative and cultural sectors, or in applying your creative skills in the field of your choice.

Professional practice is embedded into the curriculum.  Here’s the trailerfor the new online version of a course called Creative Practice to give you an idea of what to expect.  (There’s a similar course for students in the BFA programs.)

Through the Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers - which will soon be located on a full floor dedicated to student professional development in the redeveloped 115 McCaul Street building - we offer experiential learning programs (community and industry-based placements), alumni mentorship, workshops, networking events, and our popular Talent Network, which posts over 1100 art and design-related paid opportunities annually.

9. PLEASE, TELL ME MORE.

Ok, we hate to brag but…

Our hub for entrepreneurship and commercialization, The Imagination Catalyst, is currently home to 17 start-up companies and helps entrepreneurs build the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.

We run a series of Career Launchers - high profile opportunities developed in partnership with industry - to give a boost to our most promising grads.

We provide free digital portfolio space to all students via a unique arrangement with Format (a company founded by OCAD U grads!).

Our Financial Aid department runs a Financial Literacy Program to help students understand concepts like cash flow and credit ratings.

We have an Etsy ambassador on campus who works with students branching into retail, work with Indiegogo for students crowdfunding their projects, and we’re developing a living laboratory of freelance designers to help them get their start.

10. WHERE CAN I SEE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT YOUR GRADS ARE DOING?

Here are a few ways you can get a real sense of what our graduates are up to:

Behance is the world’s largest network for creatives. You can narrow your search for OCAD U to see some of our students’ and graduates’ portfolios.

Check out our LinkedIn page to see where our grads work, all driven by the profiles they’ve created themselves.

Sources:

Look Inside: OCAD University’s Open House

OCAD U Sharp Building
Saturday, October 21, 2017 - 10:00am to 2:00pm

Look Inside Canada’s largest university of art and design. Bring your friends, family and supporters and take a studio tour, watch students as they work, or talk with faculty and staff. OCAD University will provide a glimpse of emerging trends, and where art and design practice is making new connections. Imagine yourself here. 

Venue & Address: 
OCAD University, Main Building - 100 McCaul Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 1W1
Website: 
https://join.ocadu.ca/Datatel.ERecruiting.Web.External/pages/EventDetails.aspx?id=4f40f971-2776-e711-803b-0050569735d6
Email: 
admissions@ocadu.ca
Cost: 
Free

Visit the Toronto studio of art star Elly Smallwood

OCAD University student Oscar Fletcher takes us on a visit to the Toronto studio of emerging art star Elly Smallwood to chat about her work and her over 220,000 Instagram followers. 

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Take a tour of OCAD U with student Oscar Fletcher

Student Oscar Fletcher takes you on a tour of what you missed at OCAD U's recent Open House. Learn more about OCAD U or how to take a tour on your own

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PORTAGE Open house

Portage
Thursday, March 13, 2008 - 11:00pm to Friday, March 14, 2008 - 1:00am

The Mobile Experience Lab at the Ontario College of Art & Design is hosting an open house for the OCAD community and the professional design community as an opportunity to present the innovative research on cell phone experience done by the Portage research team.

Experience design on cell phones means much more than screen interfaces and ring tones. Emerging location sensitive phones and two-way multimedia is positioning the mobile platform as the successor to the Internet. Participatory and social experiences will overtake game playing and storytelling.

The researchers at Portage are currently creating a virtual streetscape theatre in downtown Toronto. A range of interactive experiences will be knit together and accessible through the mediation of the cell phone.

Come and see some working prototypes and participate in a dialogue about the future of mobile design.

Venue & Address: 
Mobile Experience Lab 52 McCaul Street, Floor 3, Toronto, Ontario
Email: 
jziemianin@mdcn.ocad.ca
Cost: 
Free; Space is limited, please RSVP

O-DAYS! OCADSU Open House

OCAD U Student Union Table
Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 8:30pm to 10:00pm

Join us at the OCAD Student Union Open House learn more about the Student Union, check out the space, learn about our services, and meet the team. We will be officially opening up our new office to students and we're excite to meet you! Here you are welcome to spend time year round whether working on class assignments or needing a quiet place to relax. We will be opening the space with a land acknowledgement, raising a mock-tail to the start of your new chapter, serving snacks, and providing a space to chill and mingle before you head off to check out O-NIGHT! with MxD.

Venue & Address: 
Level 6, 230 Richmond St. West
Website: 
http://www.ocadu.ca/orientation
Phone: 
416 977 6000 Ext. 341

Floria Sigismondi on the power of creativity

Floria Sigismondi
Fiona Sigismondi

Floria Sigismondi, an OCAD University alum, is a world-renowned creator of film, music videos and art.

Among her many accolades, Sigismondi has won the Video of the Year at the MTV Music Video Awards for “Mirrors”, by Justin Timberlake, and the MTV European Awards for “Untitled #1”, by Sigur Ros. On top of that, she’s directed influential videos for a who’s-who of A-list artists, including Pink’s “Try”, Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter”, Katy Perry’s “E.T.”, Sheryl Crow’s “Anything But Down”, The White Stripes’ “Blue Orchid” and Leonard Cohen’s “My Secret Life”.

 

What was your “aha” moment — when you decided, “Yup, I’m going to make a go of it as an artist”?

I knew I wanted to be an artist from a very young age. I remember the moment when I truly connected to the power of creativity and thought this is where I need to be. At the time, I hadn’t had much success at bringing the vision in my head to fruition, but when I was approached by Marilyn Mason to direct the music video for “The Beautiful People”, I was inspired and my mind was flooded with ideas. I filled a whole sketchbook with specific ideas and looks I wanted to achieve. There was a moment on set where I felt true magic was happening before my eyes. I had drawn this image and now it was coming to life. I felt like I was plugged into something mysterious and larger than myself. I was hooked!

 

 

You directed the critically acclaimed film The Runaways, and it’s been announced you’ll direct The Delivery Man based on the novel by Joe Mcginniss Jr. and Alejandro Jodorosky’s Bouncer. Is it getting easier for female directors? Why haven’t you directed more features?

I’ve spent time developing projects and reading a ton of scripts, trying to find the right projects to make. It just takes time. I feel filmmaking moves by a different clock: “hurry and wait.” I am also busy preparing my next photo book and painting. 

 

 

You’ve directed so many award-winning music videos with amazing artists. Do you come up with the concepts or are they the results of collaborations with the artists?

Normally, I'm given the song and I'll listen to it hundreds of times until images come. Sometimes, it’s the lyrics that inspire me, and sometimes it’s the melody. I work best when I am free. I do ask the artist where a song came from, if it was personal. Sometimes that will lead me in a creative direction.

 

 

Your videos for Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” and Sigur Ros’ “Untitled #1” were influential and showed that music videos were a real art form. What do you think of the current state of mainstream music videos? 

Thank you. I think music videos as an art form go up and down. There is some really interesting work that's being done right now. We did have a lull where mainstream music videos were shoved down our throats, but I feel there are now so many different outlets that really interesting ideas and films can be created and seen. The music industry isn’t really spending money on music videos any more, so it makes it difficult to create — but challenges sometimes take you in surprising directions.

 

 

The world was shocked when David Bowie recently passed away. You directed several of his videos, such as “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” and “The Next Day”. What memory sticks out most of your frequent collaborator and friend? 

My collaboration with David began in 1997 with “Little Wonder” and “Deadman Walking”, which I shot in Toronto. The fondest memory I have was our first meeting, which lasted five hours. We spent it talking about art, and that's how we bonded. He was super respectful and let me take the films where I saw them going creatively. He truly respected the creative process of the artist.

He really changed my life. He taught me that I could spend my life being creative. All I had to do was look at his life, which he dedicated to music and art and spent as a fearless innovator. He taught me to listen to myself. 

 

 

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