What Program did you graduate from and when?
Industrial Design. 2009
What is your current title or role? (ie. freelance designer, art practitioner, etc.)
Head of Marketing, DesignTO
Why did you choose to attend OCAD U?
At the time I chose OCAD U I was working in retail as an Accessories Buyer and Visual Merchandiser. I wanted something new. I knew that I loved fashion but wanted to get out of being directly in the Fashion Industry before my feelings towards the industry changed. I worked in visual merchandising and had a feel for spatial design, flow, how to get people to manoeuvre through space. Someone told me about the Environmental Design (ED) program and in my research, I discovered the Industrial Design (ID) program. At the time, I wanted to make the objects that lived in the environment but did not yet realize the possibilities of having an ID degree.
Please briefly describe your current job/practice.
As with many creatives, I like to keep busy taking on many projects/jobs. At the moment, my primary position is working with DesignTO, Canada's largest celebration of art & design culture. As Head of Marketing, I work on a team with three other executives and approximately 15 year-round volunteers. On the marketing team, I work with two Content Writers and a Production Coordinator. We also work with contract workers – a PR agency, Mobile App Developer, and a Visual Communications Agency. As an organization operating on a very small budget, we are so grateful to our year-round volunteers, many of whom are currently working in the fields and sectors in which they are volunteering.
In addition to Head of Marketing for DesignTO, I also work as Communications Coordinator for the School of Design at George Brown College. There, I work on both external and internal communications, including e-newsletters, program guides, and social media, to name a few. If that wasn’t enough, I also work as a Consultant creating design assets, social media presence and copywriting for small businesses like coffee shops, skincare lines, and more. I do stick and poke tattooing. Something I got into that after OCAD U, when looking at my Filipinx background and this idea of the Pintados, or Painted People. A name given to the indigenous peoples by Spanish colonists.
I also really love plants and have an Instagram account specifically focusing on my houseplants - @houseofhortus. Through it I was featured in the book “Boys with Plants.”
How did you get started in your career?
My career journey has meandered quite a bit. When I left OCAD U, I was working with Children’s Own Museum (COM) – who used to have a home in the city, but then became more of a “pop-up museum” – as a consultant. In my final year at OCAD U, myself and three other students, worked with the Children’s Own Museum for our thesis project, each taking on a specific aspect of the museums. Upon completing our final year at OCAD U, we were all hired by the museum.
After maybe a year and a half, COM ran out of money. They didn’t want us to work for free even though their Board encouraged them to take us on as unpaid interns. Sometime after that, I got a job through a friend working in Product Design at IMM Living. Products I worked on were being seen around the world by friends as they traveled, in museums and galleries like SFMOMA, the V&A Museum, and the AGO, as well as retail shops like Anthropologie and the Drake General Store. I found out about DesignTO through IMM Living and curated an exhibition with designer Ange-line Tetrault (also an OCAD U grad) in the Festival’s second year. I realized I wanted to know the Toronto Design scene better – and started volunteering part-time at DesignTO as Communications Coordinator. I still had to have side hustles, so I did a variety of work helping friends with branding for companies they were starting. I created textile patterns for a friend’s fashion collections. I took on Product Photography jobs and did anything I could to stay in Toronto. DesignTO is something I enjoyed and really believed in. A position opened up in the executive team and I was invited to apply. At this point, I had been working with the festival for 4 years and had built relationships. I didn’t have a lot of experience in marketing, but I was willing to learn. I took it on in a more full-time capacity.
Much of my professional career has been thanks to my network. I was able to build many connections during school, and through that continue to build after school. 10 years after graduation from the ID program, there are still many people from my class with whom I stay connected. Your network and the people around you are very important.
What were your policies regarding internships, volunteering, and paid work?
I am a very big advocate for getting paid for your work, and understand how toxic the unpaid work industry can be. For a Festival run on a shoestring budget, we don’t have the capacity to pay a full team. Because of this, DesignTO, works with volunteers to organize and develop our yearly Festival, as well as our other year-round events. Our year-round team of volunteers are people who have established themselves and want to give back to the community. They are folks who have knowledge or full-time careers in the area(s) they are volunteering in. That said, I have volunteered for different organizations in the past. Much like our volunteers, I believe it’s important to give back and share your knowledge. I do believe that there are many benefits to volunteering if you are in a place that allows. Through volunteering, you can expand your network, make great connections, and discover industries with which you may not have been very familiar. This may be controversial, but I believe that depending on the situation, the value of working for free can be more than paying for an education.
What do you enjoy most about your work? What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
I enjoy the social aspect of my job, but I also love what we as a Festival stand for. When I was brought onto the team as Communications Coordinator, I quickly found that the people on the team were on the same page, which wasn’t surprising, considering we were designers working on a design festival started by designers. I like connecting with people and coming tighter to create something much bigger than ourselves. It is very satisfying and rewarding every January when the festival comes together after a years' worth of work. People are often surprised that we work on DesignTO year-round, but there are a lot of details that need figuring out when putting on a 10-day event.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have a background in marketing and much of it was just me willing to learn, so one of the more challenging aspects of the position is post-Festival data collection. I’m a fan of puzzles, so I always look at this aspect of the job like a puzzle I’m trying to solve. I love that I am always learning in this position, which means it doesn’t feel stagnant. It is always challenging in a way I appreciate, which is rewarding.
What skills or relationships developed at OCAD U helped you participate in your field? Is there anything you would have done differently?
I wouldn’t have done anything differently in terms of coming to OCAD U. There were a variety of skills that I got from my time at OCAD U that have helped in various jobs/career stops. As a student, we were taught to observe the space around us, which for me also includes the people. I also learned to question and challenge and think differently. I don’t think we would have proposed a four-person thesis team, and in turn, got to work w/ our client (Children’s Own Museum) had we not pushed the boundaries a bit. One of the biggest things I learned and have helped in my various professional lives was how to work collaboratively with people. My year felt special (something I feel everyone says about their class) and were pretty adamant about working together and bouncing ideas off of each other. There wasn’t the feel super guarded and protective of our work. We understood that collectively we could create better work than if we were off working on our projects in secret. It was in working with my peers that we were able to build relationships and connections. I am a big believer in embracing your network and not burning bridges. I’m also open to telling people when I’m looking for opportunities – my network has made sure I am supported. I’ve gotten a lot of jobs through my network.
What are the key responsibilities you maintain for your practice?
Because of how the Festival is structured, there is a lot of autonomy. As Head of Marketing, it is important for me to be available for my team, and give them the opportunities for us to work collaboratively, whilst maintaining autonomy. We have office hours when we work together, which really helps in the back and forth emails. It’s also nice to be able to have random chats and ask questions on projects we’re currently working on.
What seems to be a constant with me, as you may have noticed, is maintaining relationships with people. A lot of what we have been able to do has been because of network. Through our networks, we were able to foster relationships with people that have been able to help us grow. Our Visual Communications team, PR Agency, and App developer to name a few, all volunteer their services. The big thing for me is to take care of these relationships and make sure they are reciprocal – not always feeling like we are taking, but also giving back. I am very much about community, and love when the village comes together, something I believe is ingrained in my Filipinx DNA. The community has helped me get to this specific place. I am extremely grateful for the communities I have been allowed to join and those I have helped build, a privilege some have not had the chance to experience.
What are your personal and professional goals for the coming years?
I have a lot of things I want to see happen, specifically with DesignTO. We are a well-known festival in the Art & Design world, but I would like to see us becoming more well known among the general public. The work we are able to do on the budget we have is amazing, but we are severely underfunded. I would like to see the festival grow to the point where it’s fully funded, and we can continue to be a platform for our community so that we may share design experiences with the world.
At some point, I want to return to design. At the moment, I feel like I’m more design adjacent. Dean Dori has told me that I’m STILL designing, that I’m designing an entire system, but I would like to return to designing objects and spaces. I would also like to amass more plants, but don’t know if I have space. I currently have over 100!