Catch a rising design star at Wonderlust

Talented young designers from the York University/Sheridan Institute Joint Program in Design showcase their best work in Wonderlust, their graduation exhibition open to the public today and tomorrow at the Steamwhistle Brewery in downtown Toronto.

The graduating class came up with the title of the show, which also defines their commitment to the creative work they’ve chosen to pursue: "Wonderlust is the sense of being powerfully and mysteriously attracted to an area of specific interest. A suspended moment that encompasses all thought and perception – it is a passionate curiosity."

Ranging from print to virtual design, and from packaging to products, Wonderlust journeys through diverse communication design media, styles and ideas from the 106 members of the 2009 graduating class.

"Wonderlust is a remarkable showcase of the achievements of our students and of the York/Sheridan design program itself," says Wendy Wong (right), chair of York’s Department of Design, Faculty of Fine Arts. "In previous years, more than 400 industry professionals have attended our year-end exhibition, drawn by the excellent reputation of our graduates. I’m sure the talent and dedication these students have shown throughout their years in our program will shine for professional designers and the public alike."

With every graduating student assigned to some aspect of planning and production, the work of pulling the event together was done in a structure similar to that of a mid-sized design studio with an executive committee, project managers and teams. The group wrote a brand strategy to guide their show concept and marketing, raised all the funds to make the exhibit a reality, curated their own works, and will be personally installing the show.

Recognizing the inherent challenges of working with large groups, with the additional hurdles of planning an event during a labour disruption and asking for financial support during an economic downturn, event co-chair Samantha Dubeau expressed great admiration for the professionalism and cooperation she’s seen in her classmates.

"While I have many friends in the program and know everyone by name, it’s been an amazing experience to collaborate with so many individuals in this way," Dubeau says. "It’s ideal preparation for the workplace. I love seeing how vital and inter-dependent each person’s contributions are to the project as a whole. I’ve always felt the students in my year were particularly passionate about design and Wonderlust demonstrates it in a multitude of ways.

From Winnie Ma’s map of mailboxes on Kensington Market’s Nassau Street to Chelsea Leathley’s stationery and book designs and Ronald Tau’s teaser ad campaign, the graduation exhibit showcases a wide spectrum of projects and aesthetics.

Left: Winnie Ma’s map of mailboxes on Kensington Market’s Nassau Street

"In line with this year’s theme, my continuing role as a designer is to maintain an open curiosity to the world that surrounds me," says Ma. "This is the only way to discover and explore new methods, and push the boundaries of what is perceived to be design. Not everything is design, but design is about everything.

"Initially, design was merely a combination of two of my interests: communication technology and fine arts," says Leathley. "Approaching graduation, I’ve learned there is so much more to it that I love. There is a combination of research, critical thinking and multi-disciplinary study and exploration that I find truly enjoyable and exceptional in the field".

Tau was a part of the team promoting the exhibition. In addition to posters and e-announcements as was done in previous years, the team came up with a new viral video campaign with a seemingly endless supply of cheeky video clips. One such clip demonstrates the difference between serif and san serif fonts using a cookie and some artful nibbles. You can see the promo videos on Web sites such as and

For the graduating students, poised on the brink of their professional careers, a highlight of the exhibit is the Industry Night on Tuesday, featuring alumna Joanne Balles, a freelance brand innovator and former president of Bruce Mau Design, as keynote speaker. An invitation-only friends and family night Sunday was to feature a talk by Canadian design guru Todd Falkowsky, one of the team behind Motherbrand dedicated to promoting Canadian design on the international stage.

Right: Chelsea Leathley’s stationery and book designs

The York/Sheridan Joint Program in Design was established in 1999 as Ontario’s first Bachelor of Design degree program. It is offered jointly by York University in Toronto and Sheridan Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Oakville, with students taking courses at both institutions. Building on the joint program, York University launched a Master of Design program in 2005.

Wonderlust York/Sheridan Joint Program in Design graduation show is open for public viewing May 11 and 12. Hours are 10am to 6pm on May 11 and 11am to 6pm on May 12. Admission is free. For more information, visit the A Passionate Curiosity Web site or call 416-736-5885.