While a web UX design gig in Silicon Valley and working with experiential graphics in a Toronto agency may seem polar opposites in terms of design industry placements, the experiences of fourth-year York/Sheridan Design (YSDN) student Brian Kall and new grad Yasmeen Tawfeek (BDes ‘16) have a lot in common.
Thanks to their training in YSDN, both emerging designers felt totally prepared for their recent practicums, in terms of technical knowledge and understanding of design principles. Both placements involved real work responsibilities, and turned into paid employment. And perhaps most importantly, Kall and Tawfeek came away inspired and enthused about their chosen field.
“Building the bridge between curriculum content and on-the-job experience advances career prospects,” said Arlene Gould, the field placement course director in York University’s Department of Design. “Our graduates enter the job market equipped with a professional network, references, and practical insights into the challenges and opportunities of the workplace environment.”
Tawfeek landed an exceptional experience last summer at LinkedIn, a business-focused social media platform based in Mountain View, California. With more than 430 million users, it describes itself as the world’s largest professional network.
Kall was excited to roll up his sleeves this spring at Entro, one of Toronto’s leading experiential graphics agencies, which specializes in wayfinding, signage and other design elements that go beyond graphic design to elevate a visitor’s experience in a space.
During her placement, Tawfeek designed several pages of the LinkedIn desktop app and translated them for a mobile design. She also did some work on the company’s SEO (search engine optimization). Kall collaborated on creating wayfinding systems for two Ontario hospitals as well as proposals for a 50-ft. interior mural, an event information display, and a logo concept for Entro’s corporate clients.
“On the tech side of things, I felt instantly comfortable,” said Kall. “Entro uses all the same equipment and software we learn with in our program.”
“I was accepted at LinkedIn for either UX or print design,” said Tawfeek. “I could demonstrate that I knew how to apply strong design principles, from typography to usability, in more than one medium. Technology is always changing, but the principles of design are much more constant and those skills are a huge focus at YSDN.”
It’s a testament to this excellent training – as well their own drive, creativity and professionalism – that both interns ended up with job offers. Kall recently returned to Entro to take up a contract position for the summer. Tawfeek is in the midst of applying for a US work visa for a job with LinkedIn.
“I was one of 300 interns at LinkedIn in 2015, most of them software engineers,” said Tawfeek. “The interview process was very rigorous, with multiple phone interviews, a massive test proposal, and flying to California to deliver an in-person presentation to more than 30 managers and senior staff, followed by virtually a full day of on-site interviews. But almost all of us finished our placements with job offers in hand.”
Kall’s interview process was less onerous, but the creative directors at the company were just as demanding on the job. Their high expectations around dedication to quality and the level of rigour required are aspects Kall appreciates.
“Developing projects like these [at Entro] requires many small adjustments, critical thinking, and external input,” he said. “It’s very satisfying when you feel you’ve really nailed the aesthetic.”
Integration with industry standards and close connections to the profession are hallmarks of YSDN’s internationally recognized program. A practicum with an active design firm is a key component of the curriculum for upper-year students.
For current YSDN students thinking about their third-year field placements, Tawfeek’s advice is to shoot for the stars.
“It’s easy to sell yourself short,” she said. “But even just randomly socializing, I ran into four or five YSDN alumni in Silicon Valley. Meeting interns from other schools at LinkedIn or in other settings, I really felt that YSDN portfolios would stand up in competition. Friends who did placements before me strongly encouraged me to aim high. So – go for it!”