Posts Tagged ‘student profile’

Environmental Design student profile

Audrey Liang

Bachelor of Design


Audrey Liang portrait

Audrey Liang, a international and transfer student will be graduating from the Environmental Design program on June 11th.

Audrey had always had an interest in art and design from a very young age but never considered pursuing her hobby as a career. Her path to design started in high school with an introduction to architecture, and before long went to business school for two years until she changed her major to design. Audrey’s career path was a process of trial and error.

What influenced your decision to major in Environmental Design?

Environmental Design program at OCAD U is different from most traditional Architecture schools. The program has a deeper focus on design, theory, and concept rather than heavy on mathematics.

Audrey Liang, Illustration

What did you most enjoy about your program?

I enjoyed the learning process as well the opportunity to interact with my peers and professors—I appreciated seeing how the quality of our work improved over the years.

Can you tell us a bit about your thesis idea and how you decided on it?

My thesis topic is on the redesign of Urban Cemetery. The topic was decided upon through observation. I noticed that in Canada, a lot of residential houses are built beside or nearby a cemetery, thus it attracted me to research on the topic.

Audrey Liang, Illustration

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I enjoy reading comedy books, but during the pandemic I found myself reading finance and psychology books.

What are your next steps after graduating?

I am looking for an opportunity to join an architecture/design firm in Canada. I would like to gain some real-life experience before I apply to graduate school.

What will you miss the most about OCAD University?

I will miss the studio days as well the opportunity of working on projects with my classmate in the open studio space.

Is there anything else you want to share with us, any final thoughts?

School is one of those times that you will have the opportunity to explore your passion. Your program of study does not define your career path, but it does reflect your interest. OCAD U is one of those schools that values multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary research.


06 2021

Industrial Design student profile:

Sydney Cooling-Sturges

Bachelor of Design



Portrait of Sydney Cooling Sturges

Sydney Cooling-Sturges is graduating this year from the Industrial Design program. Sydney has been part of the Learning Zone Team since 2018 and I can personally say that we will miss her positive attitude and her enthusiasm.

Growing up, Sydney has always had a strong interest in art & design, building Parisian towns in her living room with her mega blocks. Before Sydney realized that she could have a career in art & design, she wanted to work in a butterfly conservatory, become a veterinarian and even considered in becoming an architect, but not with the idea of making buildings – but making the things within the building. Sydney knew that she was going to get to a creative career eventually.

Sydney’s approach to design is to make people happy. She enjoys new challenges which is why she pivoted away from making things, to creating digital solutions. At the beginning of every project Sydney never knows if the output of the design is going to be a soft good, hard object or digital object. For Sydney, problem solving and creating good solutions are the key point to creating an end product. Sydney’s thesis project, Better by Bumble was a recipient of the ACIDO Rocket Design 2021: SHEPPID Health & Wellness Award.

What influenced your decision to major in Industrial Design?

Just luck. I was in a wood shop class in High School and a classmate of mine was telling me that her dad was an Industrial Designer. She was going to school for engineering and said that Industrial designers and engineers are “best friends” in the industry. She was not interested in designing things but wanted to understand how to make the things, but encouraged that I should go for Industrial Design.

That really influenced my decision to major in Industrial Design, the more I read about it and learned that it was a real career, I new that it was the right direction for me. It was nice having someone in my life that heard what I liked doing and what I did not like doing and knew that there was a career out there that aligned with my interests before I even knew that Industrial Design as a career.

Sydney Cooling-Sturges Blūm design

What did you enjoy most about your program?

My program does a good job introducing its students to the community and had us designing with the community really early on in the program.

In my 2nd year, I was doing design work in Regent Park with members of the Regent Park Sewing Studio. We would meet with the community members every week, that was incredibly fun—having those creative opportunities

I was able to do design all over the city and in another country, that’s what I really enjoyed about my program—it reminds you that you design for people and provides real-life scenarios.

You can find some of Sydney’s program engagements below:

Teamed up with Regent Park Sewing Studio

Design Abroad: Costa Rica (2019)

Design For Health – Participatory Design

Where are you most productive? Tell us a bit about your creative space. Has it changed since COVID?

My productive space had changed dramatically. When COVID started I moved back to my house with my parents. I worked from my bedroom and completely rearranged the space, setting up 2 little lockers from IKEA filled with all my design tools. I had everything colour coded. I added a huge piece of wood on top of the lockers and that was my desk.

Now it’s changed, I live with my partner, we rent a small house north of Peterborough. My creative space is in the living room filled with plants, it’s open and super bright – I have close to 40 plants in the room. I sit on a pink fuzzy armchair and do most of my work there.

Sydney's plants
Can you tell us a bit about your thesis idea and how you decided on it?

Better by Bumble: A Digital Learning Platform for Sexual and Reproductive Health

My thesis topic is on reproductive and sexual health for young adults. Initially I wanted to focus on patient centred care because of my personal experience navigating the patient care system. The more research I did on the topic the more I realized how broad this thesis topic was. I was shying away from doing my thesis on reproductive health because I was nervous that it was predictable or that I was too close to the topic. Eventually, it naturally kind of flowed that way; I was thinking about what health problems that young people like me face the most and unsurprisingly it was sexually transmitted infections and diseases and that falls under an umbrella of sexual health and reproductive health.

I designed a reproductive and sexual health hub where you can learn about reproductive sexual health. This is situated in Bumble, the dating app because I wanted to access people before they would most likely contact a STD or STI and also reach people that may have missed out on sex education.

Sydney Cooling-Sturges thesis project

It’s about receiving the right information at the right time. I got super interested in micro-credentials when working as a user experience ambassador at e-campus, an e-learning resource for post-secondary schools of Ontario. Micro-credentials is an up-and-coming area certifying that you know something about a topic, it’s super cool to match people together who have taken an micro-certification in sex education and understand reproductive health – people can be healthier and suffer less.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy non-fiction especially books about the science of food and nature and public figures, especially figures like Michelle Obama.

What are your next steps after graduating?

My partner and I are fixing up our house, trying to make it nice. I definitely want to apply to junior design positions and working on my portfolio. I also plan on taking another course through BrainStation in interface design, I have become interested in coding. I think that a lot of solutions to problems are digital.

What will you miss the most about OCAD University?

I like being there. There is a fun energy about the school. Going up to the 5th floor where all the design students are and being in that open studio space where everyone is doing their work, all the hustle and bustling – there is so much energy. I’ll miss being in the space and all the faces. I feel that it had been cut really short for me. My last class was a Monday night, March 10th 2020, a different vibe. I wish I had known it was the last time things would be that way. I would have spent a couple of hours more in the space.

Is there anything else you want to share with us, any final thoughts?

Thank you for hiring me when I was in second year.  I was living on my own in an unsafe place, because it was what I could afford and had not fully adjusted to OCAD. Had I not worked at the Learning Zone, I don’t think I would have had the bond that I had at OCAD today and would not have gotten the nearly many of opportunities—it really turned things around for me. I feel like it was meant to be and I owe you and Marta a lot for letting me work in the Learning Zone and seeing that I was a good student that added value to the space.


06 2021

Advertising student profile

Sophie Babenko

Bachelor of Design, Minor in Art History


Sophie Babenko

Sophie Babenko will be graduating this June from OCAD U’s Advertising program with a minor in Art History. Between classes and working as a Learning Zone Remote Student Monitor, Sophie also divided her time offering pro bono Art Direction work with The New Kid Collective; a collective created by her friends and classmates, Louise Delfin and Alvin Zheng.

Painting and drawing has been a part of Sophie’s life ever since she can remember, from taking art classes as a child, to studying fine arts in Ukraine. After moving to Canada with her family, she enrolled in the Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSM) fine arts program in high school.

Last week, we sat down with Sophie:

What influenced your decision to major in Advertising?

I have always known that I wanted to work in a creative field but never saw myself pursuing a fine arts career. I took some business classes in high-school and really enjoyed them. For me Advertising is a combination of my interests in arts and business.

I considered enrolling in the drawing and painting program but was always interested in business. My dad worked in marketing in Ukraine and so I have always been surrounded by that industry. I told my parents that I want to enroll in Advertising, they said that made sense because when I was a kid I memorized ads and sang the jingles—it came full circle.

Sophie Babenko, product image

What did you most enjoy about your program?

I definitely enjoyed getting to know people in my program and becoming good friends with them. I think that I got really lucky to be a part of such supportive class. The Advertising program also provided the opportunity to explore the many sides of advertising. You could study photography for advertising or retail which is how some people became interested in UX/UI design, Social Media Management, Strategy etc. I enjoyed how much variety you have in looking at advertising—it was not one straight path, you explored the discipline a little more from different perspectives, and you get to choose what you enjoy the most.

Where are you most productive? Tell us a bit about your creative space.

I am most productive when I am alone at my apartment. I need to focus and not get distracted. However, I am most creative when I am talking to other people. Since I can’t be around my friends during the pandemic, I like to change the setting and to take my work outside when possible.

Sophie Babenko, product image

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

I really enjoy reading books on art history, especially Renaissance and Baroque. I have always loved reading about artists from a very young age; I would read art books cover to cover. Besides that, I like books based on historical events and the ones that tell individual life stories. My favourite book is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

What are your next steps after graduating?

I am looking forward to starting out in the creative industry.  The next step will be getting a creative/art direction internship.

What will you miss the most about OCAD University?

I will definitely miss being able to work on all types of projects with other students from my program. The first thing that comes to my mind is the walk to the 6th floor. There would always be someone there, sitting at the big table and you would join them. We were all friends with each other too so, you go and sit and tell them some of your ideas or work on your own—I will miss that collective mind and creative group work.

You can find more of Sophie’s work:


My Portfolio Website

The New Kid Collective

Sophie Babenko, Ad


05 2021

Catching up with 4th year Graphic Design student Samiya Karim

Samiya Karim, 2020

Samiya Karim is a recent graduate of the Graphic Design program and after four years in the program she is happy to be able to call herself a Professional Graphic Designer.

We came to know Samiya from her time working with us in the LZ. When Samiya was not on the job, she could be found in the LZ working on multiple class projects. Last May, she co-curated an exhibition for the Learning Zone Gallery called House of Oriental: Northern Style: An Exhibition of Works Exploring Pan-Asian Canadian Foods. Also, a fun fact about Samiya is that she knows a lot of weird trivia about internet culture as well as pop culture.

We caught up (virtually) with Samiya recentyly to talk about her thesis project and more.

LZ: What influenced your decision to major in Graphic Design?

SK: I really want to say something witty and enlightened but truth-fully I really enjoyed making memes and making peoples’ days brighter

What did you enjoy most about the program?

Graphic Design is a program that really allows you to be a jack of all trades, you can explore illustration, motion, packaging, and really make the degree your own.

Reviving Bloordale, Samiya Karim 2020

Can you tell us a bit about your thesis idea and how you decided on it?

My thesis idea revolves around recognizing the role of small businesses in the make-up of the neighbourhood. Toronto as a rapidly growing city is experiencing gentrification faster than ever, and those being most affected are Toronto’s BIPOC community. Bloordale in particular is a place that is close to my heart as my family had established their first roots there when we arrived in Canada. It is particularly sad to see these immigrants’ businesses disappear that often would give us access to a piece of our motherland in a foreign country. This project is intended to preserve that history and the memories of Bloordale’s diverse neighbourhood.

 During this time of physical distancing, do you feel that social media is more important to your work, and in what ways?

I feel it is both important as well as hindering. I feel that a huge part of my work is missing an essential part of human interaction as it is dealing with place, however I recognize that social media has the power of spreading my work much faster.

What do you do to relax?

I find building houses in the Sims is a great way to be relaxing. It’s something that I find great as a way to get rid of any creative blocks as well as distress. If I am looking to relax in short term, I often find myself meditating.

What are your next steps after graduating?

Honestly, my first step is finding a job that pays well so I can support my family. My second plan was to take a vacation to New York or LA but I’m afraid that would not be happening soon.

Is there anything else you want to share with us, any final thoughts?

There are a lot of things that are happening in the world right now, but all the new changes will hopefully be for the better!

Samiya Karim postcards, 2020



06 2020

Student Profile: Mia Đặng

Mia Dang, Illustration student 2020

Mia Đặng aka Miapear will be graduating this June from OCAD U’s Illustration program, with hopes to complete her minor in photography soon. Mia joined the LZ team two years ago and during that time we had the opportunity to collaborate with her on poster designs and other LZ activities, it was great to see her dedication and fun approach towards creativity shining through.

Art has always been my hobby as I painted cast figures every weekend as a child until grade 5

For Mia, studying art did not become a career consideration until the age of 18 after she was encouraged by her oil painting teacher to apply to the design program. Studying Illustration was a natural fit for Mia. Since the age of five Mia found ways to be creative by drawing, doodling, painting cast figures or working on art projects with her friends for fun.

Last month we sat down (remotely) with Mia and asked her a few questions:

LZ: What influenced your decision to major in Illustration?

MD: I initially applied for graphic design; however, my portfolio seems to fit into the Illustration program better. I found myself having fun with turning quotes and ideas into imagery and drawing, which led me into switching my application decision.

LZ: What do you enjoy the most about the program?

 MD: I enjoy the endless support from the Faculty and the community we have in Illustration. Everyone is very nice and helpful when it comes to critique and giving feedback. Another aspect which I like is the wide scope of Illustration field information we have access to in 4th-year courses.

Where are you most productive? Tell us a bit about your creative space.

I find myself working very productively all by myself in my studio. My working/creative space consists of books and art prints for inspiration, chill music, coffee or tea, a very neat table and tons of art supplies.

You said that you are interested in becoming a children’s book illustrator. What lead you in that direction?

I have always enjoyed babysitting my cousin’s kids since the age of 7-8. I love kids so much that when I found out that I could become a children’s book illustrator and read those books to them, I couldn’t think of anything else. Besides, I have a little brother who just turned two, so I can’t wait to make books and read to him.

Mia Dang, Spring Things

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

I do read for pleasure in my free time. I love romantic poetry and novels. Adolescence-centred graphic novels are also my favourite. Some of my favourite graphic novelists are Lucy Knisley, Jillian Tamaki, and Eleanor Davis. I also read self-help books to motivate myself to work and not to give up. I highly recommend The Pursuit of Dreams by Dr. Dragos Bratasanu. It’s a great read.

Who are your favourite photographers?

I have a few female Vietnamese portrait photographers that I love which are Dạ Miêu and Linh Bay Bong. You can easily look for them on Instagram. They are excellent at capturing women’s essence and intimacy.

How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affecting your routine?

I have always stayed an introvert and I spend most of my time at home. So, the quarantine doesn’t have too much negativity on my daily routine. The only things that affects me are getting art supplies, shipping out orders for my shop and getting groceries. But these tasks are not frequent so I don’t find it hard to adapt.

During this time of physical distancing, do you feel that social media is more important to your work, and in what ways?

Due to the virus, shows and fairs have been cancelled which decrease my exposure to the public. So social media has been a lifesaver these days for my works to be appreciated and showcased. People use Instagram a lot more these days which gives me more chances to sell and promote my works.

Does your work have a specific message or theme?

I want to spread the message of staying a child and look at things through a child’s perspective, which is why my works are bold and vibrant in colours with many character designs based on things we see every day like animals, fruits, nature…

Can you tell us a little bit about your thesis project and why it was important to you?

Like I mentioned, I love working with kids and children’s materials. So I came up with a thesis topic regarding children’s psychology during the summer of 2019. I also got to spend sometime with my grandmother back home in Vietnam and noticed that she was having mild symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

With the art direction of my thesis professor, my project Inverse Retrogenesis came to life; it explores the similarities of early childhood psychology and Alzheimer’s disease symptoms to subvert the perception towards aging process. This project is so dear to my heart since it shows how much love I pour out for kids and the elderly. Growing up as a Vietnamese in Asia, I’ve encountered how careful adults and children treat their elderly; however, I don’t see that so much in the Western culture. I feel like if I grow old here in the West, I’m just gonna end up in the long-term care home. As a result, through the thesis project, I want to affect how people think about aging and perhaps make people think twice about how they treat their elderly. Getting old is as similar as growing up. We love kids and emphasize with them so much, why not the elderly?

Mia Dang, Habit 2020

What are your next steps after graduating?

I want to find a full-time job in a publishing company. Ideally, the position of a book cover illustrator as the starting point would be great. Then, I’ll work my way to get my books published. Along with the stable job, I will also grow my Etsy store and make that the second source of income.

Is there anything else you want to share with us, any final thoughts?

Yes. I want to give advice to my fellow OCAD students. Don’t ever think that your art is not great or tell yourself that you’re small. Just put yourself out there. Start creating something for yourself first. We always have to start somewhere so start right now and you are more than enough.

I’d like to thank Heather Evelyn for giving this opportunity to share my love of art. I appreciate this so much.

You can see more of Mia’s work on her Instagram and YouTube channel @ Miapear.




06 2020

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