Author Archive

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

LZ Conversation with Ivy Chen

Tell us a little about yourself?


Portrait, Ivy Chen

I am an illustration student going into my third year. I like to draw whimsical characters and environments inspired by nature or surrealist paintings. My favourite mediums to work with are inks, watercolour, graphite and pencil crayons. Recently, I’ve been enjoying the process of creating textures using ink washes which I then like to scan and colour digitally.


Ivy Chen

What influenced your decision to major in Illustration?

I don’t think there was one specific moment or person that influenced my decision to pursue art. However, I remember one of my teachers asking us to envision one thing we see ourselves doing for the rest of our lives, and the answer, for me, was drawing.

I chose illustration because I always liked the storytelling aspect of illustration. In high school, I volunteered at a local art hub near my home, and I met a few artists who graduated from OCAD. Some of them had majored in illustration, and I liked their artworks, so I would ask them questions about how the program was. Their experiences at the school left a remarkable impression on me, which helped me decide on illustration as a major.

Who is your favourite Illustrator?

Victo Ngai is one of my favourite illustrators. She does illustrations for newspapers and magazines, book covers, and packaging and advertising campaigns. What I love most about her work is the surreal atmosphere composed of whimsical characters and playful environments. Her process inspired me to play around with unique perspectives to tell a story.

Rovina Cai and Zoe Van Dijk are two other illustrators whose work I admire. I really enjoy Zoe Van Diijk work because her process inspires me because I enjoy drawing with ink and experimenting with washes to get textures.

Painting, Ivy Chen

How do you discover illustrators?

I discover illustrators mainly through social media such as Instagram and Pinterest. I also look through the Design Annual books like American Illustration and Society of Illustrators annuals in the library for inspiration. For one of my classes, I used Artstor Digital Library to search for historical artists who impacted art movements.



05 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

What are you reading?

 with Atika Tariq


Portrait of Atika Tariq

Hi my name is Atika Tariq. I am going into my final year of Environmental Design and minoring in Sustainability. As a designer, I believe in the ability to strengthen to improve our communities and have a positive influence on the environment through architecture and research combined with design thinking. I don’t just want to create buildings; I want to inspire others with my imagination and ingenuity, designing structures that are out of the ordinary and make people feel at ease in their surroundings.

Drawing, Atika TariqDrawing has always been a passion of mine since I was a kid. I enjoy making realistic drawings, focusing on the nuances, and attempting to mimic anything I see. I took an architecture class in high school because I enjoyed drawing and wanted to learn how to use AutoCAD and SketchUp. I’ve always loved creating things that people can build and use.

Drawing, Atika Tariq

Do you have a favourite Architect or designer or style of architecture that inspires you?

Islamic architecture is a style that inspires me, Islamic architecture is one of the world’s most celebrated building traditions. It’s known for its bold colours, intricate patterns, symmetrical silhouettes, and meticulous attention to detail. Geometric designs adorning Islamic architecture have always captivated me.

Painting, Atika Tariq

What are you reading?

Currently, I am reading Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz written in 1960. This book is about changing your perception of yourself and mastering your mind. It focuses on how to use your mind to help you achieve positive goals and achieve success. As the name suggests, psycho- cybernetics takes you on a quest to discover how the human mind perceives the world and its psychological makeup.

Be sure to visit the OCAD  U Library and discover your next read.


05 2021

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