Directors Guild School Students in Role of Graphics in Film and More

By Pheinixx Paul, Program Director, Graphic Design and Interactive Media


On Thursday, March 24 the Graphic Design and Interactive Media program at Toronto Film School hosted two special guests from the Directors Guild of Canada; Member Services Manager Ontario David Seymour and Arlene Lott. David and Arlene provided great insight into the role of graphic designers within the film/television industry as well as some clarity around career building.


We typically think of graphic design being limited to the marketing side of entertainment (posters, packaging, logos, advertising) but in reality, graphic design plays an extensive role in video production. Arlene dissected the structure of the Art Department for our students and listed the variety of roles that designers hold and the many ways designers can exist within a production. The number of opportunities is staggering; in motion graphics, designing GUI, branding, way-finding, props, set graphics, surface design, layout + document design, textiles – almost everything that we would design for a real-world company, we would design for a production to create the environment, establish the characters and progress the story.


Arlene shared some examples of the designs she has had to create, making special mention of how much GUI needs to be designed now since we are living in a device-centric era: David added to this with his experience working on the tv series Salvation – where there was so much footage needed of people scrolling on their devices and computers that a second shooting unit was set up to handle it all.


In their entertaining talk, stories about working on set and collaborating with various departments were dished out – the reality of 12 hour days, fast-paced workflow, tight deadlines, and 7 am call times (which really makes our 10 am classes a walk in the park) were balanced with jokes about designing fake id’s and printing money. Our students were given an excellent overview of daily life in the graphics department and an understanding of the myriad of projects and pieces that would be asked for, ranging from the branding of a fictional coffeehouse to government file folders bursting with secrets to a futuristic social media app. In addition to the outline of the types of jobs and projects, Arlene shared a list of skills that are commonly required. On top of strong design fundamentals, designers are expected to know software tools like Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects and disciplines such as UI, identity, layout and web.


David outlined who the Guild is and their role within the industry, as well as providing some great advice with regards to breaking in (like the DGC intern program) and answered what is always the biggest question our students have “how do I find work?”. The answer is promising in Toronto, where there are world-wide productions ongoing and plenty of work as an independent creative professional.


David and Arlene were generous with their time after our scheduled event, continuing to answer student questions in the hallway. An engaging and enlightening presentation that went a long way to provide insight into how our graduates can begin their design career within film and television.


About Arlene Lott


Raised on the set of the Degrassi Television series as a child actor, Arlene turned her passion for performance into studying Theatre at York University.  While completing her BFAH, she transitioned from a focus on acting to one of production and design. Returning to film to work in an Art Department has combined those passions and skills. After over 22 years as a member in the Directors Guild of Canada, Arlene has worked on a wide range of CSA and Emmy-nominated Feature Film and Television projects as a 1st Assistant Art Director, specializing in Graphics.


About David Seymour


David Seymour has been a member of the DGC for 10 years and has worked as a 3rd AD for the past five. In addition to his film work, David has also published two books of poetry, Inter Alia (Brick Books, 2005), and For Display Purposes Only (Coach House Books, 2013). He has taught creative writing seminars and workshops at nationwide literary festivals as well as several academic institutions, including the University of Toronto and Sheridan College. In the past three years, he has also helped develop and teach courses at the DGC for both incoming and current DGC members.