“Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.”
In times of crisis, it’s those words from award-winning Canadian graphic designer and author Robert L. Peters that sum up just how significant a role design can play in leading the way forward to a brighter tomorrow.
And it’s precisely that sentiment a whole host of Toronto Film School Graphic Design & Interactive Media students and alumni have taken to heart as they utilize their artistic talents to help their communities emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.
For Class of 2017 grad Emma Steele, the coronavirus pandemic has proven an especially inspiring period to partake in the kinds of meaningful projects she most enjoys taking on.
“I’m currently working at a graphic design agency called Loop, and we specialize in graphics, marketing and web design for social impact organizations and non-profits that are trying to change the world. It’s super interesting and super meaningful work,” she said.
“It’s also been really nice to be able to continue to be creative during the uncertainty of COVID.”
One of the projects Steele completed at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis was a poster campaign celebrating the early aid efforts made by volunteers at The 519 – a City of Toronto agency committed to the health, happiness and full participation of LGBTQ2S communities.
“They were looking for an illustrative poster to spread the word about the volunteer work and programming that they’re doing to support the queer community during COVID, like, hot meals and other types of support,” Steele said of the campaign.
“It was a fun project to do, and it really feels like you’re making a difference in the way that you can, which is by being creative.”
Likewise eager to play her part during the pandemic was Edmonton-based freelance graphic designer Maham Fatima, who graduated from Toronto Film School’s Graphic Design & Interactive Media program in 2019.
After losing her job as a photographer amidst the coronavirus shutdowns, Fatima felt compelled to give back any way she could to all those risking their lives on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.
“When we all first got stuck home…I wanted to do something to improve my skills while also giving out my message of thank-yous, because there’s a lot of frontline people who are working hard just so we stay safe,” she said of the impetus behind her Unseen Heroes design.
“I thought the least I could do was create something from my side to show that I appreciate their work…Thinking about all those people who are saving lives right now at this moment, I wanted to create something for COVID-19 (workers).”
For current Toronto Film School student Katie Viera, who’s in her third term of the Graphic Design & Interactive Media program, her focus during quarantine has been finding ways to creatively connect with peers through her online design work.
“Things have changed for us students, because we rely on our fellow classmates to give us feedback on our assignments…but I’m thankful for the internet, because we’ve created groups to be able to show our work… and support each other,” she said.
“So even though it has been different, it’s also been beneficial, because I feel that it has brought people unconsciously closer, because they can’t be together physically.”
Class of 2019 grad Liz Beasse has spent her quarantine time putting the Interactive Media portion of her studies at Toronto Film School to good work with The Tiqvah Project – an initiative inspired by the loss of her grandfather in early March.
“We were fortunate, because we were actually able to come together as a family, fly out to Winnipeg, and have a full funeral for him,” she said, noting that she edited together a memorial video celebrating her grandfather’s life to share with family members to mark the occasion.
“Everyone really loved it and was very touched by it, and I also found that it helped us with some closure, as well.”
Upon her return home to Toronto following the funeral, Beasse began to reflect on how other families experiencing the loss of loved ones during lockdown would have to do their mourning in isolation, restricted from gathering together in their shared loss.
“I realized they wouldn’t be able to have that sense of community and family and that support that is so helpful under these circumstances; that people wouldn’t be able to celebrate the lives of those who have passed in a way that honours them and that’s so important,” she said of the impetus behind The Tiqvah Project – a discounted tribute video service she’s currently offering to families experiencing the loss of a loved one during the COVID-19 crisis.
“For me, it’ about helping people find that closure, and find some semblance of peace in these difficult times, which is also why I named it The Tiqvah Project. Tiqvah means hope, and I wanted to see if I could provide some sort of hope in these times.”