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Fulfilling a Longing for a Creative Career | Julia Colley’s Online Graphic Design Story

 

“Stay curious, stay open, push yourself, and be kind.”

 

That, in a nutshell, is Julia Colley’s message to her fellow graduates as Toronto Film School Online’s 2022 Graphic Design & Interactive Media valedictorian.

 

True to her own advice to stay open, Colley was working in a university setting when she decided to pivot career paths towards a more creative field.

 

“I deeply longed to pursue something creative that would blend my art background with my communication work,” said the mother of two, noting that, soon after, she stumbled upon the Online Graphic Design & Interactive Media program at TFS.

 

“I was looking for a program that offered flexibility (where I wouldn’t have to uproot my family or commute to school), and the online program seemed like a win-win.”

 

Since completing her studies in June 2022, Colley has continued to develop her range of skills in graphic design, illustration and motion graphics through freelance work.

 

Colley recently sat down to reflect on her time at Toronto Film School, her passion for graphic design, and her plans for the future. Here’s what she had to say:

 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

 

I am a native Ontarian who studied in Montreal and dreams of moving to Europe (I have dual citizenship with the Netherlands). I am a mother of two incredible children. I am passionate about raising them to be strong, confident women who are engaged world citizens. My partner and I took them to Europe this summer, and we cycled along the Rhine for five weeks; it was an incredible trip and so much fun to share such a beautiful part of the world with them.

 

What brought you to Toronto Film School? Where were you in life when you decided to continue your studies with us?

 

I have had a fantastic career working at a university and getting to support students and faculty who are leaders in environmental science. I have been fortunate to travel internationally with my work and learn and absorb so much from these very talented individuals. Despite all this, I deeply longed to pursue something creative that would blend my art background with my communication work. I stumbled upon the Graphic Design & Interactive Media program at TFS through an internet search. I was looking for a program that offered flexibility (where I wouldn’t have to uproot my family or commute to school), and the online program seemed like a win-win. I submitted a form for additional information and received a call from one of the program advisors a few days later. He walked me through how the program worked and answered all my questions, and by the end of the call, I was ready to submit my application.

 

What made you decide to pursue your passion for graphic design?

 

I had always thought I would “end up” in a creative field. Despite my efforts to use my creative skills in any way possible with the work I’ve had, I never felt like it was enough to stimulate and support my passion. I am a lover of all things design, from graphic, industrial, fashion and interior design; it all makes me tick and sparks a fire inside me. I was tired of sitting on the sidelines and watching others pursue work in design and reached a point where I had to have the courage to re-route my life’s path to include design. Graphic design seemed like a great fit; I could build upon my Bachelor of Fine Art and incorporate relevant work experience in communications and operations.

 

What is the most important thing you’re taking away from your studies at TFS?

 

Ooh, good question! There is so much I have taken away from this experience at TFS. Learning and growth are two important values in my life. I love a good challenge, and going back to school during a pandemic (while still working and homeschooling my kids) was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I felt so energized when I was designing, I felt like I had found something buried within me that I didn’t know existed, but I also struggled so much with anxiety and self-doubt. Studying online can be pretty isolating, and I knew I couldn’t get through the program without making connections. Early in the program, I reached out to a few students who started the program at the same time as me, and we started a group chat on Teams. We used this to provide feedback on each other’s work and ask questions about design briefs/software, and we created a safe and welcoming space for each other. It was the best thing I could have done! Now that most of us have finished the program, we’ve moved our group to WhatsApp, and we continue supporting each other as we begin our design journeys outside of school.

 

What are your plans after graduation, both immediate and long-term?

 

I am stoked to start looking for work! I have been finishing up a contract, so I’ve had some time to reflect on what I want to pursue. I’m keeping all options open and am taking the time to consider what experiences I want to add to my CV to get me where I want to land. I have some freelance contracts lined up in the immediate future, and I’m applying for positions at branding agencies here in Toronto. I hope to gain valuable experience and learn as much as possible from other designers and clients. Long-term, my goal is to move my family abroad and work internationally.

 

If you offered one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would that be?

 

Make meaningful connections with others! People are what make our work, our school and our lives whole. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your instructors and fellow students. Connecting with others is beneficial (not just in the immediate future but down the line, too!). You never know how much impact you might have on someone’s life and how much they might have on yours.