A few years back, when Toronto Film School Online alumnus Steven “Robbie” Robinson was scrolling through his Facebook feed, he came across an unsettling sight that would ultimately guide his post-military career path.
“One of my old army buddies put up a Canadian Airborne cap badge, but it was all pixelated and it looked really crappy. So, I told him, ‘No, no, no, you can’t put that up! Where’s your pride?’” recalled the 19-year veteran of The Royal Canadian Regiment and Canadian Airborne Regiment, who graduated from the Online Graphic Design & Interactive Media program in 2020.
“It’s about pride in your regiment, pride in yourself, pride in those who went before us. I find in the world of soldiering – whether you’re regular force, reserves, or cadets – we’re extraordinary people and you’ve gotta have pride in that. To me, that’s huge.
“So, that’s how my journey into graphic design began – my buddy came back and challenged me to fix his badge for him.”
A self-described computer novice at the time, Robinson immediately immersed himself in an online search for different programs he could use to bring a little regimental pride back to his friend’s Facebook feed. Using GIMP, it took him two weeks to restore the badge to its former glory.
He did such a good job, in fact, that when his friend posted the new and improved version of his Canadian Airborne Regiment badge on social media, other veterans in his community of Petawawa, Ontario sat up and took notice – and the requests started pouring in.
With the word-of-mouth demand for Robinson’s services quickly growing beyond his then-limited skillset, he knew he had to do something to expand his knowledge of graphic design.
“One day, my wife said to me, ‘If you’re going to sit there and do this all day long, why don’t you go back to school to learn how to do it properly?’” he recalled with a laugh.
In his 50s at the time, Robinson said his transition back to the Toronto Film School Online classroom – and a virtual one, at that – was a sometimes frustrating, but ultimately gratifying one.
“It was important for me to learn about graphic design and to keep learning it. I found it all very exciting, very rewarding, and I’m certainly glad I took the program,” he said.
Robinson has since begun applying all the new skills he learned during his time at Toronto Film School Online with his new graphic design business, ArmyGuyGraphics, which he started up right after he graduated.
With a tagline that reads, ‘Let us help you tell your war story,’ Robinson said his main mandate with the business is to “historically honour” the Canadian Forces veteran community, past, present and future.
“The focus of ArmyGuyGraphics is just to tell people in the military community, ‘Hey, you know what? We all need to band together regardless of what era we lived and served in, because history is important and it’s gotta be told,” said Robinson, a retired sergeant who proudly served from 1984 to 2003, with tours in Cyprus, Bosnia and the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
To help his fellow veterans display some of that pride, Robinson started off his business by producing what would become hugely popular car decals, and then soon branched out into photo restoration, custom graphics, posters, and t-shirts, just to name a few.
His favorite projects, however, aren’t the ones he sells, but the more personal graphics he produces to share with his regiment – especially those Remembrance Day tributes to fallen soldiers.
“Those are most precious to me, because when someone can look at something I made and go, ‘Wow!’, it’s a really unique feeling. They could be an 80-year-old veteran or 20 year old who’s new to the regiment, it’s just important to me that people can relate,” he said.
“We, as a military community, all know the importance of sacrifice. So, for me, Remembrance Day is about letting the rest of the country know that we’re proud of our service.”
Click here for more information about Robinson’s graphic design business, ArmyGuyGraphics.