Fast-forward more than two decades later, and the 27-year-old Toronto Film School graduate is now working full-time for Owlkids – heading up the design team on Chirp, a magazine aimed at children aged three to six, while also contributing to design of OWL magazine for older kids aged nine to 12.
“When I first saw the Owlkids posting, it really caught my attention and got me really excited, because I had actually read those magazines as a kid,” said Dorward, who parlayed her diploma in Graphic Design & Interactive Media from TFS into a full-time editorial design job at the children’s publishing company – and managed to do so just nine months after graduating.
Once an aspiring actor who spent five years on the west coast pursuing a career in musical theatre, Dorward now spends her days directing photo shoots, art directing a stable of freelance illustrators, and designing and laying out magazine pages – and she couldn’t be happier about it.
“Working in kids publishing is so much fun, because everything gets to be really bright and colourful and exciting. I love it,” said Dorward.
“I remember being a kid myself, and when I was about 10 or 12 my dad bought Photoshop, and I was always playing around in it – making art and doing art projects and all that kind of stuff. Luckily for me, it kind of blossomed into a hobby of mine on the side. But it wasn’t until I was in my early 20s when I thought, ‘Hey, maybe this is where I belong.’”
It was at that point, she added, that she decided to start researching schools that could help her transform her visual art hobby into a potential path towards a career in graphic design.
In stumbling across Toronto Film School’s Graphic Design & Interactive Media program in the course of that research, Dorward said the program’s appeal was two-fold – its 12-month duration and that fact that its course load is so design-focused.
“I liked that it was a short program, because with most of the other programs in this area, you’d be looking at three or four more years of school. Since I was already a bit older, I didn’t really want to be spending much more time in school – I just wanted to get out there and get a job in my field,” she said.
“I also liked I wouldn’t have to take any sort of filler college courses that would just distract me from what I wanted to be doing.”
Once enrolled in the program, Dorward discovered several of the other perks that come with being a Toronto Film School student – namely, the personal attention and one-on-one time with instructors that come hand-in-hand with the school’s signature small class sizes.
She also came to be thankful for the breadth and scope of the graphic design courses on offer at TFS – especially upon admitting that she had “no idea” what area of graphic design she’d end up working when she first enrolled at TFS.
“It’s great that they give such a wide range of areas of study, because, like me, you just never know where you’re going to end up and it’s great to have that variety of knowledge. From web design, to motion graphics, to branding – the courses include everything that you think you need or maybe don’t think you need,” Dorward said, noting that she initially thought she’d end up in identity and branding design.
“I definitely did not think I was going to end up in editorial design…until I sort of stumbled upon this Owlkids job, which has been so great for me.”
Calling her work at Owlkids “challenging” in all the best ways, Dorward said her nine months on the job so far have been a dream.
“While I never in a million years thought I would be working in kids editorial and kids publishing, I’m really glad that I am, because it’s so much fun,” she said.
“It’s not where I saw myself, but I’m really glad it’s where I ended up.”