“Nothing makes me feel more connected to myself and to life than when I create.”
It wasn’t until Emily Lemire discovered Toronto Film School’s Graphic Design & Interactive Media program at her choice of post-secondary studies began to reflect her true passions in life.
“Despite always being drawn to the creative, I found herself with post-secondary degrees and work experiences that were enjoyable, but missing that passionate spark,” said the 28-year-old Beeton, Ontario native, who previously studied International Relations.
“Always trying to inject as much creativity as possible, I soon realized I needed to make a change and better align my career with my personality and natural skillset.”
That alignment is precisely what this year’s Graphic Design & Interactive Media valedictorian found when she enrolled at TFS.
Despite being faced with a “huge learning curve” and a “quick-paced environment,” Lemire decided to tackle her newly discovered passion for graphic design head-on – knowing that every lesson learned, project completed and deadline met brought her one step closer to a more fulfilling life.
Although her road to her dream career was not necessarily a direct one, Lemire hasn’t looked once back since enrolling at TFS.
“The faculty’s commitment and investment left an impression on me and have stayed with me since graduating,” she said.
“TFS gave me the skills, experiences and confidence necessary to start freelancing after completing my diploma.”
Lemire 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:
What brought you to Toronto Film School? Where were you in life when you decided to continue your studies with us?
My path to Toronto Film School was definitely not linear. After getting a degree in International Relations from UofT and a post-grad certificate in International Development from Humber, I found myself working in fundraising in the non-profit world when I started to feel like I had wandered too far from who I was. I felt burnt out as an introvert living in an extrovert’s world, and any chance to make a basic administrative form made me too excited to not take notice.
What made you decide to pursue your passion for Graphic Design & Interactive Media?
I have had a love affair with visual communication since I was kid; I’ve always loved creating PowerPoint presentations, practicing calligraphy, designing newsletters, etc. However, growing up in a smaller town, most people I knew held more ‘traditional’ careers, so I never associated that enjoyment with a possible career path. In fact, the idea of working in a creative industry was looked upon as really risky by people in my life. And so, when I finished high school, there was little to no support to pursue the creative – most people advised me to continue to enjoy my creativity in the form of hobbies. In my fourth year of university, I had a huge project and when I realized I cared more about how my presentation looked than the content, I realized maybe I was on the wrong path. At that point, I first looked into the TFS program, but for some reason, I wasn’t yet ready to pursue it. When I moved to Toronto in 2017, I was suddenly in a totally different world, where most people I was meeting worked in creative industries. I was both enamoured and terrified, wanting so badly to do an industry jump, but so afraid that I wasn’t going to be good enough. It took me just over a year to find the courage to pursue graphic design – a path I knew was well-aligned with my personality, natural tendencies, and passions. So, I found myself back at the TFS Graphic Design & Interactive Media webpage and haven’t looked back since.
What is the most important thing you’re taking away from your studies at TFS?
Almost everything I know about graphic design I learned from TFS. I went in totally green, except for my instincts and things I picked up experimenting in Canva. It was a really empowering experience to go from knowing nothing to knowing enough to be able to start freelancing (!) in just a year. This is also a testament to the faculty, who shared so much of their own knowledge and experiences. To be able to discuss ideas and receive thoughtful and specific feedback was invaluable to my learning experience. Additionally, the focus placed on grounding all design in meaning, or having rationales for every design decision, has been invaluable now designing in ‘real life’.
What are your plans after graduation both immediate and long term?
It’s been almost a year now since I graduated from TFS. I have been freelancing since January, which in and of itself has been a bit of an unexpected journey, but it has been a year of continuing to learn and growing in my skills and my confidence. Because my journey so far has been quite winding and unexpected, I have really learned to plan less and enjoy the present more; life really has a way of taking you where you need to go. With that being said, in the long-term, I would love to keep increasing my freelancing business, possibly to a small boutique agency. Oh, and I also want a dog and to travel more (I am a millennial, after all).
If you offered one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would that be?
Okay, I’m that annoying person that has to give two pieces of advice – these two things have been a big part of my journey to, during, and since TFS. The first is, don’t discount yourself. I was really afraid to go back to school for the third time at age 27. I was also really afraid that I would never be as good as others, so what would even be the point in trying? If I had listened to those thoughts, I would have never applied, worked so hard in school, and arrived mentally and professionally where I am now (and I am 100000 per cent happier where I’m at now than where I was two years ago). Although real talk, this is something I have to daily remind myself of.
The second is, what you do is not who you are. You have inherent value, apart from what you do as a job. This has helped me to actually enjoy graphic design. With this job can come a lot of examination, criticism, and revising. By understanding that what I design comes from who I am, but is not me, allows me to take feedback well and to have a healthy relationship with my work. It also takes the pressure off and makes the design process much more ‘low stakes.’ It also allows me to enjoy working with other creatives, instead of viewing them as competition.