Den DeBlois in Toronto, Ontario
Like so many people, Den DeBlois tried out a few different career paths before settling on graphic design. He worked in security, toured with a band, and dabbled in design software for years, before officially earning his diploma.
But once Den enrolled in Herzing's Graphic Design program, his career came into focus very quickly.
He was offered not one, but two graphic design jobs, just one month after graduation. Two years later, he's the Senior Graphics Coordinator at a global company with offices in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.
In the end, being a mature student paid off big for Den. His life experience and self-discipline proved tremendous assets in the Graphic Design program.
Not to mention, he qualified for a training grant through the Ontario government's Second Career program.
Read on to find out what Den thought of Herzing's program, how things are going at work, and his advice for aspiring designers.
Q: Can you tell us about your background? What were you doing before you went back to school?
Den: I grew up just outside of the beautiful city of Montreal. Post-secondary, I studied Creative Arts though I didn’t pursue this interest any further after graduation.
I needed to earn an income, so I worked as a security supervisor for many years. This job enabled me to have lots of free time to concentrate on other opportunities.
I spent some time playing music and even toured around with a Trinidadian Chutney soca band!
I finally packed up my things and my cat, Ishmael, and moved to Toronto during the summer of 2015 to live with my sweetheart.
Q: How did you first get interested in graphic design?
Den: While I’m not great at drawing, I’ve always had an interest in art and design.
There was an older version of Adobe Illustrator on the computer in the office where I worked, and I would fiddle around on it.
Eventually I started creating forms, labels, signs, and maps for the workplace. I also began doing some simple freelance work, making business cards and posters or flyers for various music events.
Q: What made you choose Herzing’s Graphic Design program?
Den: After I moved to Toronto, I decided it was time to pursue the Creative Arts again! I had heard of a great program called Second Career offered through the government of Ontario.
Second Career provides financial support to individuals who’ve been laid off, enabling them to train for new careers. I went through the application process and thankfully, was accepted.
I researched several schools and Herzing College was at the top of the list. The Herzing campus was perfectly located in downtown Toronto, right in the Eaton Centre – I gave it extra points for having a high “walk score”!
After speaking with the Admissions Advisor and sitting in on a graphic design class, I knew it would be a good fit for me.
Q: How was your experience in class? What's your overall opinion of the Graphic Design program?
Den: My instructor was Miguel Suarez, a great guy who is very knowledgeable in the realm of graphic design and incredibly skilled at using the entire Adobe Creative Suite arsenal.
While the classroom environment was mostly quiet as we would generally be concentrating on our work, my peers were friendly and fun! We would learn from each other’s failures and victories.
In the classroom we were equipped with large-screen Apple desktop computers, which were loaded with the industry standard Adobe programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Dreamweaver.
Q: What was your favourite part of being a student again?
Den: Having been out of school for a long time, being a student again was a nice experience. It was a rude awakening, though, given how much there was to learn!
I enjoyed the challenge of learning all the design programs and picking up the different tricks and techniques of graphic design.
The daily conversations and peer consultation were also very helpful.
Q: Did you struggle with any aspects of the Graphic Design course?
Den: There were always some challenges to overcome with each topic within the program. Trial and error were my new best friends during that time, and I continue to maintain regular contact with them!
I found the Web Design section of the course particularly challenging. The course required us to create our own functional website and have it fully responsive on a variety of screen sizes.
All the coding can get confusing quickly, and in the end, it began to look like something from the Matrix movies.
Q: Let’s talk about the internship. Where did you do your placement and what was it like?
Den: The internship is an important but tricky part of the learning process. I knew that I wanted to intern in an office setting and as such, refused the first few offers as they didn’t meet my personal criteria.
I think it’s important to self-advocate to ensure you’re the right fit for anything you pursue in your life. After about two weeks, the Herzing career counsellor found a suitable graphic design internship at a company called The Art Of.
I spent the time producing content for their website and social media posts as well as some other office work. It was a great experience and foray into a professional office environment.
Q: How long did it take you to get hired after graduation?
Den: About a month after the internship, I landed two interviews – both in the same week.
A week after that I accepted an offer as a Graphic designer / Proposal Coordinator for Dragados Canada, a large company which manages massive civil infrastructure projects internationally.
Q: Where are you working now? Can you tell us about your role?
Den: I am still working for Dragados Canada and have recently been promoted to Senior Graphics Coordinator.
My job entails a variety of work. I create logos and overall branding for various consortium companies. I format documents as well as create covers and dividers for proposal packages.
Other things like PowerPoint presentations, infographics, organization charts and newsletters also come through my inbox. I primarily use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign with some Photoshop, but also use Microsoft Word regularly.
Pre-Covid-19, I was lucky enough to travel across Canada to visit my employer’s other work sites in order to put together various proposal packages
I really enjoy what I am doing – most of the time it doesn’t feel like work. This is the best kind of job anyone can have.
Q: In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions people have about the field of graphic design?
Den: I think the biggest misconception is that you need drawing skills to become a graphic designer - because you don’t.
Another misconception is that working in graphic design means that you’ll only find work at an advertising company or a design company.
We live in a visual world and most corporations have their own in-house graphic design teams.
Q: What are some big graphic design trends you’re seeing right now at work?
Den: I keep up with current trends by reading online articles and following some social media accounts, mostly on Instagram.
I follow my own style and instincts but always keep the trends in mind. The trend right now in my area of work is just keep things simple, clean, and minimal.
Q: Any advice for aspiring graphic designers? What should new students know?
Den: You can only take away as much as you put in. School is a great place to learn but you must dedicate the time both inside and outside of the classroom in order to be successful.
Learn more about Herzing's Graphic Design program
Herzing College Toronto offers a 10-month Graphic Design program. Courses are project-based and feature hands-on training in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver.
A 5-week internship is included in the program, and every student graduates with a professional portfolio to show employers.
See some really cool projects Den did when he was a student at Herzing College: waukwauk.wixsite.com/home
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