80 Hours of Mentoring the Next Gen of Designers

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having a great placement student from Sheridan's Visual Merchandising Arts program. Hiba joined me for 2 weeks, shadowing my business and learning through my mentoring in regards to graphic design and branding. Now that she has spent a whopping 80 hours learning how I run my business, meet with clients and work from coffee shops, she has finished her project and write up about her experience! See below for some of her feedback on the experience.


Describe the atmosphere and working conditions?

Working with Beth was super laid-back and comfortable. We started the day working in coffee shops in Oakville and would move from coffee shop to coffee shop for meetings with clients, or to style products alongside Jessica Waugh Photography. Since most of Beth’s clients are through word of mouth referrals, even our meetings were laid-back in general, but were still also kept professional. This made the whole experience comfortable and less stressful than sitting in a board/meeting room.

What aspect of this company/placement experience attracted/intrigued you?

Since starting this program, I have been interested in branding and graphic design. When I learned that the business was independently owned, I wanted to experience how it is to run your own graphic design/branding company. I was also drawn to the product styling aspect. Being able to work with small businesses and provide styled photographs was definitely an aspect I wanted to experience, to see if it is something I would like to pursue as a career.

What are the strengths/weaknesses of the company?

Beth is an honest and kindhearted person who works to help others. This has allowed her company to grow and clients to become more than just business partners, since there is trust on both sides. Since she is a VMA graduate, she has utilized all her talents to build her company.

I would not say weakness is the appropriate word, but I feel that maybe catering to larger companies could allow for the company to grow to a larger scale.

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What specific skills have you learned in school were you able to utilize and apply?

I was able to implement my graphic design skills and marketing skills that I learned in school. I also used a lot of the elements of design when working on graphic and styling projects for clients. I was able to enhance my InDesign and Illustrator skills and also photography.

What new skills did you learn or perhaps improve upon while on placement?

Product styling was something I learned more about while on placement. I realized it is similar to designing something on a template, where spacing, colour, size and weight play crucial parts in the end result. This placement has allowed me to figure out what aspects of visual merchandising appeals the most to me. Product styling is something that I would like to pursue in the future.

In a Day of Photo Styling with Jessica Waugh

A typical day of placement started off with Beth picking me up at 9:00am from Sheridan, Trafalgar campus. She would then give me a summary of what the day would look like, meetings at the usual Vereda Central Coffee Roasters down the road. We worked at various coffee shops and she would send me what her client needed, be it a banner design, brochure, logo, or social media template. I updated her on my progress and asked for feedback on what I could improve. She would then send my work to the client. At 2:00 we would finish, and I would go home. Beth would then email me the clients’ feedback on the work I did, and I would make the changes at home. This took about 30 minutes to a couple of hours depending on what needed to be changed. I was also put in charge of posting feed on the South Ontario Small Business Instagram Account once every two days, and learned how to use a website that scheduled posts throughout the week.

The best days were photo styling days. I was able to style products and create flat lays for Beth, Medium Art Studio, and Liv Bella Tanning. One area I learned the most was styling product photography with Jessica Waugh Photography. She needed content for her Instagram page and for her company. Our shoot location was at The Sunshine Doughnut Co. in Burlington. The store itself was designed beautifully and had unique fixtures which created stunning backdrops for styling. Since we got there early before the shoot, we decided to walk to the lake to take pictures for Beth’s Instagram. When Jess arrived, the product styling began. She gave me entire freedom on what products and props I wanted to use. I had not seen the products prior to styling them so I had to work with what she brought, which was fun and challenging. The process to perfect a flat lay is longer than one would think. Since I was doing flay lays of perfume bottles and spray tan bottles, placing the bottles so that the logo was facing the right direction or were in the right position took a while. All in all, it was a fun challenge and an enjoyable learning experience.

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What was the most positive aspect of your placement overall?

Being able to experience how to run your own graphic design/branding business was the most positive aspect. Since starting second year, this has been my main point of interest. As for negative, for some projects I didn’t have full control of the design and had to work with what I had to create certain templates or designs, where I would have preferred more creative freedom.

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How did your placement experience contribute to your overall learning?

I was able to understand how it is to work with clients, and how to bring people’s visions to life. Learning about how to turn a client’s idea into something that suits their brand is similar to creating a window display. The whole visual aspect of these types of jobs all tie in together when it comes to the planning process. Helping companies brand themselves is another thing I would pursue in the future.

Would you recommend this placement to another student? Explain your reason?

I would definitely recommend this placement to another student who is interested in graphic design or product styling. Working with Beth was not only fun, but she shared her experience on running her own business and also shared her past experience when she worked for retail companies. She made me feel comfortable in various ways, such as making sure I wasn’t commuting for too long. She would pick me up from Sheridan Trafalgar Campus every morning and there wasn’t a time where I felt like I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. Everyday was exciting and I got to work on projects that were of interest to me. Also, by meeting with clients of hers and being able to tell them what I do, I was able to create connections with people who were in similar visual fields.