Year-end showcase makes virtual debut

Graphic programs use technology to connect with industry

6/5/2020 3:03:16 PM

ST. JOHN’S, NL – If there were ever a time that post-secondary students had to apply all the skills, creativity and technical abilities they’ve learned in school, it’s now.

College of the North Atlantic (CNA) campuses are traditionally abuzz with activities related to year-end projects and graduation. However, the buildings (aside from essential services) throughout Newfoundland and Labrador have been closed since mid-March as a result of public health measures from the global pandemic. In-person classes quickly moved online, and hands-on components of many programs have been postponed until they are safe to resume.

So how does a group of visually creative graduates show the public the fruits of their labour while maintaining physical distancing, sanitary conditions and public safety? John Barry, Graphic Design instructor, says he and his colleagues (Ray Fennelly, Paul Burke, Craig Chislett and Andrea Kirby) knew the solution was at their fingertips.

Beginning Monday, June 8 until Friday, June 12, the Graphic Design and Graphic Communications programs will host their first-ever virtual exhibition of their work using the Behance platform. This aims to replicate the on-site, one-day show that has been traditionally held at Prince Philip Drive campus in St. John’s to connect industry representatives with graduates. Except now it’s occurring safely from the comfort of home.

Brenda Tobin, Dean of the School of Academics, Applied Arts & Tourism (AAAT), says she is proud of the faculty and students for their commitment and hard work during this critical time.

“The creative thinking and collaborative planning have allowed our students to connect in new ways with industry and increase their online communication skills, as well as highlight their ability to problem-solve and think critically. These are all part of the learning experiences within AAAT programming. We have an online presence in a world that is so connected now. It’s a wonderful new way of celebrating and I am so delighted to see such positive things happening for our students and future graduates.”

Faculty and staff have worked tirelessly for the past couple of months to build the same excitement, experience and outcomes students would have ordinarily achieved via a field placement, notes Barry, while at the same time, providing an alternate means to showcase their results to the public.

“We wanted this same motivation to occur for this year-end show and graduation – emulate what is normally a big celebration and culmination of their two years of work at their highest level, as well as having the world see that work and acknowledge it. We want the students to feel good about it.”

As part of this course work, second-year students were directly linked with four ad agencies/design companies and given one project per week over the span of four weeks to provide creative solutions and receive evaluations by those companies.

“It gives our students a sense of what it would be like to work for four different employers in that timeframe,” he said. “We hope they are going to look back on this as a positive thing, and even though they weren’t physically able to be at a work site, they had the opportunity to connect with four great creative directors who helped to evaluate their work before it was made available to the public. Our students are going to be relying on these same skills to adapt, become nimbler and more creative as they get out there and work with others. We don’t know how long this unique situation is going to last.”

The students’ portfolios, which are ordinarily presented in book form during the traditional year-end exhibit, will instead be digital and available online at a portal that houses photos of the students and linked to their work. To enhance the overall experience even more, says Barry, is the fact students will be available throughout the week to interact with the public in real time on YouTube.

“We’re hoping that this will encourage people, and potential employers, to reach out to our graduates for one-on-one or small group conversations,” he explained. “Many schools around the country have been either cancelling or postponing these events indefinitely, and we didn’t want to do that. It won’t be the same as being in person with all the tables of very cool stuff they created, but we can get their portfolios up so the community can celebrate that, and potential employers can have a look at them. To have the live interaction with our graduates on top of that is fantastic.”

The global pandemic has forced everyone, faculty included, to approach annual events with a different perspective, and think about the unthinkable. The result may mean that even if next year’s exhibition is permitted to occur in person, the virtual component is likely to occur as well.

“We didn’t want the culmination of students’ two years of hard work to just be the sad trombone without fanfare – we want them to feel like this led to something large and valuable at the end,” said Barry. “None of this is their fault, or something they in any way bear any responsibility for; it’s just a horrible coincidence at this particular time in their life that this happened. We’re all dealing with it so that we can help them get as close to the real-life experience as we can.”

Barry said the exciting part is anyone in the world with an internet connection can see the students’ work, and students can reach a broader audience than ever before.

To see the students’ work, visit: 

For more information about programs in the School of Academics, Applied Arts & Tourism, visit:

Media contact:

Michelle Barry
Communications Manager
College of the North Atlantic