Carolina Becerra (BDes 1997) is a creative director, brand strategist, consultant and educator. And she’s just been appointed President of the BC Chapter of the Graphic Designers of Canada. This is part of our Get to Know series, where we get a chance to learn about the amazing artists, designers, illustrators and creators in our community.
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Carolina Becerra. I am a creative/art director, brand and marketing strategist, designer, educator, and amateur competitive dancer. I have been practicing design for over two decades and I must say that I love every aspect of what I do. Creating something that didn’t exist before, looking at things in a way that nobody has considered before, helping companies – big and small – realize their objectives, employing and working with amazingly talented people and sharing my knowledge, including failures and all, with my students keeps me inspired.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR CREATION AND PROCESS
I am fascinated by humans and how we all interact and the different ways we do so. Human interaction and experiences inspire my creation. As a designer, I am always observing and trying to learn and understand the way that we relate to the world and each other. That understanding drives my creative process, and I find that creating work that works for different audiences puts me in the path of learning by being curious and learn as much as I can for each project. I feel that I am inspired by everything that I read, see, eat, watch, hear, and experience.
HOW did your education shape your career?
I’ve been a designer all my life, even when I didn’t know I was one. So when it was time to choose a career, after considering being a lawyer, a mathematician, and an architect I found Graphic Design. I didn’t know it even existed. During my first year of design education at Anahuac University, a very reputable private university in Mexico City set the path I was going to follow. During that first year, I was able to create work for a portfolio that, little did I know at the time, would gain me a spot at Emily Carr. As a teenager, I moved to Vancouver from Mexico City, to start my foundation year at ECU. I got accepted into Communication Design in my second year and the rest is history. I never planned to come to Canada, but the winds of adventure brought me here. My parents were incredibly supportive and I had the privilege to finish my degree at ECU. Since graduation, I have been practicing design, and have tried everything. From freelancing to advertising, owning a studio, in-house Creative lead at a Vancouver iconic institution, and as an educator not only at ECU for 18 years, but also at other colleges and universities.
My education set me on the path to the life of creativity and success that I have been so fortunate to create. All my instructors played a very important role in my development, and I would like to mention Ruth Beer for getting me totally into understanding the creative process; to Sam Carter for being a constant support in my creative career and to Rick Cuff who taught me about resilience and believing in myself and being there every step of the way.
YOU’VE RECENTLY been appointed president of the bc chapter of the graphic designers of canada. what does this mean for you?
I joined GDC about 14 years ago, and have been volunteering for almost as many years. I have been Chair of Public Relations, Volunteers, Events, and Education. So being elected by my peers to lead the chapter for the next two years is a tremendous vote of confidence. Only a couple of days after the election is when everything went on lockdown, so it is a very strange time to take the reigns of the association.
We have an incredibly talented and dedicated executive team and I know that together, we will keep working very hard to make sure that the value of design is communicated to the business community, to gain support from the government, keep the creative community engagement, and supporting our students and young designers.
OF ALL THE PROJECTS YOU’VE CREATED, WAS THERE ONE THAT CHANGED YOUR OUTLOOK ON DESIGN?
Wow, this is a hard question to answer! I feel that every project I’ve worked on during my career has taught me something new. How people relate to a particular subject, what works better for certain audiences, how to integrate new technologies, how to engage with the clients. Having worked at Science World for 9 years taught me a lot about the way that children learn and engage which is something that I find very fascinating, and I am now incorporating into a project I am working on.
Very early in my career, working as the lead designer for a high-fashion brand at an ad agency, even though it was very exciting for a junior designer to be hiring models, choosing clothes, engaging with the different brands, art directing photo-shoots and designing the catalogues, I found that that kind of design work was not fulfilling. I wanted to do work that really mattered. That set me on the path of corporate design. One memorable client was the UBC Library including the Irving K. Barber Center. Doing work that made the world a better place was very satisfying and fired me up.
Working at Science World gave that sense of how my work, and design in general, can change the way people see the world and that has given meaning to my career and has fuelled my creativity. I feel that is why I love teaching, another way to contribute. About specific projects, during my tenure at SW, I had the chance to work on projects that will ever be done at a science museum for children (how about a photoshoot with a tarantula?). Every day was a new day of learning. My last project there, the permanent gallery Body Worlds, was an amazing project working with writers, scientists, manufacturers, where I learned a lot about the body. What made the project very interesting was to find the best information that needed to be displayed in a permanent exhibit, consider the challenges of implementation and easy replacement, and making sure all the rules of accessibility, physical and visual, were followed. For this project, I was the CD and the lead designer was Stephen Mullally, ECU alumni from the Design Essentials program, whom I hired right after he graduated.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR NEW GRADUATES?
Get involved. Keep learning. Make mistakes. Face your fears. Start from the beginning. Remember there are no shortcuts. Participate in the world. Be humble. Be open to constructive criticism. Be kind. Be helpful. And of course, join the GDC. It’s an amazing volunteer-run organization so we always need help, ideas, participation, volunteers. Of course, there are perks like discounts, events, etc., but the amazing value — and the reason I’m so invested in it — is that the people that I have met there have been instrumental in my development as a designer and as a person. I believe that belonging and contributing to the creative community is very important, and at this time in our history, it’s even more relevant for our profession and as human beings.