Alum Thomas Girard (BDes, 2005) is a designer and emerging scholar who lives in Vancouver and has been working at Emily Carr University in both the continuing studies department and the undergraduate credit program. This is part of our Get to Know Series where we chat with alumni to get a brief insight into their practice and some wisdom they have to pass on. You can see more of Thomas’s work through his website and Instagram.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Thomas Girard, an emerging scholar based in Vancouver. I’m an MA Candidate in Graduate Liberal Studies at Simon Fraser University, a program that notably offers collaboration with University of Oxford. I’m also an offer holder for Royal College of Art, London. I currently teach interaction design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, mainly through the interaction design certificate offering in Continuing Studies, and also recently in the undergraduate interaction design degree offering.
Describe your practice in three words.
Unique. Passionate. Contemplative.
What are you most excited about in your work/practice right now?
Recently, I’ve been awarded several Emerging Scholar awards. I returned to Canada from living overseas in 2014, and first received this award from the Spur Festival for Art, Politics, and Ideas granted by the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation. In 2015 after joining Emily Carr as an Instructor I was awarded four more Emerging Scholar awards, two of which I received in Barcelona, Spain and Vancouver. They were great opportunities to connect with exceptional graduate students and early career faculty at schools around the world, and sparked a belief in me that I could pursue more prestigious opportunities.
What project had the most influence on your career/creative path?
In 2017 and 2018 I co-taught degree courses with Professor Haig Armen called Core Studio Interaction Design for second year and fourth year undergraduate level students. Around that time I made several personal projects, one was called Selfie Robots. Selfie Robots was made with a Raspberry Pi, a credit card sized computer used in entrepreneurship and education, and uses an add-on camera module to take pictures of itself using Python code to trigger a time lapse.
How did your education shape your career?
Recently, I gave a TEDx talk at Emily Carr as part of TEDxEmilyCarrU. I think they offered to take a chance on me in part because I have the Emily Carr DNA. It’s just one example of how growing along with Emily Carr has opened doors.
Editor’s note: you can watch Thomas’s talk above.
How do you use creativity in your work?
Creativity opens the heart and mind in a way that defines us. For example, often when talking about technology, there is an assumption that the conversation is about digital, but for me it’s very clear that we could easily be talking about pencil and paper. Pencil and paper are technologies. But I think for that idea to exist and manifest itself requires creativity.
What role should creatives/creativity play in the community?
Creatives should open doors for people. I recently was part of a discussion about how a couple of people were trying to get permission to do certain things in their work, and most people they asked for help said no right away. As an educator, I try to empower my students by making introductions for them, arranging coffee dates, or putting together introductory emails between students and industry so that they can eventually have doors open for them. However, it’s when they start doing this for others that I know something valuable is happening.
Name one thing in your practice that you can’t do without?
Whiteboard markers. I try to keep a set of four colours with me, 87% of the time when you find a whiteboard, there are no whiteboard markers or they are all dried out.
How has your practice changed since graduating?
I’m now much more focused on community building.