Fine Arts award winners are making waves on a national scale – curious arts

Sophia Park recently become one of 23 emerging designers from across Canada to be recognized by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers. As the recipient of the Berlin Award for Central Canada, Sophia’s work shined through a record breaking amount of entrants to earn her the coveted Award. The Student awards received a record breaking amount of entrants according to the RGD’s website.

What did it take to win the Berlin Award? I followed up with Sophia Park to see.

Sophia: For this year’s RGD Student Awards, I entered 3 works.

The first one is a poster design for U of A’s annual classical music event called Kilburn Memorial Concert. I had to design a poster that maintains the classic feeling and university’s identity, but at the same time it had to be modern and eye-catching even to young audience. I chose to try a new thing for the imagery of the poster. Instead of an image of instrument, I illustrated the main musician so that it has more personal voice to it. The expressive pencil sketch and watercolour splashes keep the classic feeling. The colours used are from the university’s secondary colour palette to suggest the university’s identity in a subtle way. The calligraphic typeface blends in well with the imagery.

Social media infographic flyer

The second work is my conference project. I was to create a fictional conference and make visual identity and applications for it. The conference I made was Scorched. It’s a conference about spices for spicy food lovers like me. The logo was created by combining a fork, pepper and flame into a single continuous form. The colours were inspired by rich colours of spices. I used rough textured typeface for the logotype to provoke “scorched” feeling. Using this visual identity, I created applications in various media such as business cards, invite cards, canvas bag, t-shirt, spice packaging, and broadsheet.


The last work is a CD packaging for a folk music album. The album I chose was Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes by a historical folk music figure, Pete Seeger. It contains 28 songs about animals and it’s for not only children but also for the whole family to play games with and sing a song with. So I wanted this to be not too childish and targeting everyone but still child friendly. Since all the songs are very fun, I chose hand illustrations to keep the playful and bright mood. The colours are bright and warm but its tone is a bit muted to keep the folksy and vintage feeling. While opening this piece, you see animals hiding behind shrubs but as you fully open it, you find the animals revealed. So opening this piece is like going into the forest of animals, and this becomes a fun picture book for children while they are listening to the songs.


What made you decide to enter the contest?

During the four years of my BDes program, I recieved feedback from my teachers, classmates, family and friends but they were usually generous about my works. Even though it was thankful and encouraging, I was still doubtful about my work. I wanted to know how my works compare with the works of other designers around Canada. This contest was a great opportunity for me to re-evaluate my abilities as a designer and see how designers in the real world think about my works.

What was your process like?

When I was designing the poster for Kilburn Memorial Concert, I started by googling images and video clips of the featured musician. Then I saw that he had a unique character and impressive performance so I thought that it would be refreshing to capture that on the poster rather than just putting an image of a clarinet. That way, I could come up with something that’s not typical but has its own personality. So I kept sketching and sketching and drew a sequence of his movement to provoke a sense of sound and action on a static canvas of poster.
When I was designing the logo for Scorched conference, I think we were told to have 30 sketches but I ended up sketching way more than that. To come up with the symbol that is the most representative of the identity of the conference, I made a moodboard and listed keywords and icons, and kept sketching even though some drawings might look silly.


How did you decide which designs to enter?

I picked what was my favourite, something that I enjoyed working on. Also I chose projects that were more complex so that I can show my versatility in integrating diverse aspects of design.

How this award will help shape your future projects?

Through this contest, I competed with larger competitors and got a critical evaluation of my works. As I have graduated and I am about to jump into the real world, this became a big first step. With more confidence in myself and stronger motivation, I would like to learn and try new things and keep challenging myself.

What other work and projects are you up to right now?

Right now, I am doing small projects for my acquaintances such as designing a menu and illustrating for an editorial, while looking for a job. If you are curious about what I am up to, you can also visit my website!

What are your future plans?

Now that I have more freedom and time, I would like to start on my self-directed projects. Some of those things might include developing my own illustration style and share them on Instagram and make little cards or notebooks out of it!

Also, I’m still figuring out the direction of my future path. Although I’ve studied for four years, there are still so many things to learn. Having lived a bicultural life gave me an insight into different cultures in design and I really want to experience and study design in different fields.

These days, I am getting interested in Experiential Design. I would like to be a designer who is not limited to a certain field, but who adapts to changing trends and applies my principles and ideas into a variety of media, whether it’s digital or print.

To find out more about Sophia’s work, visit

For the full list of Student award winners – including recent U of A Design graduate Thomas Jeffry who won an honourable mention Berlin Award category – check out the RGD website.


Rising above another record breaking group of entries this past year was Nathan Levasseur. Nathan won the national award in the 14th annual BMO 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition.

His work, a digital drawing entitled “Everyone Changes” will be on display at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery in Toronto in November. After which it will become a permanent part of the BMO Corporate Art Collection.

Nathan told us a bit more about the inspiration behind his award-winning drawing, and what he plans to do next.

The drawing is part of a large on-going body of digital work that combines contemporary product design aesthetics and language as a way to re-frame our relationship to vulnerability, production and capitalism. The work uses vulnerable language as an access point to blur boundaries between appropriate public and private sentiments which disrupts normative restrictions on emotion and promotes more fluid identity expression.

For me, making this kind of work is cathartic. These drawings helps me work through some concerns regarding language, gender, normativity and how I relate. I’m also really interested in dialogue and relation, if the work can nurture some form of that then that’s great.

For the most part I hope to use the award to pursue a Masters of Design, but I’m also planning a couple smaller projects, that I can’t say too much about yet.

For more about Nathan’s work, visit


Yiming Huan (MMus ‘16) has earned many top honours over the course of her music studies in piano – including the Top 100 Excellent Guide Teacher Award of China and the Gold Award in the Piano specialist division of the Shanghai International Music Competition – but never would she have imagined her most recent accomplishment.

Earlier this year, Yiming was approached by China Post to be featured in a series of stamps that would be published all across her native country. Quite an honour for the pianist who has been mastering the ivory keys since the age of five.

The series, named “Chinese Famous Artists”, also includes Zheng Xiaoying, the first woman conductor in China, and George Gao, a Chinese-born erhu player and composer.

Yiming recently spoke to us from her home in China about the national recognition.

How do you feel being among such a distinguished group of artists featured in this stamp collection

I feel very happy and proud of myself to be amongst a distinguished group of artists featured in the stamp collection. Most of the artists who are in the stamp collection are very famous, and it was my honour to be with them in the collection; and also, it was a great opportunity for me to learn from others and encourage myself to keep studying.

What was your most profound learning experience while studying with Professor Jacques  Després at the University of Alberta?

All of the professors are very professional and helpful! I have learned a lot from all of them! I got everything so fast under their kind help. I do really appreciate Dr. Jacques Despres, because I wouldn’t be able to play so musical now without his help. Also, I appreciate the U of A gaving me so many performance opportunities,they helped me improve my piano skills in many ways.

What advice would you offer aspiring pianists wishing to pursue music performance as a professional career?

The best advise for music performance as a professional career is you must have a passion for music and keep practicing with ears!  Never give up on your music adventure!

How has your Masters studies in Canada influenced how you share your music and educate others about music in China?

I want to bring the advanced concepts of Western Music to China, such as how to play more musical instead of focus on technical things, how to combine music background and history with practice and performance, besides, we have many students who can play solo very well, but not everyone can play chamber music as well as they do as soloists. I think we should focus chamber music more in China, it is a good way to know how to stay balanced and keep the quality of sounds.

Watch Yiming Huan’s incredible musicianship on YouTube

Congratulations to all of our recent Fine Arts award winners on your outstanding accomplishments!

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