As unbelievable as this may sound, I had decided on a career in medicine, long before I turned my attention to the design field. I wanted to be a dermatologist and eventually design a line of skincare products.
Growing up, I was never too far from the design field; both my parents are highly creative and entrepreneurs as well. My mother out-earned my father with her design business within the first year – something he was very proud of.
I started my design career interning for one of Toronto’s top design and branding agencies, Watt International (formerly IDG). I was given this opportunity through a Global Internship programme for high performing students. Some of my peers were placed with the likes of NASA and Bombardier, so obviously, the calibre of the placements was phenomenal. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced that a design placement was right for me as I had decided on a career in medicine. Something was definitely telling me that wouldn’t have made me happy. Influencing my decision, in the background, was definitely the support of my parents who were creatives themselves. My mother was a fierce female mentor for me. Being Italian immigrants to Canada during a time when people were encouraged to be entrepreneurial, they both were adamant that whichever path I chose, they wanted me to consider opening my own business one day. I couldn’t even imagine it at that time!
I ultimately accepted an intern position at the agency and saw first hand how big brands developed sales strategies using design as a tool to convey their message and attract customers. I began to experience the business potential that design offered and decided this was something I was passionate about. I was really lucky to have shadowed my mentor, Ron Harris, Founder of IDG and a retail design guru, who was internationally acclaimed for his work. Four years later, I obtained my design degree from Ryerson University and won the coveted “Designer of the Year” title when I graduated. I took my education very seriously and hoped it would eventually pay off; not necessarily from a financial perspective, but I wanted to be known as a branding expert. I decided early on that I would focus on the retail segment and that has definitely been the right decision for me.
I spent 11 years with Watt International working with Fortune 500 companies in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia, before being named Head of Design in Dubai, for a boutique London retail design agency in 2009. I had made the move to Dubai in 2006 to work on Dubai Festival City – an experience that opened many doors for me. I was exposed to the design and construction processes in the region and made important industry contacts that I am still linked to, today. I’ve spent nearly 13 years climbing the proverbial “ladder”, learning all I could from my mentors, before deciding that I wanted to start my own agency in February of 2011. We opened our India office in 2014 and our third office in Toronto is, finally, launching this year!