When Snow Conrad got married, she didn’t just tie the knot in one of her favourite places, the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre. She did it in front of a giant eight-foot by 16-foot recreation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night… that she painted herself.
“I put a trim around it to look like a gold frame,” Conrad remembers. “Our wedding was very homemade, and I tried to keep a hand in it with creative stuff.”
Conrad is Innovation Guelph’s graphic designer and creative lead. She’s the one behind the scenes designing and managing the website, laying out posters and other print material, and creating logos and graphics. “A graphic designer could visually design almost anything,” she says. “My job is to make us look good.”
But that’s only one part of the job. She also helps plan and promote Innovation Guelph’s events, create messaging, snap photos, and post on social media, too. She even painted large-scale murals for two spaces in their new office.
Conrad didn’t start out as a designer, though. As an Environmental Studies and Business student at the University of Waterloo, she stumbled upon the field almost accidentally.
“It was second year when I learned that graphic design was actually a job you could have. You could have a real full-time job and make art,” she said.
That sounded pretty good to someone who had been drawing since she was a kid.
“I remember being in Kindergarten and being annoyed that I couldn’t draw a cat or a person better, and trying in my spare time to draw as well as my sister did,” she says. “I just never stopped! Growing up, that’s how I spent most of my time.”
When her dad gave his Mac Classic to her, she tried her hand at digital art. “It was this yellowish box with the tiny screen, it was black and white, and it had a really basic drawing program with these pre-made illustrations,” she says. “For fun, I put jeans on the statue of David. But literally, you had to do it pixel by pixel.”
She kept creating art as a university student through an in-school theatre group. Although she had no intention of landing an on-stage role, she agreed to paint sets for their next production.
She loved it so much that she agreed to paint more sets for the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre’s production of Peter Pan. From there, she continued to transform stages (including the one for her own wedding) even after she moved to Guelph.
Knowing art was a valid career path, she started taking co-op positions in graphic design, which led to a full-time job and a Diploma from Conestoga College.
That’s where she realized she loved more than the “graphic” part.
“That’s one of the things that school really taught me. It’s like seeing behind the curtain when you realize that, in our day-to-day, everything you’re looking at is designed,” she says. “Somebody put thought into it, somebody has a reason for making every decision behind everything you’re looking at. I get really psyched about it.”
She sees creativity every day in Innovation Guelph’s clients, too.
“People say, ‘I’m not creative, I don’t paint,’ but any job where you’re solving problems and coming up with new solutions, that’s creativity,” she says. “I love helping people who are really trying to make a go of it, to make their ideas happen.
“I’m excited for them. I want to see them make it work.”