Watchout 2023 Grad Show highlights KPU students’ artistry

Graduating Wilson School of Design students showcased their final projects and portfolios

KPU Wilson School of Design Watchout 2023 Grad Show students pictured left to right: Christian Pagal, Elorm Afewu, and Rebekah Mercs. (Claudia Culley/Keet Kailey)

KPU Wilson School of Design Watchout 2023 Grad Show students pictured left to right: Christian Pagal, Elorm Afewu, and Rebekah Mercs. (Claudia Culley/Keet Kailey)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Wilson School of Design graduates showcased their artistic talent at the Watchout 2023 Grad Show last week.

Over 100 students in their last semesters of the interior design, product design, graphic design for marketing, fashion marketing, foundations in design, technical apparel design, and fashion and technology programs featured their final projects and portfolios for attendees to engage with. 

The showcase kicked off on Thursday, April 20 in the evening with an industry night that around 450 people attended. Friday morning saw around 350 people during highschool tours, and around 580 attendees came in the evening for the friends and family night event.

The vision for this showcase was inspired by design patterns from the 1960s, a deep colour palette representing each program at the Wilson School of Design, and the conceptualization of curiosity and observation. 

This was the first time the Wilson School of Design put on a showcase of this kind, and students helped plan, stage, and market the event. In addition to students’ work, the event featured a live DJ along with free food and drinks.

Rebekah Mercs was one of seven product design students at the event, and showcased her capstone project “Bloom,” nature-inspired children’s furniture.  

“So the concept is six petals that are cushions and they surround an ottoman chair,” says Mercs. 

“The pedals can come up and down to create a fort and they’re attached using snaps. When the child outgrows the petal concept, they can remove all the petals from the ottoman and be left with the ottoman that goes with them into adulthood.” 

As someone who works with children at day camps, Mercs says children often enjoy building forts and using them as a way to find some privacy, which inspired her to create “Bloom.” 

“I also did a lot of research into play and how play helps children’s development. I wanted to create a way to have a piece of furniture in the home that would be playful and … that could grow with the child.”

After a few months of research, Mercs moved onto prototyping and finding the right materials to use. 

“I spent a lot of time in the workshop here at KPU, building, working with wood, building the ottoman, and then sewing up the pedals. After that, I did some testing with children,” she says.

“It was really important to me to be able to do something for kids because I work with them. They’re all super important to me, so I wanted to make something that I thought they would enjoy, and maybe I can bring to the day camp I work with.”

Eighteen students from the graphic design for marketing program were also at the event. Christian Pagal was one of these students and featured a portfolio of his work. 

“I’m [showcasing] a good mix of different mediums in terms of graphic design,” Pagal says.

“I have some user interface design. I did a few publication projects. I have a photo project I did for Arc’teryx last year. I also have a rebrand project I did during my mentorship with One Twenty Three West [which was] for Taiga Works, an older outdoor brand. I have a few other projects that I’m showcasing as well.”

Pagal says for him generating design concepts is all about understanding the foundations of what currently exists and making it your own.

“It’s really about finding references, taking what’s good out of those, and then turning it into something unique for that brand, or identity, or entity, or whatever it is,” he says. 

Pagal starts his work by sketching and creating storyboards before digitizing his art. 

“I think my work is a very holistic impression of who I am as a person,” he says. “I obviously want to still design for other people, but I realized that my work is just a part of me and who I am, and I’m okay with that.”

Also at the event was Elorm Afewu, one of 22 graduating fashion and technology students. Afewu showcased “Vespera,” a clothing line she created for plus-women who want unrestricted movement in their everyday lives. 

“My collection, ‘Vespera,’ was inspired by my daily experiences and different clothing. I realized a lot of [clothing] tends to restrict your movement, or it’s not necessarily very comfortable to be in all day, so I wanted to do something about that,” she says. 

Afewu sewed all model clothing herself, and included lacing, gussets, and pleats to give users unrestricted movement. She designed a variety of dresses, skirts, pants, shirts, and jackets that embrace her blue, coral, yellow, and white colour palette along with playful designs. 

“I’m hoping to maybe produce my collection. A lot of people have expressed interest in buying it,” Afewu says.

“I like getting to make things that make a difference, not only to make things fun but also make sure that it’s functional so that it can help improve your life in some way.” 

To learn more about the Watchout 2023 Grad Show and to see other students’ projects and portfolios, head to their website or to the Wilson School of Design’s Instagram page.