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Successful freelancer and GDD grad Mackenzie Bird shares her story (and a few tips) on owning her style and embracing the journey of life after design school.

Mackenzie Bird is a graphic and digital design alumnus from UFV who graduated with the GDD Diploma in 2019. Since then, she has been freelancing from her home in Victoria and has established a flourishing online business in branding and website design, reaching over 14,000 followers on Instagram! We caught up with Mackenzie to gain insights into her story of success. We talked about her experience at university, post-graduation, her first job position as a graphic designer, her decision to freelance, and tips on being a confident designer.

Bird chose to study design as she looked for a creative career path. She had always loved art and art classes and even considered interior or fashion design. She was keen on various design directions upon learning more about graphic design.

Her most significant takeaway from pursuing design school was how much she developed in design thinking, confidence, and connections to others in the design community. She encourages anyone considering a career in graphic design not to be discouraged about not knowing everything and to be open to learning. She says that beginners in the field should understand that masterpieces will rarely happen initially and know that the development process is just as important as how the final product looks.

Bird explains that she was unsure of where she wanted to work as a fresh graduate and had trouble finding a job. She lacked the confidence to share her design work on social media, which potentially impaired her applicating process. After applying to around two dozen graphic design jobs in the Lower Mainland and not landing anything, Bird eventually found work in PR. Although grateful to finally have a job, Bird states that the long commute was a massive turn-off for her, and she wasn’t passionate about the work.

Bird began to consider working in Victoria; because there is no design school in Victoria, she figured the market would be less saturated with designers than in the Fraser Valley. She strategized to “be the big fish in a small pond” back in her hometown. After applying to several different jobs, she was offered an interview for a position in a studio. Bird gladly took the interview and got the job. Over time, she developed knowledge and confidence in her design skills and grew her network and relationships with other designers.

Things began to change when the corona virus pandemic struck at the beginning of 2020. Because of her newfound confidence and skills in graphic design, Bird saw this as an opportunity to move on. She explains that because she would have to work from home, she would prefer to work at home for herself rather than for someone else. So, in October 2020, she decided to start freelancing.

Bird is now a competent and successful freelancer. Moving forward, she would love to collaborate with other designers, perhaps even partnering up like a traditional studio model. She also shares a couple of tips that she has learned from starting her practice. One, have the confidence to share your work—especially on social media. Two, share everything and do anything to promote yourself! She also advises new freelancers not to get too caught up in what everyone else says about how a self-employed person should be and avoid comparing yourself to what others are doing; do things at your own pace.

(Article written by Adria Quon, BFA degree student, double extended minors in Graphic Design and Fine Art)

Mackenzie Bird GDD alumni

Follow Mackenzie on social media @m.b.i.r.d or visit her site to learn more about her work or how to hire her