Going graphic with Ryerson alum Trista Capitano

Photo: Pedro Hespanha

Photo: Pedro Hespanha

Trista Capitano sits in her office on the second floor of Kerr Hall. She remembers a fashion event poster she created almost five years ago, which was part of her admission portfolio for Ryerson’s Fashion Communication program. Turning a little pink and in between spews of laughter, she uses “atrocious” to describe it. “I look at that now and think, ‘Wow I really had no natural talent going into the program.’”

She says her graphic design was the worst of all her pieces in her portfolio. It just so happens that what was Capitano’s weakest skill, would become her passion. She went on to cultivate it so much so that post-graduation she’s working as branding and graphic designer for the School of Fashion.

At the end of her fourth year she also accepted a position for Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design to redesign websites for the different programs that make up FCAD. Since graduation, she’s been working at both places.

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She has taken on freelance work since the summer. One of these projects includes giving direction for brand consistency for Shop Girls Gallery Boutique on Queen St West. Capitano also recently helped design a new book for the School of Fashion, which will be launched in 2015.

She says all the work coming in hit her at once. “It was one of those moments like ‘Wow! I just graduated and people want to pay me to work for them? OK! OK, OK and OK. Oh crap. This is a lot,” she says slowing down and taking a deep breath.

All this success right after graduation did not come as easy as Capitano brushes off. Getting down to the crux of what she had to do to get to where she is, she finally admits, “I worked my ass off. I really did.”

Capitano had the pressure of maintaining an 80 per cent average to keep her Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship through OSAP. She says she also felt insecure knowing that she came into the program with no art school background, networks or connections to put her ahead. “I felt drastically unprepared and spent everything I had on trying to let my work speak for itself.”

She remembers lying on a couch on campus overwhelmed, crying, stressed and just letting it all out. It was two years ago on March 18. She knows the date because it was her birthday. It was also a few weeks before Mass Exodus, which is the School of Fashion’s biggest annual event. Capitano was one of the few students selected to be on the executive team. She was the event’s art director. “I couldn’t imagine getting that experience in 10 years after school,” she says, “It was game-changing.”

During this time, she was also continuing to work as the event management assistant for the School of Fashion, a work-study position she got in her second year. She was also keeping up with that 80 per cent for her scholarship and busy with branding projects like the McGregor Sock product development competition, which she and her group won. The requirement was to make a technical sock and her group decided to make something for runners.

“That’s why I don’t want to limit myself to fashion. This was more sport-related and I loved it. I realized branding is what I wanted to do regardless what it’s for,” says Capitano.

She took her interest in branding and spent her summer before her final year, redesigning the School of Fashion’s web design and working as the branding and graphic designer for the launch of Ryerson’s Fashion Zone. As her capstone project, she branded her own beer.

Capitano's beer design, Slate

Capitano’s beer design, Slate

It’s a long way from her “Go Green” poster. She says if anything’s gotten her where she is, it’s that she took hold of all the resources and opportunities around her at Ryerson and used them in any and every way she possibly could.

[P]hotos of Trista by Pedro Hespanha