Welcome to the pARTy: Cole Barkman

Starting university can be daunting. As an arts student, you may be faced with juggling new friendships, foreign technology, and unfamiliar skills. Either way, these experiences are the first steps to becoming more confident in your work and in yourself.

Cole Barkman, a third-year interior design student, shares her first year experiences below and welcomes you to the pARTy.


What’s something you wish you knew about your program going into first year?

I think the main thing that I’d wish I’d known about first year is how to take a crit [criticism] and use it to my advantage. It’s always really hard when someone tears down your ideas. Last year, a prof said to me that a good crit isn’t one where they like all of your ideas, it’s where you get the most constructive criticism that you can. I think I wish that I’d known that the more raw material and questions I’d ask, the more helpful that would’ve been towards my project.

What were your favourite classes and why?

I really loved IRD, that’s Design Dynamics. So, basically IRD is a design course that kind of takes design out of interior specifically and focuses more on the basics of design as a whole. So it’s more of product studies and colour and light applications. Just going into a program that you’re interested in but didn’t know a lot about, [IRD] was super helpful.

Did you know a lot about interior design going into this program?

No. I had grown up being inspired by a lot of architecture and interiors, but I was kind of nervous that I wouldn’t know anything about it. I used to paint a lot. I’ve been an artist for awhile, but not design.

What were your least favourite classes?

I found design technology really difficult. That’s more of the technical aspects like materials and construction and detailed drawings of things that were a lot less abstract thinking than I’m used to. It was a lot more math-related things.

What building/room did you do most of your work in?

I did a lot at home, just because the number of hours that you have to spend on things, sometimes it’s hard to be out for so long. I’ve definitely pulled some all nighters in the lab.

The studio’s great. The second floor [of the interior design building] has lots of space for anybody to hang out and work.

What tools/programs have you used the most and how do they help?

Everybody will do manual drafting and just hands-on stuff in first semester in first year, but in second semester you’ll learn CAD, which is kind of a stretch. There’s a lot of typing and weird commands, but after that everything else becomes easier. What I use mostly now is Rhinoceros, which translates really easily from CAD, just into three-dimensionality.

Where are your go to places to buy supplies?

Curry’s! (Editor’s note: The closest Curry’s to Ryerson are on Yonge Street, just past College Station, and Dundas St. W. near the Art Gallery of Ontario.)

What’s your favourite project you’ve done so far?

There’s a project that all the first and second years do together called Vertical Studio, which is where you’ll get broken up into groups of seven. It’s usually a real building that they pick and you use all of the original plans, but you create like a hypothetical repurpose for it. Last year, we did a post office in Cambridge, Ontario and we turned it into an artists’ residence/café/studio just for the community to get together in.

Before that, just as an individual practice, you do this project called Infill, which is you’re basically designing something that can fit in between two buildings. So, like a very narrow lot, for example. It was really conceptual and once again it was in Cambridge, so we had a real place to hypothesize. It was really fun taking what the community needs, what everybody’s interested in and what the demographics are and coming up with something that they could really use.

Do you have any other words of advice for first years coming in?

It’s important to find a balance between what your prof wants you to do and what you want to do. It’s helpful to take in both. If you only do what the prof says, it’s not going to have come from you. Even if you don’t use any of your profs’ ideas, they are still capable of opening your eyes to something you wouldn’t have seen otherwise, so at least listen.

The most successful projects I’ve had are the ones where I started with a really strong concept, so if you know your concept really well then that can easily influence all of the decisions you have to make as opposed to if you have a weak concept. Just work on your concept a lot before you put in any of the work into the details.

Is interior design as a program a lot of stress and work?

Yes. I don’t want to scare the first years, but yes, it’s the most work I’ve ever done in my life!

How did you deal with that?

A lot of what comes out of the amount of work that everyone has to do is laughter. You’ll be sitting around late at night and everyone will be so tired that it just turns into this amazing community where everyone is bouncing off of each other and getting to know each other. Kind of like summer camp.


Photos courtesy of Isabelle Docto