The Student Design Association (SDA) is a University of Alberta student group that aims to connect design students with the resources they need to aid them during their time in school. The SDA provides job opportunities, networking events, and local opportunities for students to participate in, in hopes of growing their design knowledge and excelling throughout their degrees. 

This year, Vignettes and the SDA have teamed up to bring their pop-up shop ‘BUILT’ to the Vignettes Building from September 22nd - 30th. The temporary design store will feature products from both current design students and alumni. Since Vignettes’ first show launched with the SDA back in 2013, it only made sense to continue this supportive partnership with our city’s up-and-coming talent.

Vignettes caught up with this year’s SDA Director, Melissa Bui, and Vice Director, Rachelle Lenihan, to chat about the SDA and the BUILT x VIGNETTES pop-up shop.

Tell us about the SDA and what we can expect to see this year from your team.

M: The Student Design Association was formed back in 2012 under the University of Alberta. We work towards building a community for emerging designers within the industry, or with each other. This year, we’re trying to build stronger friendships with each other, with other schools in Edmonton and other faculties at the University. Design is everywhere and we see good things happening out of the merging of all our talent.

What does the SDA do for students? 

The SDA provides students with access to design-related current events and activities that allow them to improve their experience at the University of Alberta. We organize talks with design speakers having backgrounds in both Industrial Design and Visual Communication Design. Some of these speakers are past graduates from the design program, who give valuable insight into how the industry works after graduation. We also hold many mixers for students to network with one another. This is especially important for lower year students, as it provides the opportunity to see what their next few years at the University will be like.

We want students to have a great experience while in school and build the skills and connections they need when they’ve completed their degree. 

In regards to the pop-up shop this year, what can we expect to see?

M: We have some great grab and go items this year for Edmonton Design Week! From amazing prints, to snazzy sweaters, to unbelievable hand crafted goods. There’s just so much talent in this city. 

With many shops popping up, what makes the SDA’s unique? 

M: The fact that the products are made by mostly students and we are a student-run shop. If anyone has been through a design program, they can attest to how intensive it is! These talented people take time away from their school work to create these products for you, and also run the shop while maintaining their grades in school. It’s a juggle, but it's incredible. 

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Why do you find it important to give young creatives this opportunity? 

R: Participating in this event gives young creative minds the opportunity to see their work in a public retail setting, giving them great exposure, and a chance to create products for a retail audience. 

M: It’s intimidating in the real world! The fact that they’re emerging artists, doesn’t mean they’re any less talented than those that are established and we want to showcase that and prove that we’re a skillful bunch. It’s a pleasure to work on your own projects without the restrictions of class instructions and opportunities like BUILT x VIGNETTES allow the designers to have full artistic control. 

How was the pop-up shop grown over the years? And what are you hoping to see for it in the future? 

R: In past years, we were able to hold it at Enterprise Square downtown, but we’ve recently changed location to Kingsway Mall — opening up the store traffic to a more general audience. And now, being a part of Vignettes, Built has expanded its hold as a creative pop-up shop. This is great exposure for what the SDA does at the University and for the students as well who want to get their work out there. 

What does this opportunity mean to the SDA and design students? 

M: We’re being integrated into the design community through this opportunity. Instead of just being a “student group” within the University, we’re now being featured alongside projects and designs from all over the city. We’re being welcomed and introduced to people and the industries that we will be in after graduation.

In a few words, why do you think it’s important to support local talent?

R: It’s more ethical, it builds a community around that local-ness, and it provides a direct and meaningful experience with fresh ideas. 

What has keeping local meant to you? 

M: It is much more sustainable to stay local, whether it be your clothing, food, or products. You can walk around with pride when you show off your locally produced goods and be a part of the growing community of emerging artists and designers.

Anything else to share about the SDA?

M: The SDA just wants to be your friendly neighbourhood pal to help in any way that we can. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us! We hope you enjoy BUILT x VIGNETTES, and our upcoming Built in December as well. Hope to see you guys around! 

While students are currently working to get their submissions in, you can find their finished goods for sale between September 22nd - 30th, 2017 at the Vignettes Building (10004 - 103 Avenue) during Edmonton Design Week.

Article written by Deanna Bains. Photos courtesy of the SDA.