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Collaborating with industry leaders to support emerging artists and designers

Cover image: Screenshot sample from alum Olivia Aguiar’s Format portfolio website.

Cover image: Screenshot sample from alum Olivia Aguiar’s Format portfolio website.

It’s no secret that cutting-edge portfolio websites are important for artists and designers—a good portfolio website can showcase your work and help grow your business.

OCAD University has partnered with Format, a leading portfolio website solution with a community of more than 50,000 creative professionals across 190 countries, since 2012 to support emerging artists and designers. September 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the partnership.

Through this partnership, OCAD U students receive free subscriptions to the platform while attending OCAD U and for six months after graduation. Since 2012, students and student groups have created over 7,600 free accounts with Format, resulting in some $8 million worth of free subscriptions to make their own portfolio websites and help launch their careers. 

“Since launching our partnership with Format ten years ago, we have seen thousands of students and recent graduates use their websites to develop audiences for their work and secure experiential learning placements, jobs, artwork commissions and many other opportunities which wouldn’t otherwise have been possible,” says Zev Farber, Director, RBC Centre for Emerging Artists and Designers at OCAD U. 

“Looking back, at the time, this was certainly the vision for the OCAD U community - and while it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to reflect on those outcomes, we are very grateful that future creative talent will see the same benefits for their career.”

Format Career Launcher Prize kickstarts careers

This year, OCAD U’s RBC Center for Emerging Artists and Designers collaborated with Format on the first ever Format Career Launcher Prize to support the careers of four emerging artists and designers from OCAD U.

Winners Olivia Aguiar (Drawing & Painting, 2023) and Rand Al-Rubaye (Environmental Design, 2023) were each awarded a monetary prize, a Format lifetime subscription and a one-on-one consultation with the Format Expert Site Building Team. Runner-ups Rashvena Khosa (Drawing & Painting, 2023) and Trinity Leon (Advertising, 2023) also received one-on-one consultations, and a one-year Format subscription as part of the new career launcher.

“My Format website has always been the backbone which supports my creative career,” says Aguiar, who created her website in 2019.

“It's also the first way in which I distribute my creative practice to others who may be interested and has given me the opportunity to showcase my work in a way which feels totally individualized and reflects my creative practice.”

Al-Rubaye created her website towards the end of her fourth year at OCAD U, highlighting how the OCAD U and Format partnership helped her jumpstart her career.

“My Format website played a significant role in showcasing my portfolio and skills professionally to potential employers,” says Al-Rubaye. “It helped me secure job opportunities in the design field including my current position as a Junior Architect at PFP Inc.”

John Loughlin, CEO of Format, said the award reflects the company’s continuing commitment to creative arts education. 

“The Format and OCAD U partnership began in 2012, and we are pleased to advance our support of arts and design students, giving them the best opportunity to start a successful career immediately after graduation. The Format Career Launcher program furthers our commitment to students and educators.” he says.

Collaboration for progress

A decade in, OCAD U’s partnership with Format continues to evolve and contribute to career opportunities for artists and designers who are students, alums and faculty members of the University. 

Format itself was founded by an OCAD U grad, and continues to employ many OCAD U grads, including artist Stanzie Tooth (Drawing & Painting, 2007), who leads Format's Educational Outreach.

"My degree from OCAD U armed me with the skills and insider knowledge to enter the art community,” says Tooth.

“My Format website has given me an intuitive platform to showcase my art and expand my reach beyond my existing network. In my current role as Educational Content Lead at Format I’m able to share, on a global scale, those early lessons about community building, visual display, and professional practice that I first learned at OCAD U. I’m honoured that I’m now able to bring together all of my accumulated skills to give back to the OCAD U community."

The OCAD U and Format partnership offers a 25 per cent ongoing discount for alums on pro and pro plus annual subscriptions. Faculty members receive free subscriptions, too.

If you are an OCAD U current student, recent grad or current teaching faculty, visit to create your free Format portfolio website.