Two years ago, Anthony Campea and Trevor Embury spoke as part of the University of Lethbridge’s Art NOW series. They didn’t know it at the time, but that engagement would be pivotal for both the future of their company, aftermodern.lab, as well as U of L students.
“I started to think about all of the possibilities here with the University of Lethbridge," recalls Embury. "With a new media program that’s gaining momentum and popularity within the Faculty of Fine Arts, I thought there was something we could leverage with our experience — we could be a part of this growing interest in new media.”
aftermodern.lab inc. is an award-winning design studio based in Toronto and Lethbridge. Led by Campea and Embury, principals and design directors, the group has collectively worked in design everywhere from Toronto to Tokyo, partnering with prestigious clients and earning numerous accolades and awards along the way. Even with the plaudits they've received, they remain committed to sharing their knowledge with the next generation of designers.
Not long after their Art NOW talk, plans began for a second aftermodern.lab studio location in Lethbridge. Ten months ago, Embury and his family made the move west; while Campea remained in Toronto to oversee its studio.
“The intention of aftermodern.lab doing something here was really to work with the University of Lethbridge and the new media and fine arts programs, to create a placement opportunity for students," explains Embury. "In Toronto, we have a really excellent reputation, so we thought that by being here, we’d offer something a bit more unique in terms of creating a bridge between academic studies and an actual practicing studio."
It didn’t take long for aftermodern.lab to fund a scholarship at the University and begin taking on students, and the timing couldn’t be better. This year is the first year that fine arts students, in all programs, are able to complete co-op work terms as part of their degree. Although new media students have always had the opportunity to complete an internship at the end of their studies, they, and all other fine arts students are now able to complete 4- to 12-month paid internships at any time throughout their studies. Having aftermodern.lab right here in Lethbridge provides a tremendous local opportunity to do just that.
“Both Anthony and I have always wanted to create a space to work with junior designers, to give them more, so they can really experience the industry. There are so many gaps in a student’s experience. If you only have a portfolio focused on your student work, it’s extremely difficult to find employment in this industry,” says Embury.
Sam Loewen, a U of L co-op student who has already completed a term with aftermodern.lab, echoes these thoughts.
“I’ve gained a real breadth of experience because I wasn’t only involved in the fine arts, but also design, business and advertising, to an extent. Without this experience, I’d be missing that application outside the classroom, and it’s a very different way of learning, a different way of working,” says Loewen, who had the opportunity to work on high profile projects such as an exhibition for the Toronto International Film Festival.
Loewen has since completed his term and accepted an ongoing, part-time position with aftermodern.lab while he completes his degree. He explains how he appreciates not only the opportunity to learn, but also to fail.
“There is never any pressure, even though you’re working with real clients. It was never as though if you make a mistake it’s the end of the world," says Loewen. "I’ve never felt I couldn’t tackle something for fear of not succeeding. I know Trevor and/or Anthony are going to walk me through it if I make a mistake, and if I don’t know how to do something, it’s OK to tell them that.”
For Embury, hearing Loewen speak about his experiences affirms aftermodern.lab’s vision.
“I’ve always said I want to create that learning opportunity for my designers because they become better through it, and that comes back to our commitment to education,” says Embury.
With plans to continue taking on students, aftermodern.lab is also offering workshops in partnership with the University of Lethbridge this fall.
“Both Anthony and I want to teach something, we don’t want to hide it, it’s not a trade secret that’s locked up," he says. "When we give back to the world, we in turn get it back to our practice, partly through bringing in people like Sam, who gives us so much.”