British Columbia Native Nicole talks us through her thesis and what it takes to get into the medical design field. She also takes us through life as a thesis student and gives advice for anyone else planning to do a thesis year.


Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What is your major?
My name is Nicole Calzavara. I’m a fourth year industrial design student currently working on my thesis. I was born in British Columbia in a tiny town called Vanderhoof. There was literally nothing there at all so my family and I ended up moving to Toronto about 17 years ago, and I have been here ever since.
What are you currently up to? Do you have any hobbies, are you working?
Right now I’m just focusing on thesis. My thesis is pretty much making the next type of advanced first aid kit, and compressing everything down into something that actually works rather than just a bag full of garbage. It’s called Silo, and it is probably killing me the most right now. It’s a response to how first aid kits and emergency medical service is so drastically more complicated than it has to be. The whole problem that comes up with first aid kits is that in a crisis, often enough we are rifling through twice as many packages and bandages with way too fine of a print. In general it sucks; your friend’s hurting, you’re hurting, nothings good. So Silo is a redesigned first aid kit. It’s a combination between a device, or dispenser, and cartridges which are premade recipes for emergency medical care. They come in tiny packages, you crack the top off, there’s instructions there for you, and it tells you in clean precise language with hands showing you what to do, rather than giving you fourteen thousand lines of “apply to burn in this way and this thing etc.”    But apart from that, I’m pretty active in the design space in Toronto. I bouncing back and forth between working for an organization called Destigmatized, which is decreasing visibility for mental health issues in the workplace. I also just finished organizing the OCAD U club GAMA (Gaming Anime Manga Association).
Are you currently experiencing any difficulties with the graduating process? How do you feel about graduating? Are you anxious, excited, etc?
Graduating is a lot to deal with at the moment. The system inside of the university is next to nothing. It’s honestly super simple; you fill out a form and that’s it. The flip side of that is Grad Ex. I was stupid enough to actually lead the Industrial Design grad show this year which is called “Beyond Things.” That’s been a huge handful. The biggest thing that I wish we could be able to do before grad is to have everyone talking to each other at the same time and have everyone pay attention to when emails are going out and be as close as we can with other graduates. Graduating, I’m feeling super excited. It’s not the fact that I’m gonna miss this place or that I hate this place, it’s the fact that four years are perfect. I’ve been in school forever and I’m ready to just be done with school.
What are your plans for after OCAD? What are you doing to achieve them?
Honestly, I spend most of my time working on my thesis, not really with work. As a designer I bounce between healthcare the tech stream. So I’ve been looking at different firms, trying to get my word out to other people but also trying to be active in my own way. Destigmatize is taking a little bit of a break this year but then we’re gonna try and pick it up later and we’re trying to bring up it’s platform. It’s kind of like Linkedin but for individuals with social anxiety, depression, etc and converting those into actual job experiences in a weird twisted way. I’m putting out job applications, building my portfolio, all that fun stuff really.
What was your most memorable moment at OCAD?
I have two. My most memorable bad moment was in first year when I got my finger caught in the belt sander – yea it wasn’t fun. It was one of those moments where I was up way too late, doing something in a rush. I had the critique 20 minutes from then and it was a mess. That was the moment that I agreed I would never pull an all nighter again, especially when working in the shops. My most memorable good moment was in third year in design for health. We were working on a project with the long term centre Baycrest. We were sitting in a tiny room, everyone with our projects and groups, we’d all put a lot of time into doing our proposals for them. The head came in and had a look at everyone’s projects saying, “No this doesn’t work,” and “No you don’t know what you’re doing.” I had spent the entire time listening to the prof’s feedback, trying everything I possibly could. Once this super experienced women in healthcare came to me she gave me a thumbs up and kept going.
Do you have any advice for current OCAD students or students planning on applying to OCAD?
If you are applying to OCAD, try to pick what you actually want to do in life. Don’t try to say “I am thinking a major in sculpture will get me there.” No, find something after school that you can do and figure out how to get there. Ultimately I wanted to be a doctor but I’m too dumb for med school. I’m really good at building stuff and inventing stuff, that’s how I found out about industrial design and how connected it was to health care. For people currently at OCAD, same advice. Try to find the career path that you are building towards, not the major you are trying to finish. Do projects and specialize in ways that you are most comfortable with, that you are better with, because I guarantee that if you pick that one thing that you are amazing at, you’re gonna be the only one in your year who can do it. You’ll become that ______ person. We have someone who’s that shoe guy, that watch guy, that forsept girl, etc. You specialize on your own by being yourself, not by what your profs tell you. Enjoy yourself, if you’re doing four, five years it doesn’t matter as long as you take the time to become the professional you want to be, rather than trying to just rush through and finish everything on time. Force yourself to become a morning person because an all nighter or staying up super late is way harder than waking up early and getting the project done on time.


Interview by: Zoe Roiati

Photography: Ian Keeler