• UI/UX Design


  • 2017


  • DRUPAL 7
  • RESTful API

Showcasing more than 900 promising young artists and designers, OCAD University’s Graduate Exhibition is Canada’s largest art and design exhibition. GradEx is a five-day exhibition spread campus including the Sharp Centre for Design, transforming the campus into a gallery with works spanning fine art, new media, and 2D + 3D design. The university throws open its doors, inviting the community to see works by the creative minds of OCAD U’s graduating classes.

As part of the largest GradEx to date, a new digital experience was created to support the event and its exhibitors during and after the show. Supported by an app for iOS and Android, as well as a web based living archive, the show was one of the most successful to date.

API Requests
over 5 days
units with
23% retention increase
Signup interface for students to feed information into the database, including project images and consent opt-ins.
The cross-platform experience is built upon an API-first + decoupled Drupal architecture which feeds into both the app(s) as well as the web. The app was built on top of Apache Cordova and combined student work with dynamic exhibition maps and a medal winner showcase.

Project Role

For the project, I was responsible for the overall experience of the GradEx digital ecosystem and was the technical lead for both the development of the applications as well as the integration into the larger information architecture.

Web accessible archive of student work, showcasing graduating student projects from every year of the Graduate Exhibition.
Print-On-Demand exhibition cards generated by the GradEx signup backend.

Project Timeline

This project spanned approximately 4 months, starting in January with a public launch in early May. Both the GradEx app as well as the supporting infrastructure is closely tied to the annual event in the first week of May; the public launch and subsequent relaunches of the project coincides with it. Due to the nature of the app, the system needs to be operational far in advance of this; students are invited into the system in early March, requiring the backend and information architecture to be the first priority. This short window of time for user contribution is a particularly challenging aspect of this project.

Project Goals

The goal of this new digital experience was largely focused on two main objectives: to increase student engagement in terms of job prospects and to showcase the vibrancy of OCAD U community. Previously, there was little to no large-scale exposure of student work, making it difficult for anyone outside the OCAD community to grasp the depth and volume of work done at the university. Additionally, the GradEx experience was historically poorly documented and was not leveraging digital tools for student/event promotion.

Showcase student work before, during and after GradEx.
Support potential employers in connecting with new grads.
Improve the onsite user experience of vistors at GradEx.

Organizing user goals collected through user interviews.

Early wireframes exploring the display of student information.

Target Audience

Users of this project are split between the front-end experience and the back end experience. Students enter into this process much earlier than the public and have largely different requirements from the public personas, which required careful balancing.


As a student, I want a way to promote myself and my work, with minimum effort in such a busy time. I am looking for a solution to complement my own efforts (website, portfolio, etc.) and something that ties me to the OCAD community. I’m just as concerned about showcasing my work to friends and family as potential employers, so it’s important that I’m treated as in individual.


As a person interested in art, design and technology, I want an easy way to look at student work before, during, and after GradEx. I’m interested in viewing images and potentially following creators who interest me most. While at the event, I’m worried about being able to find the work that I’m most interested in, and am worried I will be overwhelmed due to the scale of the event.


As a potential employer or client, I’m interested in finding a new graduate who has the skills I need, as quickly and efficiently as possible. I may attend the event, but don’t have the time to sift through 900+ exhibiting students, so I am interested in an easier way to find students with specific skills, styles of work, etc. It’s very important that I’m able to find a way to contact students, during or after the event.

User Flow

The digital experience for a visitor to GradEx 102 starts with the mobile app. The app is designed to give you the ability to find a student by name, area of study or location, depending on your personal needs. The app includes images of student work, exhibition locations and contact information for later review.

Before, during, or after the event, users are able to access this database via the app or a standard website which contains a year-to-year archive of student work from annual GradEx shows. This database is also leveraged across the OCAD U website to continually highlight student work.

Wireframes of the experience, before design + branding.


At first the goals of OCAD students align closely with the public and potential employers, but as we discovered through this project, they diverge quite quickly. While students are interested in self -promotion for work, they are equally interested in showcasing work to friends and family, who are engaging with the work much more casually. This created a bit of a dichotomy in that we were presented with two distinct groups: one group who was interested in one specific student, and one who was interested in any students who fit a set of needs.