Back to School (of Design) Essentials

Back to School (of Design) Essentials

It’s that time of year again! Whether you’re entering college for the first time out of high school, starting back to school after some time off, transferring from another program/institution, or returning to GBC, back to school time definitely has a certain energy. The days have started getting shorter again and I’m reminded of those late August trips to Staples in elementary school to get that fresh zip-up binder with colour-coded dividers and a new pack of perfectly sharpened pencil crayons. College in a design program requires a new and different set of tools however, so I thought I would round up some back to school essentials!  


1. A Hard Drive

Holding a LaCie hard drive and cord against the sky

This cannot be stressed enough: Back. Up. Everything. We’ve all heard the horror stories of students’ laptops crashing or cheap USBs becoming corrupted and the outcome is days, even weeks of work lost into the vacuum of space—always at the most crucial time in the semester, of course. A way to prevent this from ever happening is saving your work onto an external hard drive. Investing in one now will save you many headaches in the future. Pro tip: file formatting by project name and date and general organization are also key to keeping those headaches at bay. 

I suggest the LaCie Rugged 1TB Mini USB-C hard drive. With a price tag of just over $100, it comes with a USB 3.0 adaptor and is protected by a bright orange case that is drop and rain resistant. The same hard drive also comes in 2TB and 4TB if you feel like you need more space (say if you take a lot of photos), but you will have to shell out quite a bit more cash for the extra memory. You can personalize it with a fun sticker too!

Purchase a LaCie Hard Drive


2. Rental locker

I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been relieved to have the thing I need sitting in my locker at school. I didn’t rent one in my first year at GBC (mistake) and decided to get one in my second year. The level of convenience is undeniable. Having supplies on hand—anything from cutting tools (see essential #3) to a phone charging cable to a spare water bottle—can make working at school much less stressful. I also didn’t have to worry about getting my projects wet & crumpled if it was raining one day because I’d just stick it in my locker and bring it home later. You can rent lockers through Stu-view under Student Support Services. A locker costs $15 per semester or $30 for both Fall and Winter semesters. Don’t forget to bring or buy a lock too! 


3. Xacto knife and ruler*

*If you’re in the Interaction Design or Game Art programs, this might not be as essential to you so feel free to skip on through!

Okay, so instead of buying a knife and a ruler you can always wander the halls asking people if you can borrow theirs or trade your student card for them at the peer tutor lab...but do you really want to be that person? As a Graphic Design student, you know that you’ll be trimming most of your print projects and if you haven’t been through the Ideas & Images course yet, it’ll be a weekly activity. Now that you’ve rented a locker (see essential #2) you can just keep your knife and ruler in there and always have them on hand! Convenience is a game changer, I promise. 

Soon we will have these items and many more supplies to purchase at the IN Store (we’ve stopped lending them out), but for now you can purchase them here:

Cutting Knife at Above Ground or Curry’s
18” Corkback Ruler at Above Ground or Curry's

Don’t forget to show your student card and get 10% off your purchase!


4. Notebook, pens, and pencils

For me, a good notebook, pen, and pencil will never replace software at the beginning of a project. Jotting down initial thoughts, ideas, research, inspirations, and sketching my heart out have time and time again gotten the ball rolling on brief. Not all of us can afford a brand new iPad Pro (if you can then power to you, get one of those) but spending $10–20 on a notebook and drawing tools is doable. We have plenty of different notebooks at IN that range in price, paper type, and covers—all designed by students or alumni! As a student, you'll also get a 10% discount and your purchases go towards supporting student awards. Win-win? I think so. 

5. Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton, 2nd Edition

Considered a typographic bible by students and professionals alike, Thinking with Type is an invaluable resource for all designers. The bright orange book (to match your hard drive, cute!) goes through everything you could possibly want to know about typography: history, letterforms, font families, and how they all function together as a system using grids. An excellent starting point for students entering first year at the School of Design and a great resource for those looking to brush up on their type skills. You don’t need to be in Graphic Design to benefit from understanding typography and its many uses. Type is everywhere and used by everyone! 

Get Thinking With Type on Amazon


School is expensive enough as it is, and this list doesn’t even include your personal laptop and/or desktop computer that we’re expected to have—I totally get it. But having these essentials will prove invaluable for you on your way to achieving that degree or diploma with a little less stress. See you at the new School of Design in September!

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