Federation of Students
Designed a dayplanner for University of Waterloo students, produced by the Federation of Students.

After working as a part‑time graphic designer for the better part of a year, I landed a full‑time summer position designing the student dayplanner produced and distributed by the Federation of Students.

My first thought was that I wanted to make sure student needs were reflected in the planner's content. I was lucky enough to have a great project manager, the director of marketing for the Federation of Students, who agreed I should ask students what they thought, and was happy to give me quite a bit of creative control and room to try new things. I figured that, at worst, running around campus and talking to students about the dayplanner would at least get people thinking about picking one up in the fall.

I put together a short set of prompts for students to get some feedback on early designs and layouts. I interviewed students about their needs, what they liked about the dayplanner they were using, and what they would want to change. I distilled survey results into an infographic, and decided how I would meet students' needs while working within project constraints, such as page count and the ad‑based funding we relied on for publication.

Survey prompts and distilled student feedback

I started feeling out the scope of the project, getting files set up and ready for production, and outlining everything that needed to be done. The planner would have almost 200 pages, so I wanted to solidify the layout from the start, to avoid having to make time-consuming changes later in the project.

Outline and layout specifications

With the survey results and prepped files in hand, I started gathering aesthetic inspiration for the planner. Part of our goal was to give the planner a unique look and feel, one that would be practical yet fun, so I kept this in mind while designing the different layouts and refining the planner's appearance.

Aesthetic inspiration for the planner

When working on the front cover of the planner, we decided we should try to involve students in the process once again. I finalized three different designs we thought would represent Waterloo well, and we let students vote for their favorite through social media. The final cover design also informed the overall direction I took thematically.

Front cover development
Pixel art created for each faculty's building
Front cover development

The student feedback I collected was very helpful, but we wanted to blend it with a more measured approach. We met with the University's Student Success Office, discussed their techniques for guiding student organization and staying on top of coursework, and got their advice on how we could optimize the planner for students' busy lives. We used their feedback to help produce the core planning layouts, including term schedules, monthly planning, weekly goals, and dayplanning sections.

Interior page design sample

The Student Life Center is the biggest student hub on Waterloo's campus, housing study rooms, student service offices, the campus pub, and tons of places to get lunch. Since the Federation of Students owned and operated the building, as well as a number of franchises and food vendors within it, we wanted a detailed map that made the SLC accessible to everyone.

It's an odd shaped building, with several floors and staircases in odd places, so I wanted to make the map as clear as possible while still showing all of the amenities the building had to offer. I worked off of the building's blueprints, tracing their floor plans, and gathering them into one graphic that showed all four levels of the building, as well as the connections between them.

Interior map of the SLC, a student hub on campus

One thing I really wanted to include in the planner was a comprehensive map of the Waterloo campuse. Personally, once I start to know my way around a place, I can stop focusing on navigating and start focusing on making connections and getting involved, and I wanted to make that easier for all students.

I learned how to use open mapping tools, extracted a chunk of SVG data for the University of Waterloo's location, and used that data as a starting point for the map. I ran around Campus surveying important features, looking for bike racks I didn't know about, and confirming that I'd put everything in the right place.

Campus map of the university, with bus stop text codes used for real-time updates

Once the page designs were completed, I was tasked with organizing and placing advertisements and coupons in the planner. I assisted with design and processing tasks for many advertisements, even designing ads from scratch for a few advertisers. I prepared files for printing & production, and double checked that I'd set everything up as the printer had recommended.

As a fun design experiment, I added graphics to the side of the planner using an unconventional bleed technique.

Edge painting with bleeds

Finally, once the project was over, I wrote a guide for future designers, detailing everything I'd learned through the process. I also organized my work so that it could be used as a template and a jumping off point for the next year.

A guide produced to help the designer of the student planner in subsequent years
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