Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Degree: Honours Bachelor of Design, York University/Sheridan College Program in Design
Year of graduation: 2015
California Dreaming: How bachelor of design graduate Fiona Yeung made her way to the Golden State
Fiona Yeung is used to chasing her dreams, and she’s followed them all the way to the Google headquarters in the Bay Area, where she spends her days working on super-secret projects. Her journey begins in Markham, where she grew up taking a flurry of art, competitive piano and other classes. “In sixth grade, things got more serious with art, which was when I started building my portfolio to audition to a specialty arts high school in Unionville,” she remembers. “Art kind of took over my life, and I knew I wanted to do something creative.”
When it came time to attend post-secondary education, Yeung was drawn to the Sheridan College and York University joint bachelor of design. She especially remembers professor Jamie March as being crucial towards developing her exploration of visual imagery. “He’s a huge inspiration to me, and taught me to be more expressive with my work,’ she says. “Paul Sych, another professor taught me to not be afraid to break ‘design rules’.”
When it came time to find an internship, Yeung was driven to find a Bay area placement, starting well before her third-year requirements. In 2013, she landed a graphic design internship at McSweeney’s, a publishing house in San Francisco. Her exposure to Silicon Valley inspired her to become a more well-rounded designer, and she wanted to learn more about User Experience, known as UX, design. “After I came back that summer… I participated in Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event to come up with a startup idea. I was really trying to go above and beyond,” she laughs. Her project at the event grew into the creation of Jük, a digital listening room (or jukebox) — a company that, like many ambitious startups, ultimately did not continue.
During Yeung’s third year, she was determined to return to the Bay area. She received several competing internship offers but ultimately chose Google due to its structured internship program, to learn about cutting-edge technology as well as design. While there, she reached out to the Google doodle team, and worked with them to create a graphic for the Tanabata Festival (a Japanese holiday). Although the doodle didn’t end up launching, Yeung is grateful for the experience in working with that team. “Designing a doodle was a bucket list item of mine,” she says.
Today, Yeung has been at Google for about 21 months, joining full time a few months after graduation. Although she can’t talk directly about her secret projects with the company, she is forthcoming about her other activities. Among her accomplishments at the company, she has already given a talk at Google IO (a rare feat for a junior designer), where developers from around the globe explore the next generation of tech. She’s also the community manager of XX+UX, a community meant as an answer to diversity problems in tech that gives women an environment to grow their careers.Yeung is also deeply involved as a mentor in the Google UX internship program. “I like to help students,” she says. “Part of this is me giving back.” In keeping with that ethos, Yeung came back to Sheridan last November to host portfolio reviews for students. “It’s a really surreal feeling,” she says. “It’s crazy for me how fast my career has flown by in the last two or three years: from the first day of my internship to speaking at Google IO.”