Q&A: Emily Carr student Kimberly Parker talks transit etiquette

Q&A: Emily Carr student Kimberly Parker talks transit etiquette

ECUAD’s illustration graduate Kimberly Parker.
Illustrator Kimberly Parker chats about why transit etiquette is important

For Kimberly Parker, art isn’t just a hobby. As a recent graduate who majored in illustration from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design (ECUAD), Kimberly is one of the six students whose artwork depicting transit etiquette is currently displayed on our transit system.

TransLink’s recent collaboration with ECUAD aims to take a look at transit etiquette through the eyes of students who are also transit users themselves.

More than 40 students of the fourth-year illustration course at ECUAD, taught by Professors Justin Novak, Amory Abbott, and Daniel Drennan ElAwar, brought their own sense of creativity to the project.

Kimberly chats with our social media team about why transit etiquette is important.

Tell us where you’re from.

I never feel like I have an easy answer for this! I was born in Vancouver, but raised in Ontario, only to move back here a few years ago and been trying to stick around ever since.

When did you first start illustrating and when did it turn into a passion?

I think art was always a passion first, ever since I could hold a crayon. It took much longer to talk myself into the idea that I could do it as a capital C-career.

Kimberly Parker’s transit etiquette illustration focuses on courtesy seats

What made you realise you want this as your career?

I think that was probably around 2012, about six years ago. There wasn’t a huge art scene where I grew up in Ontario, but the online community at the time was supportive enough that I felt like I could at least take a shot at it. I was a barista and working on art in the evenings wasn’t cutting it, so I saved as much as I could and moved to the most promising art scene I could think of: San Francisco. I was kicked around there and ended up going to a workshop in Los Angeles with hundreds of other artists. It was then that I knew I wanted to surround myself with as many people like that as possible, which for where I was in my development at the time, meant going to art school.

Why did you want to work with TransLink?

I’m actually a huge fan of Vancouver’s public transit system. I come from a city that only has a bus route, so having the SkyTrain is incredible to me. I’ve never felt the need to get a car or even a bike here, it’s one of the best public systems in any major city that I’ve used. I rely on it every day and I’m always kinda bummed when I stay out too late and I have to take a cab!

Why is etiquette important – especially on public transit?

I take the SkyTrain every day to work and I sometimes see some pretty rude behaviour. I think etiquette is about empathy and opportunity–coming out of your bubble and realizing it takes so little effort to really brighten someone’s day, and we have so many little chances to do it that we don’t take. The person next to you could be absolutely exhausted from a long day at work and have an hour long commute ahead of them, offering a seat can suddenly mean the world.

What motivated you personally to work on something like this?

I won’t lie, seeing my art on the SkyTrain in the mornings has been super cool! But I did have some personal stakes in it too–I have a really good friend who despite appearing young and fit lives with chronic pain and fatigue, which can be invisible to most people. I had some really good conversations with him about TransLink’s courtesy seats in particular, and how often some people make assumptions about him using those seats. I’m hoping that my version of portraying people who need those seats as fruit–as silly as it is–might help people think more about how even without clear signs like a broken leg some people bruise and tire more easily than others if they’re made to stand on the train.

ECUAD’s illustration graduate Kimberly Parker.

Have you ever worked on a campaign like this before?

This is a first!

What was the biggest challenge for you illustrating for this project?

It was definitely trying to politely, respectfully, and inclusively portray a population of people already stigmatized. I didn’t want anyone to look up at the artwork and feel insulted.

What were the biggest surprises for you creating these images?

I think I was most surprised that the image was chosen to go up! I definitely didn’t imagine it would be so positively received.

What was the process and how long did it take to arrive at the final image?

I remember finishing this one very vividly because it was the night of the Super-Blood-Moon, and I wanted to stay up to see it (it was most visible at something like 3am), but my computer crashed and I lost about two thirds of my work. I ended up having to stay up the entire rest of the night to make up for it. I think I slept a total of half-an-hour on the couch! I definitely had some weird Apple-related nightmares!

Describe your feelings when you found out your artwork was one of the chosen few.

Surprised and delighted!

Have you seen it on the system yet?

I have! I spotted it just the other day. Mostly I’ve been sent photos by friends (please don’t stop).

What are your biggest pet peeves when it came to etiquette on transit?

I commute on the SkyTrain to work and it drives me crazy to be patiently waiting at the front of the line for the next train to come, only to have so many people cut in front of me that I can’t get into the train. I feel like I need to have this base-level of aggression just to get to work on time and that’s just not how I want to start or finish my day.

What do you hope will be the result of this campaign?

Hopefully, more people will feel like they need to be more aware of their surroundings, and their influence on other people as well as on the staff.

What kind of change would you like to see with your artwork?

I hope more people see the courtesy seats as truly needed by a large number of people, and not just convenient for them.



Graduates Christine Wei (an international student from Taiwan, interviewed above), Kimberly Parker, Susie Wilson, Autumn Quigley, Amy Vanden Berg, and YingChen Mai’s illustrations are now on the transit system – inside buses, and on Canada, Expo and Millennium Line trains and stations.

Have you seen these illustrations on transit yet? Let us know what you think of them!

To learn more about etiquette on transit, visit: https://www.translink.ca/Rider-Guide/Etiquette-on-Transit.aspx

Tanushree Pillai