A family affair: how one TransLink career has come full circle

A family affair: how one TransLink career has come full circle

When Brian Barker took his 14-year-old daughter Celyn to Take Your Kids To Work Day, he never imagined the impact it would have on her life. Brian is a carpenter for Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) — one of TransLink’s operating companies, operating the SeaBus and 96 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s bus service. As a teen, Celyn had an early interest in art and design, so the idea of working as a carpenter for a bus company was not high on the list of interesting future career choices. But Brian was hit with a stroke of genius. Instead of spending the day inside on the tools, he took her to the sign shop, the small but mighty department that is responsible for fabricating and installing various signage across the system, as well as creating decals for all the buses. Celyn and Brian spent the day exploring sign-making software and the principles behind design and customer communication.

Fast forward to today and it’s obvious that Take Your Kids To Work Day had a profound impact on Celyn.

Celyn is known within the TransLink enterprise for being the graphic artist who designed our instantly recognizable Reconnect bus. The colourful bus has travelled to events across Metro Vancouver as the Reconnect campaign works to get customers back onto public transportation.

Developing artistry

For an artistic 14-year-old to go from Take Your Kids To Work Day and directly apply those learned skills in a real way was invaluable. Brian never thought the day would impact Celyn in the way it did: “I was shocked. When she finished that she was in grade nine, so she had a few more years of school to complete. But you know she was set, when she got into high school, she knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to get into design and marketing from that stage.” he explained.

Even in high school, Celyn developed a reputation for going above and beyond when it came to art and design. Brian said he realized she had real potential in art when she received an award for a diorama she created in the 11th grade. The assignment was to create a model of an Indigenous settlement from pre-colonial times. While most students drew simple pictures, Celyn took it as an opportunity to flex her creative muscles. The result was a robust and detailed model that left Brian saying: “oh my goodness where are you getting these ideas from?”

After high school, with her mind still set on graphic artistry, Celyn set off for the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, joining the Graphic Design for Marketing program to pursue a Bachelor of Design Degree.  The program is intended to equip students with the skills to tackle real-world design challenges — such as creating a colourful art wrap for a bus with clear corporate objectives.

Circling back

As a student, Celyn had summers off. With a few months’ break, and a need to fund the rest of her education, she was on the hunt for a summer job. Lo and behold Celyn found work for Coast Mountain Bus Company through her father. Summer student positions are a staple of CMBC’s operation, allowing them to get promising young students interested in working for the company. Celyn landed a job as a service person where her role was to clean, refuel, and move buses between depots. She enjoyed the work thanks largely to the camaraderie of being a part of the team: “Every night you go to work, you have to get your job done; but the laughs, the memories – everyone just made it so enjoyable that you wanted to go to work.” She explained jubilantly.

She said a highlight of her time as a summer student was getting her Class 2 license and learning how to drive the buses, which she would later design artwork for: “It was pretty intense, being so small and driving something so big. It was definitely a lot of pressure driving on the streets of Vancouver. Driving a car can be difficult, but the bus is even harder.” Brian, on the other hand, had a different answer when pressed about the benefits of the summer student position: “Well she had a lot of fun but she ended up paying for her schooling which is great, especially as a parent,” he chuckled as he explained.

After completing her degree at Kwantlen, Celyn was ready to look for a career in graphic artistry. She began looking for a position in the TransLink enterprise, but unfortunately, positions in her field were filled at the time. Once again, Brian presented her with a dose of optimism: “I thought you know what, we seem to be hiring within the company first,” he told her. So, after completing her degree Celyn went back to CMBC and continued her work as a service person so when a position opened up in her field, she would be first in line.

Landing the job

It wouldn’t be long before Celyn was given the opportunity to move into a role as a Graphic Artist. She said the interview process was “very friendly and familiar” allowing her to feel comfortable as she was considered for the new position. Though trading in her coveralls and night-shift lifestyle for office clothes and a nine-to-five schedule was jarring at first, she settled in nicely to the position.

Celyn’s Reconnect Bus on display at the PNE Fair in August, 2021.

Celyn’s most recognizable work for TransLink’s Marketing department is the design of the Reconnect bus. The bus itself is a vital part of TransLink’s Reconnect campaign, which has lofty goals of getting customers back on transit. When designing public-facing artwork for an organized campaign there’s understandably a lot of input from different sources. When asked about what that creative process was like Celyn laid out the details: “Well we have to come up with a couple of concepts and deliver 2 to 3 different concepts that are reviewed by higher-ups. They come back and say which ones they like, which ones they didn’t, or which ones can be combined. They like the colours or they don’t. My concepts originally they didn’t go with, they loved the colours but it was a different idea in the end.” So, after several rounds of tweaking followed by more feedback the design was complete.

All the hard work paid off, the Reconnect bus was featured on several news broadcasts when it launched, much to the delight of Celyn: “The bus wraps not small, putting everything behind it, all of the campaign assets it’s a lot of work. So, it’s very rewarding to see, it was even on the news! Like it’s everywhere” she exclaimed excitedly. You may have seen the bus, it’s made the rounds this Summer visiting events from Canada Day celebrations to the Vancouver Mural Festival, and the PNE Fair. If you saw the bus and excitedly stopped to take photos you wouldn’t be alone. Celyn says Brian is her number one fan: “Anytime that I do a bus wrap and he sees it out in the yard he sends me photos of it and the same goes with any other design work that I do” she said. Brian pitched in to add that he likes to showcase what she does: “I do brag about her work a little bit!”

Another one of Celyn’s designs, a double-decker bus celebrating free transit for kids 12 and under.

Parental pride

“As parents, both her mum and I are very proud of her. She’s dedicated herself at KPU for 5 years to get her degree, from what I see and what I hear she’s loving it. As parents, we’re very proud of her. She’s got the creativity, my wife and I look at each other and we’re like “where does she get that from?!” We do what we do, and she’s got the imagination to create things and come up with things, with her in that position, absolutely, the only thing I can think of is how proud I am of her.”

The pride Brian has for his daughter speaks for itself. The fact that he helped guide her into a career she enjoys and thrives in is the ultimate goal for every parent. For Celyn, it’s been a long journey since that first take your kid to work day in the 9th grade but, she hasn’t forgotten about the impact it’s had on her. “He knew I was always creative growing up, I had already seen him do all the carpentry around the house. He said: ‘Since you’re creative you’ll probably like all the decals and stickers in the sign shop.’ He knew he was more excited to show me that aspect than what he actually did.”