Are designers born designers? We asked our 2021 Designers of the Year winners to look back and see if their early years held any clue as to their future profession and passion… and it does seem like for many, a life in design was destiny.

The one who specialized in cardboard

I was always keeping the cardboard boxes that things were packaged in and rebuilding them into structures for my toys. When I eventually pursued a degree in architecture I think my parents probably had a real connect-the-dots moment. When I was a little older, they gifted me with a small pocket knife and I would spend hours collecting sticks from the forest and whittling off the bark. I had absolutely no end goal in mind, but I really liked the hands-on process. A child would never describe anything as meditative, but it was that equivalent. €“ Deagan McDonald, Origins, Furniture Designer of the Year 2021

The one who found inspo from a retro Disney ride

The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Understanding that spaces that felt real could be created purely from the imagination… and being excited that maybe I could do that one day. €”Lisa Bovell, McLeod Bovell Modern Houses, Architectural Designer of the Year 2021

The one who followed in his family’s footsteps… through the garden

My grandparents and my father were avid gardeners. There is no question that I came from a green-thumb family. I remember working in the garden with my dad when I was 10 years old and specifically telling myself that one day I wanted to be as good as my dad was at gardening. I€™d like to think I'm as good or better than him now, but he probably wouldn€™t agree! €”Ryan Donohoe, Landscape Designer of the Year 2021

The one who picked HGTV over Bugs Bunny

When I wanted to watch decorating shows over cartoons on Saturday mornings. €”Amanda Evans, Robert Ledingham Memorial Award Winner 2021 

The one who drew her own path

I really bounced around between artistic mediums in my early years, but it was always about finding a creative outlet. I think the path toward architecture and design emerged from hand sketching. €” Kelsey Nilsen, Origins, Industrial Designer of the Year 2021

The one who thought fasteners had potential for improvement 

A general dislike of buttons (an attribute I later learned that I shared with Rudolph Schindler). €” Matt McLeod, McLeod Bovell Modern Houses, Architectural Designer of the Year 2021

The one who ditched art school

I kept getting sent for multi-media art competitions by my school, even though I dropped out of art class. And, to my surprise, I was winning, although I didn€™t think I was good. I must have been doing something right. €” Sumer Singh, Maker of the Year 2021

The one who braved paper cuts in the name of creativity

I was obsessed with paper origami and still am.€” Becki Chan, Fashion Designer of the Year 2021

The one who got experimental with sponge-painting

The many times I repainted my bedroom. The worst that it got was when I painted my room in grade 10 to mimic my boyfriend's bedroom, which had been professionally finished. The base colour was a terribly dull grey with sponged-on purple veins intended to look sort of like cracks in the drywall. It was horrific. Needless to say, I€™ve come a long way! €” Amanda Hamilton, Interior Designer of the Year 2021

The one who didn’t need an instruction manual 

When I was a child, there was a huge assorted box of Lego at our house€”I don't recall seeing the specific model instructions anywhere. My parents might have bought the whole bin at a garage sale… I don't know. The fun was in making new creations, breaking them apart and starting fresh again. €” Caine Heintzman, Industrial Designer of the Year 2021