Vanessa Li’s simplifying of personal finance management is one example of the finalists being featured at Adobe’s annual awards show. It’s being hosted in Toronto this year.

Four Canadians finalists for 2012 Adobe design awards

Nov. 12 update: Adobe has announced the 2012 winners and they can be viewed in an online gallery. Canadian prize winners include Hector Herrera from OCAD University and Richelle Rogers from a joint-program between York University and Sheridan College.

Managing your debt is like ripping off a Band-Aid – take it off quick.

That’s the advice of a personal finance tools and advice Web site designed by Sheridan College student Vanessa Li. Dubbed “The Real Deal” it gives a straight-forward and no-nonsense approach for young people to achieve financial success. The earnest advice is accompanied by an elegant page design, a black and blue colour-scheme with a silhouetted Toronto skyline in the background, and lots of fun interactive mouseover graphics to play with on the page.

Li says she was inspired by her boyfriend, who had a background in the financial industry. She observed that many young people don’t have a grip on the basics of money, and thought she could help them with a well-designed approach.

“There’s something about finance that makes it unapproachable and many people find it very intimidating,” she says. “If you design things well enough or show things in a certain way, it can really make someone change their mind.”

A video shows Li’s Web site design.

Li is one of four Canadians finalists for Adobe’s Design Achievement Awards (ADAA), being hosted tonight in Toronto. Li and the other 40 finalists made the cut out of a field of 5,000 submissions from around the globe.  Student winners walk away with $3,000 and a copy of Adobe CS6 educational version.

Finalists were chosen by 30 preliminary judges and 11 official judges from 16 different countries, says Jon Perera, vice-president of education at Adobe Inc. Student entries were selected based on originality and effectiveness in meeting the communication objective, while faculty submissions were scored on educational innovation and development of applications to improve the educational experience.

“Vanessa’s work does a terrific job of capturing design elements of a more intuitive, expressive Web experience, and uses design to help de-mystify complex topics” he says. “We also think the new Web needs to be interactive and expressive across devices – Vanessa’s work does a very nice job here.”

Adobe, the maker of popular design software like Photoshop and Illustrator, sees design as half the equation when it comes to technological breakthroughs. It wants to see post-secondary programs focus on interdisciplinary projects that bring together the fields of computer science, engineering, and design students.

“If you think about the best mobile device and tablets, the new apps and games that are seeing breakthrough adoption, and new innovations in sustainability and accessibility, the vast majority of these were the result of both world-class design with world-class technical innovation,” Perera says.

Li is up for the browser based design student award. Her approach was to keep it light and fun, and made an effort not to bombard the reader with information – anything not very straight forward for beginners was cut.

“Breaking down the barriers that block people from getting interested in their own finances would be a great change for the banks to make,” she says. “The whole site is about understanding that you have power.”

Other Canadians that could win tonight include Richelle Rogers from York University and Sheridan College, who is up for a packaging design award, and Humber College’s Wade Hudson, who is up for a student photography award. Hector Herrera, from OCAD University, could win in the educator’s category for Innovation in Motion and Video in Education.

This year’s finalists and previous award finalists’ work can be viewed at the ADAA Gallery. The last time Adobe held its awards show in Canada was in 2006, at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Brian JacksonBrian Jackson is the Editor at ITBusiness.ca. E-mail him at bjackson@itbusiness.ca, follow him on Twitter, connect on , read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.
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