Alumni spotlight: Amy Armstrong and Vanessa Young

Headshot of Amy Armstrong and Vanessa Young

April 13, 2023 - 12:15pm

Amy Armstrong and Vanessa Young graduated from VIU’s Bachelor of Interior Design program in 2015. They met during their studies and became good friends. Now they work together as senior co-directors of product design and development at Dvele, a home-building company based in California.

We caught up with Amy and Vanessa to learn about their time at VIU and how their education helped them prepare for their current role in the workforce.

Why did you choose VIU for your education? 

Vanessa: I was living in Nanaimo and finishing up high school at Dover Bay Secondary. I always knew I wanted to go into interior design and saw the options I had within BC. It was appealing to me to be close to friends and family while doing my post-secondary degree. The four-year bachelor program was still fairly new at the time, and I was excited about the potential it had!

Amy: I completed a certificate program in interior design at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and wanted to further my education. I was living in Kamloops at the time and was open to moving. I looked into a few different universities to complete my degree; VIU appealed to me because the program head at the time was very helpful and encouraging, and I also loved the idea of living on the Island.

Tell us a bit about your experience at VIU and in your program.

Vanessa: I was fortunate enough to connect with classmates like Amy and my professors in the program. I knew interior design was the route I wanted to take, but being able to study it and have my thoughts validated was confirmation that I was going in the right direction. I think in general people underestimate the amount of work that goes into a degree in interior design. Although I was ready and willing to do everything I needed for the next four years there is a lot of time outside of the classroom working on projects. In the end, the feeling of accomplishment when I finished an assignment or project was gratifying. 

Amy: I moved to the Island alone not knowing anyone in Nanaimo. Our year specifically was a small class size. You spend a lot of hours with fellow students in class and out of class. Vanessa and I became quick friends and developed a great working relationship. I had taken courses previously at Thompson Rivers University and BCIT and I feel like the main difference for me was that VIU offered such a personable learning experience.

How did your program prepare you for your current role in the workforce?

Vanessa / Amy: The interior design industry is always changing. VIU gave us a good grasp of the fundamentals of design:

  • space planning, 
  • building code, 
  • design history and 
  • drafting.

These skills are mandatory for people entering the workforce and you hone those skills as you continue your career development in the industry.

Can you share an experience where one of your profs  made an impact on your learning experience?

Amy: The program chair at the time, Katarina Litva, was so helpful and welcoming when I applied to enter third year. I was nervous that my transcripts might not transfer, or that it might be a difficult process. She walked me through the transfer process and ensured that I would be up to date, but my previous education was also recognized. Without her it would have been a much harder decision to return to university after some time away.

What’s next for you?

Vanessa / Amy: We have been working mainly on single-family residences for the past five years. We are excited to transition more into designing developments and communities with Dvele. Modular and prefab design is a relatively new concept in the construction industry, and we are very fortunate to have a few years of experience in this growing industry. Our company is passionate about sustainable and efficient building practices, and it has been exciting working for an awesome company at the forefront of, what we believe, is the future of the construction industry. 

What are you most proud of since completing your program at VIU?

Vanessa: After graduation in 2015, we both started working for a start-up Dvele, based out of California. At the time there were five employees and our jobs were ever-changing. We had to wear many hats to get projects over the line. Fast forward to today and we are both senior co-directors of product design and development. Dvele now has offices across Canada and a manufacturing facility and offices across California. It has been amazing to look back at the work we have put in to get to this point, and to do it together with someone I met while attending VIU is unique. 

What advice would you give VIU students following a similar trajectory as yourself? 

Amy: The biggest piece of advice we would tell our younger selves is to not get caught up in what you think you want to do after graduation. Both of us had big plans to be commercial designers at a large design firm. Landing this “dream job” was not something that came easily for either of us at first. Vanessa ended up moving to Italy and getting a master’s degree, and I was looking for employment. I ended up in the residential field, and then modular. I am so grateful I didn’t get that job that I originally thought was the only thing I wanted to do. We feel so fortunate to learn what we have learned in the workforce from some of the leading experts in our industry, and we are both so passionate about what niche we landed into.


Tags: Art and Design | Our Alumni

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email