The Toronto artist behind a unique PRESTO card

PRESTO partnered with Aecon to help provide better access to transit for Indigenous Peoples with a unique PRESTO card design. The specially designed card is very interesting, and so is the local Indigenous artist who created the look.

PRESTO cards are fairly iconic.

You can quickly spot the design as someone flashes the iconic card out of their wallet or purse.

Then there’s the version Karly Cywink has created – a work of art that will truly move people.

Recently, Metrolinx News wrote about Metrolinx partnering with well-known Canadian construction company, Aecon Group Inc., to provide PRESTO cards to two Toronto Urban Indigenous organizations.

But the look of the cards is so unique, we thought we needed to introduce Cywink, the artist behind the makeover inspired by traditional Indigenous culture.   Cywink is a Toronto multidisciplinary artist and recent university graduate. She connected with her Indigenous roots to incorporate the city skyline into the card – though the story and inspiration is more than that touch.

Image shows the artist.
Karly Cywink, local Toronto multidisciplinary Indigenous artist on set of one of her recent projects. (Karly Cywink photo)

Here is what Cywink had to say as she spoke about her journey as an artist and the inspiration behind the design.

Q. What inspired you to get into the arts?

Cywink: “My path to becoming an artist began when I was only 12 years old. I started a YouTube channel to post short skits and video edits of my favourite shows and movies. In high school, my love for digital art grew as I sparked an interest in camera directing and post-production. This love for digital art ultimately forged the path I chose to embark on in university – I studied Radio and Television Arts (RTA) Media Production and honed my unique design style while enriching my love for documentary filmmaking and e-sports production. Documentary filmmaking genuinely inspires me as I am always looking for ways to uplift the often-overlooked voices, including my own, so this medium provides a method and freedom of expression that resonates with me.”

Q. What was your inspiration for the PRESTO card design?

Cywink: “The main inspiration behind this design is Indigenous beadwork, patterns, and the vibrant colours of regalia, or jewelry that is worn at Pow Wows. I find these patterns extremely beautiful and constantly evolving. By incorporating the sky, where I draw lots of inspiration from, I felt it was only fitting to include the skyline of Toronto, as nothing says Toronto more than that. In this design, the Toronto skyline combined with traditional patterns that speak to Indigenous art is a perfect illustration to symbolize this initiative.”

Image shows the design on the PRESTO card.
Here’s a close-up of the unique card designed by Karly Cywink. (Metrolinx photo)

Q. How did you conceptualize the design?

Cywink: “With the Toronto skyline, I wanted the Indigenous patterns to be where the eye is drawn. I started by creating the flowers, then incorporated them into a rough sketch. Our eyes naturally flow left to right, so it was important to make it appear like the flowers bloomed left to right and continued to grow indefinitely.”

Q. What is your favourite element of the card design?

Cywink: “I love each element individually, however, I don’t think that the individual components could stand alone. It is the combination of features that tells the story and evokes the feeling of harmony. If I had to choose one part of the design, the blooming flower pattern would be my favourite – it’s the standout element and the piece that means the most to me.”

Image shows the PRESTO card
The PRESTO cards have been distributed to two Indigenous services and employment organizations in the City of Toronto. (Metrolinx photo)

Q. What is the most interesting or impactful part of this opportunity?

Cywink: “I have created different forms of art since I was young and worked on projects for people to view at their leisure, whether for a school project or on my own time. However, my art has never been exposed to as many people as it will be through this PRESTO card. So, I think that’s the most impactful part of this opportunity for me. Specifically, people that will resonate with the design and find elements such as beadwork patterns familiar. Creating a piece of art that will share my culture is a source of pride for me – making this project near and dear to my heart and ultimately essential for our Indigenous community here in Toronto and aspiring artists alike.”

Q. Professionally, what is your goal? 

Cywink: “As an artist, my goal is simple but powerful – to make people feel something and evoke emotions when they look at my art, whether it’s a sense of belonging, relatability, feeling heard or even inspired. My dream projects range from creating an Indigenous documentary series, to directing e-sports live events, publishing an illustrated storybook, and developing a video game. I want to feel happy with what I do. I create things because it brings me joy, and there is nothing greater than sharing that joy with people.”

Missed our first story on this project? Here you go.

Story by Laura Durie, Metrolinx community relations and issues specialist.