“There is no such thing as overnight success or fame. For this Canadian floral designer and educator, it has taken 30 years of perseverance.”

For years, we have gotten to know Donald Yim, AIFD, PFCI – creative director of West Van Florist Home & Garden in West Vancouver, B.C., Canada; Floriology Institute education specialist; and design director with Smither-Oasis North America – through his YouTube videos and social media presence. Making a splash on the international floral scene in 2019 by placing fifth at the “World Flower Art Contest” in Beijing, China, last August and winning the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) “Sylvia Cup” in September, the question we would like to ask is, “Who is Donald Yim?”


I have been in the floral industry for 30 years. I started as a delivery boy in my sister’s flower shop in Hong Kong. I spent the 014 FLORISTS’ REVIEW | MARCH 2020 first 20 years trying to make a living. It has been the last 10 years when I finally found enjoyment to play. I discovered floral art that makes me happy, and I started to combine it with everyday designs to make it salable. This balance is important. I learned a lot from European designers, but it is too much for the public. The combination of European design with everyday American design – people now love it, and they don’t say it’s weird. I am still passionate about flowers, and I’m glad to see flowers every day. I want to create – and not because I have to.


I am lucky. Social media has done me a lot of favors. I live in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, and I wanted people to get to know me. I needed to use tools available to me to share my ideas. I feel it is important to interact with friends and clients. Through social media, I just talk with people, and they see my personality. They see that I love what I do. This can’t be faked. I have gotten a lot of jobs because of it. Everything came together at the right time.

People think it all happened suddenly, but I have worked hard for so many years. I failed consistently, but it was a learning curve. Some people are afraid to fail and only want to show the best of themselves. If you show your bad side, you are being human. It is how we all grow. Basically, I love what I do and do what I love, and people see that.


Competing in Beijing at the “World Flower Art Contest,” where I came in fifth, is something I wanted to experience, but I didn’t want to come in last. I have competed in North America, but this was my first time competing internationally, and it was scary. I flew

overseas, traveled in different time zones, had to find my own flowers and invested a lot of time and money. The atmosphere is so different, and the designers I competed against are the best in their countries. I learned time management. There are some techniques, even if you are good at them, that can’t be done in competition because of time restraints. The competition is also a test of physical endurance. I was on my feet and using a lot of energy. Even with my attention deficit disorder (ADD), it was almost impossible to have enough energy during a competition like this. I learned my strengths and weaknesses. China helped me with winning the “Sylvia Cup.” I learned to know my competitors. I tried to do something different than other designers, so the judges would not be seeing the same thing over and over again and so that I could stand out.


No one is creating anything new. Every idea is common sense. Ideas are around you every day. You see a square or a triangle on the TV screen, and it forms an idea. We need to look at things like we did when we were kids playing. You pick up a stick, use it in a different way and make something with it. We lose curiosity as adults. On social media, you see the same thing repeatedly. But we must try to make things that stand out. I want to take an idea or a product that is commonly used in a certain way and use it in a different way. For example, with Oasis Midnight Floral Foam, I cut it at angles, creating forms, and I arrange flowers in a way that shows the foam. You can now see a cohesiveness with the flowers and foam.


Even though I became an AFS Pacific Rim teacher at the age of 18 and am now an education specialist with the Floriology Institute, I do not see myself as teaching others. I love to share my ideas, and I see myself more as an influencer. I show them what works and what doesn’t work. If you learn different techniques, you can solve any problem in floral design. My philosophy in education is that you don’t ever go against anyone’s teaching style. You share with others what others teach because the floral industry if you look at history, has been around for thousands of years. Do what you love, share and people will love what you do.