There have been classes in environmental design since the Industrial Design department was formed in 1931. Art Center did not start using the term “environmental design” until the early 1970s, but instead used terms like “interior space design,” design for merchandising,” and “specialized structures.” Today our Environmental Design Department describes the program as “focus[ing] on the design of the total spatial experience—from the first moment of encounter to the last moment of interaction.” Below are some early photographs from classes in environmental design.
Art Center’s very first sponsored project in 1960 was not to design an automobile or even an industrial design product, but rather a space capsule. George Beck, manager of industrial design at General Electric’s Light Military Electronics Department, approached Art Center with the idea for students to design a space capsule and interior computer, providing for the most efficient relation between the computer and the pilot.
Below are some photos from the project.
The first Art Center graduates to enter the automobile design field were placed in positions with General Motor Buick Division in Detroit, Michigan, as early as the mid-1930s. A few industrial design students, including John Coleman, George Jergenson and Strother MacMinn, were fascinated by automobile styling in an era when U.S. mass production car design was still rather primitive. In 1948, MacMinn, Coleman, and Jergenson joined the Industrial Design Department and established the schools’ connection with transportation design–a field that lifted Art Center into international prominence.
Below are some early photographs from circa 1949 of students working on transportation design projects.
Senior design executives from General Motors Corporation challenged a class of advanced transportation students with the design of a total community transportation system projected for the year 1990. The students chose the master-planned 85,000 acre city and community of Irvine in Orange County, California. The problem involved the design of a balanced, integrated system of public, private, emergency, and service vehicles, to meet the needs of half a million people with a wide range of life styles and incomes. The system needed to be attractive, convenient, economical and efficient, and take into account all potential developments in technology, safety and ecological standards.
Below are a few examples of the photo documentation from the project.