Monthly Archives: December 2010

Happy Holidays from Art Center!

Happy Holidays from Art Center! We hope you have a happy and safe holiday season. Check out our beautiful holiday greeting, designed by Graphic Design students Jason Yeh and Nadia Tzuo.

For Art Center, 2011 will be a pivotal year, culminating in a year’s worth of preparation and resolve. Under the leadership of our president Lorne Buchman, and in conjunction with our 80th anniversary, the Art Center community came together this year to envision what our future will look like. Early next year, we will unveil the College’s new strategic plan, building on a long tradition of preparing art and design students to become leaders in their chosen fields.

We hope you will join us as we embark upon the next 80 years.

Our campus and administrative offices will be closed beginning Dec. 23 and will reopen Jan. 3. Happy Holidays!

Exploring Soft Goods With Karen Bates

“I used to be purely academic, which was wonderful in many ways,” says Karen Bates, who went through Princeton’s Ph.D. program in architecture.


“But I always had that itch to do something creative. Instead of just studying the artists, I wanted to actually make something.”

Now she’s teaching others how to do just that in her course, Soft Goods Accessory Design and Construction, and a follow-up advanced course, both of which are being offered this spring at Art Center at Night.

Bates describes her background as eclectic, which might be the understatement of the year. In addition to her studies at Princeton, the Southern California native spent three years studying in Paris at the University of Paris, La Sorbonne and translating for UNESCO; and over a decade in New York, studying at Parsons New School of Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and running a photography studio. In her spare time, she managed to sell mixed media artworks and soft goods and accessory designs to both individual and corporate clients.

Now she’s back in the Los Angeles region and showing students the ins and outs of soft goods and accessories in Art Center’s continuing studies program. We caught up with Karen to get the scoop on her current and upcoming courses.

Dotted Line: Tell us a little about Soft Goods Accessory Design and Construction.

Crown purse by Bates. The only fur Bates ever uses is recycled fur, coming from vintage or thrift resources.

Karen Bates: This is the first class I’ve taught at Art Center at Night, and in the spring, I’ll be teaching an advanced version of the class. In the current fall course, we’re making handbags. We go through all the intricate details of pattern drafting, and then move on to construction. The students are enthusiastic about the work, even through the process can be challenging at times.  Let’s just say I give them their money’s worth in terms of educational value.

Dotted Line: So this isn’t all sketching on paper? You actually make the bags?
Absolutely. Students walk out of the course with two finished products. Drawing has its limitations—sketching is important in the conceptual stages, of course, but it’s during the construction stages when you really learn something. Plus, afterwards you have something you can bring home to mom and say, “Look what I made!” Or, if you’re an entrepreneur, you could use the bag as a prototype, take it to a factory and ask, “Can you manufacture this? How much would it cost?” From a business standpoint, that can save you a lot of start-up capital, because you’ll have already worked out a lot of those construction kinks.

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Graduation and Grad Show Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is Fall Term 2010 graduation!

Photo by Lara Warren

Join us as we welcome the newest graduates into the Art Center family, and check out the work of graduating students afterwards at Graduation Show. Can’t join us at Hillside Campus tomorrow? Watch our live online webcast.

After graduation, check out the work of the newest Art Center graduates at Graduation Show from 6 to 9 p.m. at Hillside Campus.

Fall 2010 Graduation
Saturday, December 18, 4 p.m. PST
Hillside Campus

Catching Up With Syd Mead

As the buzz around Tron: Legacy reaches a fever pitch leading up to its opening this weekend, our thoughts naturally turn to the original Tron and our beloved alumnus Syd Mead, whose designs are synonymous with the groundbreaking film.

A 1959 Transportation Design graduate, Mead is best known for his work on Tron, Bladerunner and Aliens, as well as for the creation of the V’Ger for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.


We caught up with Mead this week to find out what he’s been up to, and his thoughts on the new Tron.

Dotted Line: You’ve been busy. Tell us about your latest projects.
Syd Mead:
My latest complete project was two food service designs and installations in New York City. FoodParc at ground level off Sixth Avenue and Bar Basque, the second level lounge and restaurant. My designs started, literally, on 8.5” x 11” sketch paper on the way back from New York after the first meeting with the architects, Philip Koether, Architects. The designs were faithfully reproduced by Koether’s expert team. Concept moves to completion through a complex symphony of cooperative expertise.

In the movie field, I’ve just completed pre-production contract designs for a young, recognized director for a movie title that is in progress. It is not my position to tell what it is.

Dotted Line: What have been the most enjoyable aspects of these projects?
They’ve all been enjoyable because you learn from each cooperative venture. The surprises come as the project moves from concept to idea to design. Adaptation to end format protocols, unwelcome shifts in focus by either capital sources for the project or intrusion into the process by those unfamiliar with the project intent yet given authority to “change.”

Dotted Line: Tell us about your current work in your new book, Sentury II. Has your focus changed over the years?
As a follow-up to Sentury, Sentury II covers the last 10 years of professional enterprise. My focus? It’s not changed for more than 50 years. The tools that accomplish the various desired results change; the methodology does not. The mistake I see in current rush to the computer is that the tool becomes more important than either the idea or the technique. This is disastrous.

Dotted Line: What interests you these days?
Mead: I have been interested in the development of a tool. We now have semi-intuitive “helper” software that anticipates habitual use of various software features. The hazard is that you come to depend on those “conveniences” to the detriment of genuine creative use of the exotic software being used. And, with many software applications, you aren’t given specific “turn off” directions. Another fascinating drift is the increasing insistence that since work is being done on a computer, the professional fee structure should be downgraded to a time/result formula rather than a realization that the computer implementation is a tool function, not a creative front-end function. Financial vectors in most professional account sources simply don’t recognize the difference between the two.

1982 poster for Tron

Dotted Line: With the buzz surrounding Tron: Legacy, our thoughts naturally return to the 1982 Tron that you worked on. Can you share with us what that job was like?
For the original Tron I designed the tank, the aircraft carrier (Sark’s command ship), the interior control set for the recognizer, the light cycles, of course, the release graphics of the movie title, the rotating CPU, the CPU approach field, the game arenas, the holding cells for the players, Sark’s command camp pit, Sark’s command pedestal and backup and several set drawings used to create the story environment including Yori’s apartment and the scenery design for the tank chase.

I was invited for lunch on the Disney lot by producers Steven Lisberger and Don Kushner and received a book of stuff that Steven already had with him. I started after about two or three weeks after contract matters had been agreed to by Disney.

I worked on Tron from my home studio, as I have with all the movies I’ve worked on. I always have several projects going through the corporation and being sequestered in an “on lot” cubicle doesn’t work. My function is meta-staff working one-to-one with the director and his immediate authority, the production designer.

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A Legacy Revisited: Art Center Alumnus Eric Barba Envisions the World of Tron

For Art Center alumnus Eric Barba, things didn’t seem like they could get any better after he won an Oscar for his groundbreaking special effects work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That is, until he got the gig overseeing the special effects for Tron: Legacy, opening this weekend.

Courtesy of Disney

For Benjamin Button, Barba was tasked with making Brad Pitt appear older. For Tron: Legacy, his challenge was the opposite: to make a present-day Jeff Bridges appear as he did in the 1982 original. And, it had to appear authentic. Add to that the intense pressure of a cult-status 1982 film Tron (visualized by another Art Center alum, Syd Mead, who we also spoke to this week), and Barba had his work cut out for him.

Barba has been with the SoCal-based Digital Domain visual production studio for 13 years, and like many of the top directors he collaborates with, he’s equally comfortable working in film or advertising. He started at Digital Domain as a digital artist on The Fifth Element and CG supervisor on Supernova before rising to visual effects supervisor for David Fincher’s Zodiac.

As we count down to the opening of Tron: Legacy, the Dotted Line caught up with Barba to talk about his work as visual effects supervisor on this much-anticipated movie, his work and, of course, Art Center.

Dotted Line: How was working on the new Tron film different from others you’ve worked on?
Eric Barba:
This was the most difficult project I’ve ever done, for many reasons. It was by far the most challenging. The work we had done on Benjamin Button was considered the holy grail of special effects because we were aging a human face, which hadn’t been done before. The [Jeff Bridges] character Clu pushes that envelope so far, and so much faster, than we expected. We didn’t know that these sorts of effects [such as portraying a decades-younger Bridges] were even possible to do. And working in 3D was new for me, too.

Dotted Line: What are the different considerations when working in 3D?
It’s incredibly challenging technically, because we’re still in the early stages of learning how to shoot 3D from a how-the-camera-works standpoint. I like to joke that the camera we used to film this will be in a museum at some point as a relic, because if you look at it, it’s actually two cameras strapped together.

And because of this there are a lot of technical challenges and mechanical imperfections, lens imperfections and the like. You have to continuously fix things and put stuff back together. For example, when we’re trying to shoot two actors playing a disc game, if they don’t stand in the correct space on a 50-foot screen, then the shot is ruined. All the techniques we use for tracking—making sure our CG and our studio camera line up—have to be rewritten because they have to be much, much more accurate for 3D. And you have to render everything twice, so it’s twice the disk space. Then you have to have development systems to look at it and judge it. It definitely raises the bar as far as technical difficulty.

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Art Center Honors Doyald Young

This is turning out to be quite a week for Doyald Young.

Tomorrow night he’ll be honored at a special Art Center reception (RSVPs required) with a screening of Doyald Young, Logotype Designer, a new documentary about Young by

Photo by Louise Sandhaus

At Saturday’s commencement ceremony, he will receive Art Center’s Alumnus of the Year Award for his dedicated work as an educator and lifetime of legendary work in typography, logotypes and alphabets. At Saturday’s commencement, he’ll receive an honorary degree from Art Center, where he studied Advertising in the ’50s, and where he has taught lettering and logotype design in the Graphic Design Department for decades.

We caught up with Young this week to talk to him about Art Center, his thoughts on teaching and those things computers can’t do.

Dotted Line: Congratulations on the alumni award and honorary degree.
Doyald Young:
Thank you! I’m honored and thankful for such honors. I am an amalgam of the people I’ve known whose ideas have permeated my being. I’m blessed—so many people have kindly befriended me. I often wonder, “How do I repay them?”

I believe that teaching and writing books about what I do is a form of payback. Both of which I continue to do, and will, as long as I am able. A priori, how could I not be deeply touched with the awards I’ve received? I’m humbled that Art Center has allowed me to teach these many years, and blessed that I receive support from my fellow teachers and staff.

Dotted Line: What has Art Center meant to you?
Art Center has been one of the great forces of my life. I learned, most importantly, that our first efforts are just that. They need refinement. A good job is done over and over, and oftentimes is changed again and again when marketing forces or creative directors change their minds. Final art does not emerge full-blown. I make my living making changes.

At Art Center, I learned professionalism, punctuality, and above all, how to continue my skills and burnish my talent. And a mentor of mine, Henry Dreyfuss, taught me the value of a thank-you note.

Dotted Line: You’ve said that you are an educator first, and a designer second.
It’s true. When I was a student in Mort Leach’s class, he noticed fellow students coming to me for help on their projects. They came to me voluntarily, and I found that I enjoyed helping them. Mort later asked me to become his teaching assistant.

Teaching requires patience. I firmly believe that if you have the gift of teaching, you must pass it on. As Woodrow Wilson said, “You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”

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A Festive Look Back at Our Past

Guest post by Art Center Archivist Robert Dirig

As we put the finishing touches on our 2010 holiday greeting—a beautiful motion design piece designed by Art Center students—we turn to our College archives to remember holiday cards from yesteryear.

Not surprisingly, Art Center’s holiday cards have always been quite unique and creative. The designs range from posters to origami to traditional cards to others that fold out in unusual dimensions.

The earliest Art Center card we have found was sent out in 1955. Some were made by students, others by alumni, and still others by faculty members. Product Design alumnus and former faculty member Kohei Eguchi designed many of cards from the 1980s that pop out like origami when opened.

Grab some eggnog and take a little trip through time with us, won’t you?

See the entire collection by appointment at the College Archives. Contact College Archivist Robert Dirig at or 626.396.2208 for more information.

The 2011-2012 Viewbook is Here!

We’re excited to share with you the 2011-2012 Art Center Viewbook, created by Art Center’s in-house Design Office in collaboration with faculty member Simon Johnston. Flip through this beautiful publication online. You can also request a catalog from Admissions.

A ton of work by many went into this newest book, and we’re quite proud of it. Check out the video above (made by alumna and one of the Viewbook designers Eliana Dominguez) and slide show below to see more.

Faculty member Simon Johnston visits the bindery where the Viewbook is being printed:

Photos of the Viewbook installation at Hillside Campus: