Monthly Archives: March 2012

Spotlight on Transportation Design alumna Michelle Christensen

Transportation Design alumna Michele Christensen inside the 2010 Acura ZDX she designed.

Yes, transportation design is still an industry dominated by males. But things are changing and these days female designers, while still a minority, are no longer a rarity.

One of the more dramatic success stories of recent memory is Transportation Design alumna Michelle Christensen, who graduated from Art Center in 2005. While still a student at the College, Christensen began working on a groundbreaking design that caught the attention of Acura recruiters. Immediately after graduating, she was hired at Acura and became that company’s first female exterior car designer.

She spent the next several years transforming her class project into what eventually became the groundbreaking 2010 Acura ZDX crossover vehicle. “We’ve worked on almost nothing else for three years,” she told The New York Times of the process of bringing the ZDX to life, just as it was preparing to make its debut at the 2009 New York Auto Show. “You have to fight for, and justify, every element.”

What made Christensen interested in designing cars? “Growing up, my interests ranged from sketching prom dresses for friends to wanting to work in a pit crew for a racing team,” Christensen told Marie Claire in 2010. “In junior high I learned about exterior car design; it was the perfect melding of my interests in design, cars, and working with my hands.”

Later that same year, in an episode of the online show Moto-Man that focused exclusively on the ZDX, Christensen told host George Notaras that she first became aware of Art Center and car design as a profession when her dad, at a Bay Area car show, pointed out Art Center alumnus Chip Foose TRAN ’90 in the crowd.

“I asked him who Chip Foose was and he said, ‘He’s a car designer,” said Christensen. ‘And I thought, whoa, pump the brakes, he’s a what? I want to do that!”

EcoCouncil Throws a Spring Food Garden Party to Introduce Art Center’s New Executive Chef

Art Center Executive Chef Chris Haydostian (center) with EcoCouncil co-presidents Jenn Kuca (left) and Erik Molano (right). Photo: Chuck Spangler

Guest blog post by EcoCouncil co-presidents Erik Molano and Jenn Kuca

This past Friday, Sodexo collaborated with EcoCouncil to unite the campus community for a cooking demonstration at our Art Center Food Garden. Sodexo has been working with us consistently over the past few years to support student-led sustainability efforts, as well as campus-wide environmental responsibility initiatives.

Now that the weather has been warming up, we thought EcoCouncil should take the opportunity to get students, faculty and administration out in the fresh, open air. The new Food Garden was the perfect choice to discuss our event’s theme: garden-fresh food and easy-to-prepare snacks.

Chef Chris Haydostian and his English Pea Pureé. Photo: Chuck Spangler.

Due to Sodexo’s commitment to global sustainability in it’s Better Tomorrow Plan, we felt more than excited to introduce Christopher Haydostian, Art Center’s new eco-conscious executive chef.

Haydostian opened his talk with an overview of Sodexo’s partnership with local food suppliers and use of sustainably-sourced seafood, which many students and staff were unaware of. He also provided a little history about his journey to Art Center, including his work in the world of gourmet food, and his alma mater Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, our neighbor here in Pasadena.

Haydostian showed EcoCouncil and our guests how to make an English Pea Pureé that was served on garlic baguette slices and topped with roasted red peppers and feta cheese. All guests were able to sample the food right after his demonstration, and the recipe is now available on the Sodexo @ Art Center Facebook page.

EcoCouncil advisor Heidrun Mumper-Drumm and other EcoCouncil members showed guests around the garden and provided a seed giveaway, so that everyone could get in on the gardening action. The Spring Food Garden Party was not only fun, but it was collaborative, informational and, most importantly, delicious.

The Spring Food Garden Party in full effect. Photo: Pei Liew

Art Center’s Graduate Programs Top U.S. News & World Report’s Latest Graduate School Rankings

Graduate student work will be on display at 4 Hours Solid on April 18. Photo: Four Eyes Photography.

U.S. News & World Report has released its annual Best Grad Schools rankings, and we’re proud to report that Art Center made quite a splash in its Fine Arts Schools list.

The College’s Graduate Industrial Design program ranked number two in the “Industrial Design” category; Graduate Media Design ranked number seven in “Graphic Design;” and Graduate Art ranked number 18 in “Fine Arts.”

According to U.S. News, these rankings were based on the result of a peer assesment survey—art school deans and other top art school academics were asked to nominate up to 10 programs noted for their excellence in each specialty, with the schools receiving the most nominations being listed.

Curious to learn more about Art Center’s graduate programs?

On April 18, the College will host 4 Hours Solid, its annual event at South Campus that showcases the work produced by its Broadcast Cinema, Graduate Art and Graduate Media Design departments. This year’s event will also include a preview of Art Center’s new graduate programs in Environmental Design and Transportation Design.

4 Hours Solid
Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 6–10 p.m.
Art Center College of Design, South Campus
950 South Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105

Designing Experiences, Systems and Solutions: Art Center’s New Interaction Design Program

Nikolai Cornell MDP 04 with his Infiniti Interactive Mirrors. Faculty member Phil van Allen consulted on this project.

With recent forecasts predicting that Apple will sell as many as 66 million units of their latest iteration of the iPad this year, its safe to say that what the Cupertino company dubbed as the “post-PC era” is quickly becoming a reality. But the shift from personal computers to tablets is just one aspect of a digital interactive future still being written.

This coming Fall Term, as part of the College’s Create Change initiative, Art Center will launch a new undergraduate Interaction Design degree program, in which students—whether designing a mobile app or a gestural interface for an exhibition—will learn to think deeply about the user’s experience, apply technology creatively and invent new approaches to interaction and design.

We recently sat down with Interaction Design founding faculty members Brian Boyl (Graphic Design, Integrated Studies, Product Design), Philip van Allen (Graduate Media Design) and Jeffrey Higashi (Product Design), who have been busy establishing the framework for the Department’s curriculum in anticipation of the arrival of the new department’s chair. An international search is now underway and an announcement is expected in June.

Dotted Line: Can you describe the academic interaction design landscape and how Art Center’s new program will stand out?

Art Center faculty Brian Boyl. Photo: Steven A. Heller/Art Center College of Design.

Brian Boyl: There are several graduate programs in interaction design in the United States—Illinois Institute of Technology, New York Univeristy and Carnegie Mellon to name a few—but there aren’t a lot of accredited undergraduate programs. We’d be one of the first undergraduate programs to be launched and absolutely the first to be launched in Southern California. That’s exciting. What we’re doing is looking at the core strengths of Art Center. We think the best move in creating this program is to make sure it strongly integrates with our other departments and channels their strengths.

Phil van Allen: Interaction design is by its very nature collaborative, so the idea is to build a strong program that stands on its own but that also has a kind of permeability. For example, we’ve discussed that students in Interaction Design will take Graphic Design and Product Design courses, because those two disciplines are very central to interaction design. Our students will need to have an exceptional foundation of disciplines to be exceptional interaction designers. And then there’s the core of interaction design itself, which they will have to become experts in.

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Local Museums Open Doors for College Night

Each spring, local cultural institutions LACMA (The Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and The Getty Center open their doors to college students for a free night of culture and fun.

College Night at LACMA is being held this year on Thursday, April 5 from 8-10 pm. Share your ideas in a gallery discussion, create art, and enjoy a free reception in your honor. Bring your friends and explore the special exhibitions In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States and California Design 1930–1969: Living in a Modern Way. See a special viewing of Chris Burden’s Metropolis II in action.

College Night LACMA

There will also be a performance of Analog Among Nations (Mostly) Iteration 4 The Women by Renée Petropoulos. Inspired by the lives of the artists in the In Wonderland exhibition, this improvised and participatory performance is a poetic sound work composed of spoken word, recorded national anthems, and other material impressions.

College ID is required. Parking is free after 7 pm. For more information, see College Night LACMA.

College Night at The Getty Center will be held Monday, April 16 from 6-9:30 pm. Enjoy special presentations, music, food, and other surprises exclusively for college students!

Get exclusive access to the featured exhibition Herb Ritts: L.A. Style. Herb Ritts (1952–2002) was a Los Angeles-based photographer who established an international reputation for his distinctive photographs of fashion models, nudes, and pop icons. Also on view: Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity and highlights from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, including masterpieces by Van Gogh, Monet, and others.

After your tour of the museum, enjoy music and free food outdoors while taking in the spectacular views.

For more information, see College Night Getty.

Reservations recommended but not required.

Celebration of Cultures Week in Pictures

Every year, the Art Center community highlights the wonderful cultural diversity and international presence on campus with the Celebration of Cultures Week.

We celebrated this past week with international and multicultural entertainment, activities and food  offered in collaboration with ACSG, Student Clubs and Organizations, the Library, the Cafeteria, and other areas of the College.

Here are a selection of images from the week. For a complete set, check out Art Center on Flickr.

Korean Student Performing Calligraphy

Students Enjoying Swedish Waffles

Chinese Sugar Art

Polynesian Dancers

It’s Important, It’s Easy, It’s Time

Next year, Es Tiempo, a multi-faceted cervical cancer awareness and support campaign is expected to begin a pilot rollout in Los Angeles.

The broad-based communications and outreach campaign—the result of an award-winning Designmatters studio project—will encourage Latinas to seek out early cervical cancer screenings.

A collaboration between Designmatters, USC’s Keck School of Medicine and USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Es Tiempo was led by the College’s Advertising Department, including lead faculty Elena Salij and Maria Moon.

Students Phillip An (Illustration), Mark Brinn (Graphic Design), Chris Lack (Graphic Design), Tracy Hung (Graphic Design), Haelee Kang (Graphic Design), Lucia Loiso (Photography and Imaging) and Camille Ontiveros (Fine Art) were challenged to create communications to persuade Latinas in Los Angeles’ underserved communities to comply with clinical guidelines for cervical-cancer screening.

The students began their research broadly: by visiting the USC/Norris Cancer Center, visiting local clinics and studying the visual and material culture of East LA. On the basis of this early research, the students created ‘rapid prototypes’ of their preliminary ideas.

Researchers at USC Annenberg School of Communications conducted focus groups with at-risk Latinas, and their findings brought the challenge into focus. Contrary to the class’ expectations, awareness of the pap test and its importance was not the fundamental problem: virtually all the women knew what a pap test was, and that they should be screened regularly. However, the barriers—cultural, institutional, and practical—were many and varied from a disinclination to discuss medical matters in general to a distrust of physicians and lack of relationship with a primary care physician.

Given the number and complexity of the obstacles it was determined that a simple advertising campaign wouldn’t be enough: a more elaborate integrated communications program, knocking down as many barriers as possible, was required. The students settled on a three-part program.

Salience and Way-Finding
The first part of the campaign links the jacaranda tree, the purple-flowered tree that blooms in Southern California and in Central and South America, to screening: posters, video, and radio advertising remind women that “when the jacaranda tree blooms, it’s time to schedule your pap test.” Maps and environmental graphics—again, featuring the jacaranda tree logo—direct women to local clinics where they can obtain low- and no-cost pap tests. All are signed with the tag line “Es Importante, Es Facil, Es Tiempo” (“It’s Important, It’s Easy, It’s Time”).

To ease the financial burden of missing work during screening, students devised the Es Tiempo VISA Gift Card: when a woman gets her pap test, her card is credited with $20; when she calls back to obtain her test results, her card is credited with another $10; if she persuades a friend to get a pap test, her card is credited with another $5. The balance can be spent anywhere VISA is accepted. In addition, an easy-to-use website allows the woman to check her test results and card balance online, and offers videos explaining what pap results mean, and encouraging the viewers to follow up.

To subsidize the effort, the students proposed a themed fund-raising campaign. In the campaign, corporations committed to women’s health and well-being—OPI, Avon, and others—would offer Es Tiempo jacaranda-themed products (nail polish, perfume, room fragrance) to their customers and profits from sales would support the incentive program. By engaging the women everywhere, the fundraising efforts would continue and expands the central motive of the campaign: women helping other women.

Finally, a series of ancillary products and services—t-shirts, tote bags, even warm socks for the exam room—would perpetuate and amplify the campaign’s theme.

Students created an exhibition of the Es Tiempo campaign, displaying how all facets of the campaign worked together–from the moment a woman first encountered  the campaign poster in her local library, her experience at the clinic, to when she received her results. The exhibition is planned to be displayed at LAC + USC Keck Medical Center for prospective donors and partners to the campaign. It will also be used as a research tool with future focus groups at USC Medical Center.

Es Tiempo won Best of Category in the Student Division of I.D.’s 2010 Annual Design Review. The project was among more than 400 entries. Also in 2010, the project was featured at the I.D. Annual Design Review Exhibition in New York City, and in 2011 was also featured at HOW Design Conference in Chicago.

Partnering institutions USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism continue to collaborate with Designmatters on fundraising for an anticipated pilot rollout of Es Tiempo in  Los Angeles in 2013.

Read more about Es Tiempo at Designmatters’ website, where you can also read about the follow-up course Para Nuestras Hijas. And be sure to check out this great write-up by DesignObserver.

Screening of “Somewhere to Disappear” this Friday Night. FREE!

Art Center’s Photography Department will be hosting a free film screening of Somewhere to Disappear, a documentary film with Alec Soth, on Friday, March 23 at 7:30 pm at the Ahmanson Auditorium on Hillside Campus. Light refreshments will be available before the screening. Students, faculty, staff and the public are all invited.

Somewhere to Disappear is a 57 minute documentary that features photographer Alec Soth. Alec’s project Broken Manual undertakes to write a guide that will provide the basic tips on how to disappear in America. Filmmakers Laure Flammarion & Arnaud Uyttenhove follow Alec Soth on his search for men who live on the margins of society; people who ran away from their natural environment, to find their own world. As modern day hermits, they find peace in unaffected places of the country, whether it be a cabin in the mountains, a dark cave or in the expansive desert. Each of these people chose to live in a different way. The filmmakers wanted to find out why they live like this: did they deliberately make this choice? Do they regret it? What are they really looking for? Did they find it?  Check out the trailer at

Alec Soth (b. 1969) is a photographer born and based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His photographs have been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the 2004 Whitney and São Paulo Biennials. In 2008, a large survey exhibition of Soth’s work was exhibited at Jeu de Paume in Paris and Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. In 2010, the Walker Art produced a large survey exhibition of Soth’s work entitled From Here To There. Alec Soth’s first monograph, Sleeping by the Mississippi, was published by Steidl in 2004 to critical acclaim.  Since then Soth has published NIAGARA (2006), Fashion Magazine (2007) Dog Days, Bogotá (2007) The Last Days of W (2008), Broken Manual (2010). In 2008, Soth started his own publishing company, Little Brown Mushroom. Soth is represented by Sean Kelly in New York, Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis, and is a member of Magnum Photos.

Lynda Weinman, Shepard Fairey and Spencer Nikosey on Campus for this Thursday’s 3×3 Presentation

Each term, Art Center’s Graphic Design Department hosts a 3×3 presentation in which three creative professionals are invited to speak on a particular topic.

This Thursday, the Art Center Community is invited to hear stories from three pioneers who have created reality from their dreams and gone on to influence design, culture, art, technology and fashion worldwide.

The speakers are:

Shepard Fairey, Artist, Activist and Founder, OBEY GIANT ART and Studio Number One

Lynda Weinman, Co-Founder and Executive Chair,

Spencer Nikosey, Founder, KILLSPENCER

Moderated by Petrula Vrontikis

3×3: Creative Entrepreneurs
Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Ahmanson Auditorium
Art Center College of Design
Hillside Campus
1700 Lida Street
Pasadena, CA 91505

FREE; no reservations required.

Lynda Weinman, co-founder and executive chair of, is a self-taught computer expert, author, educator, and entrepreneur. Before launching, she was a faculty member at Art Center College of Design and worked as an animator and motion graphics director in the film special effects industry. Lynda has also been a consultant for Adobe, Macromedia, and Microsoft, and has conducted workshops at those organizations in addition to Disney. She, along with her husband and co-founder Bruce Heavin, evolved from its original concept as a free web resource for her students, to the site for her books on Web design, to the registration hub for physical classrooms and conferences, to a highly successful online training library.

Shepard Fairey was born in Charleston, SC in 1970. He received his B.F.A. at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. While at R.I.S.D. he created the Andre the Giant as a Posse sticker that transformed into the OBEY GIANT art campaign with imagery that has changed the way people see art and the urban landscape. His work has evolved into an acclaimed body of art which includes the 2008 “Hope” portrait of Barack Obama which can be found in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait gallery. Since the beginning of his career in 1989 he has exhibited in galleries and museums around the around the world, indoor and outdoor. His works are in the permanent collections of the MOMA, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Boston ICA and many others. For more information, visit

Spencer Nikosey launched his premium bag and luggage brand KILLSPENCER at his Art Center grad-show in 2008. Handcrafting functional Weekender Bags, Backpacks, and Messenger Bags out of used-in-combat military truck tarps and vintage Korean War Era fabrics caught the attention of bloggers and instantly kickstarted an online following and customer base. Soon, demand increased and local production became problematic. Frustrated with the lack of quality and attention to detail in local factories, Spencer decided to assemble a team of master craftsmen and build his own Workshop in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. Today, Spencer and his team of passionate creatives designs, develops, manufactures and ships their products globally, proudly made in U.S.A.

Celebration of Cultures: March 19-23

Every year, the Art Center community highlights the wonderful cultural diversity and international presence on campus with the Celebration of Cultures Week.

Next week, March 19-23, there will be international and multicultural entertainment, activities and foods in collaboration with ACSG, Student Clubs and Organizations, the Library, the Cafeteria, and other areas of the College. These events are free and open to all staff, faculty, and students. Please join us next week to celebrate everyone’s heritage as a community.

Monday, March 19
10:00-11:00 AM: Swedish Waffle Day | Bridge
1:00-2:00 PM: Desserts-Around-the-World | Bridge

Tuesday, March 20
All Day: National Dress Day*
12:45 PM: National Dress Day Group Photo* | Bridge
11:00 AM-3:00 PM: Travel Slide Show | Student Dining Room
12:30-1:30 PM: Mariachi Band | Student Dining Room

Wednesday, March 21
All Day: Persian New Year Celebration | Student Dining Room
12:00-2:00 PM: Persian Calligraphy | Student Dining Room
12:00-2:00 PM: Art & Craft Bazaar | Cafe Entrance

Thursday, March 22
All Day: Experience Asia
12:00-2:00 PM: Chinese Sugar Art | Bridge
12:30-1:30 PM: “Gayageum” Performance | Student Dining Room
12:30-2:00 PM: Korean Calligraphy Session | Student Dining Room
1:00-2:00 PM: Japanese Sweet Treats | Bridge
7:00-9:00 PM: Memoirs of a Geisha Film Screening | Faculty Dining Room

Friday, March 23
All Day: Australian “Walkabout” Treasure Quest | Sculpture Garden
1:00-1:30 PM: Polynesian Dancers | Student Dining Room

All Week
Check out Library Staff Picks of Cultural Readings and Movies!
Enjoy International Cuisines Served in the Cafeteria!

Some events may be cancelled or changed without prior notice.

*This year, we want to encourage everyone (students, faculty and staff) to share their heritage by wearing the national dress of the country your family is from or have an affinity for. We want to give you plenty of notice to retrieve that special outfit out of storage.  National Dress Day will be on Tuesday, March 20.  Everyone who wears his or her cultural dress will get prizes, and we will have a group photo on the Bridge.