Sponsored Projects kick off new term, students take up new challenges

Cloud 9's Enric Ruiz-Geli. Credit: Chuck Spangler

Creative engines were revving as Art Center’s Spring 2013 Educational Partnerships kicked off Jan. 17–24.

Corporate partners are sponsoring five different projects this term, focused on retail packaging, consumer market analysis, architectural design and, from a transportation perspective, the future of car buying and the future of “reward.”

Projects are a win-win for students and sponsors alike. Undergraduate and graduate students gain valuable experience tackling real-world challenges with business and design professionals at the top of their fields; meanwhile sponsors have an opportunity to step out of the corporate environment and take in fresh perspectives.

Cloud 9, an award-winning Barcelona-based firm known for its dynamic, cutting-edge architecture, is collaborating with students from multiple disciplines — Environmental Design, Product Design, Grad Industrial Design and Graphics — led by Environmental Design faculty members James Meraz, Jason Pilarski and Kenneth Cameron.

Enric Ruiz-Geli, Cloud 9 director since 1997, gave students an in-depth briefing on their design challenge for a project located on Spain’s Costa Brava: to design and produce a multipurpose work/play pavilion that combines environmental design, digital fabrication and new media integration. As the four-hour session continued, students shared findings from their own preliminary research, sparking ideas and collegial debate.

Excited by what he saw and heard, Ruiz-Geli likened the students’ presentations to a master class in which he was learning too, and he encouraged the group to be as creative as possible.

“This pavilion will be a living laboratory,” he said, “a showcase for your innovative ideas. If the concept is new, then everything is new.”

The sponsored design studios meet weekly as students, working in teams, refine their concepts and advance their projects toward mid-term and then culminating presentations to project sponsors.

Other corporate partners this term: Chrysler Group LLC (Transportation Design), General Motors and Clemson University (Transportation and Product Design), Purina Snacks (Environmental, Graphic and Product Design), and Toyota in collaboration with Saatchi and Saatchi (Graduate Media Design).

Art Center’s roster of corporate partners includes many Fortune 500 companies. Over the years sponsors have often found interns and even future employees among the talented students working on their projects.

— Sylvia Sukop

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