Spring 2014 Grad Show: Making the world a better place, by design

by April 21st, 2014

Like a field of tulips bursting with color, spring has sprung at Art Center in the form of last weekend’s Grad Show. With an eye-popping array of stunning creations and innovation, works from this term’s wildly talented cohort of graduating students exploded through the hallways and galleries of Hillside and South Campus. Potential employers, curious visitors, beaming family members and excited (yet relieved) friends fawned over the fruits of many years of work and sacrifice grads invested in joining the coveted club of Art Center alumni.

Dazzled as I was by the work, I was able to meet up with a few students. And the following survey offers but a small sample of the artists and designers who stood out for various reasons.

A Modern Stone Age Car Concept

As a commuter who clocks 50 miles round-trip each day (I drive to Pasadena from Culver City, but often avoid the freeway by riding the train), I especially appreciated the genius behind Carlos Alfaro’s concept of a not-so-far-in-the-future autonomous car that allows drivers to exercise on the road. Instead of sitting still for hours and suffering leg cramps, I’d be toning (okay, maybe developing) muscle with the help of his hybrid exercise vehicle. The human and electric powered lightweight car resembles an airy athletic shoe in bold hues of green, purple and sky blue. While synced with Nike’s FUEL biometric workout data system, drivers might row, cycle or lift weights on the freeway while providing regenerative energy to the car.

“My inspiration is based on my love of footwear and automotive design, and I was curious how the Nike brand could help commuters by promoting a healthy lifestyle,” Alfaro said. After traveling to Portland to participate in the PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy, he was mentored by PENSOLE founder and Art Center instructor D’Wayne Edwards, who had a key role in the phenomenal growth of the Nike Jordan brand.

Another inspiration for Alfaro came courtesy of The Flintstones, the ’60s animated show in which everyman-caveman, Fred Flintstone, powered his Stone Age wheels by lifting the car up and running.

The Era of the Star Wars Landspeeder Has Arrived

“Can I go to the moon in this?” asked JoAnn Braheny, an archivist at Art Center when she happened upon the sci-fi spaceship model designed by Chris Chung Kyo Lee. The Space Age concept vehicle operates on a magnet theory with the passenger cabin literally floating above a power source. “Based on quantum levitation technology that exists today, the car is powered by a magnet and a superconductor, allowing you to actually fix the object in 3D space for a much more stable and controlled ride,” Lee explained to the sizable crowd gathered around his design.

“It will feel like floating on a cloud, that’s the idea I wanted to make,” he said.

“I love it,” said Braheny. “It does look like it should just lift off and take you anywhere.”

A Fleet of Covetable Car Designs

A crowd buzzed around the gorgeous bright red Ferrari designed by Italian Adriano Raeli who, as part of an ongoing Art Center partnership, attended the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance: a gathering of car aficionados from around the world.

Nearby, classmate Karan Moorjani said he worked on high end, expensive cars during his internships at Nissan in the U.S. and Tata Motors Limited in India. His idea for a new low-priced ($5,000) Datsun Revival for Nissan surprised industry insiders with its inventive design of a front section of the car, that, when flipped over, becomes the back of the car as well, saving dramatic manufacturing costs.

What inspired the choice to focus on this car for the ‘risers’ youthful market in countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China, Malaysia and Thailand? “On my internship in India, I traveled around for a while and I noticed that most people around there can’t even afford cars like that.  When I came back to Art Center for my thesis, I wanted to tackle a real world issue,” he said.

DeIllustrating the Connection between Archaeology, Alchemy and Design

Other highlights from the show include Illustration major Grant Steven Kratzer, who made a guitar from a discarded can of Paint Thinner. Nozomi Kanai showcased her designs atop edible miniature chocolates underneath a glass case.  A surfboard featuring an intricate and beautiful drawing hung above Rebecca Wang’s installation in the busy hallway at Hillside.

A quill adorned with a sweet character caught my eye as I rushed down the crowded hallway. Dahye Jung told me she created the quill for becoming Anne, a story of friendship and encouragement inspired by her relationship with her sister, a writer, who was always there for Jung when they were growing up and cheered her on to follow her dream of becoming an artist.

“I see the role of a designer as being both archaeologist and alchemist” said product designer ‪Alex Cabunoc who is pursuing the entrepreneur route post-college.  He’s established a business, and plans to launch GiraDora, a human-powered washer and spin dryer, to help alleviate problems connected to water poverty for families living in Lima, Peru.  The award-winning innovation is the result of a Designmatters Safe Aqua project.

Several grads have already secured employment. One of the ten members of the very first Graduate Environmental Design degree earners, Hines Fischer, is anxious to start his job at Yabu Pushelberg, an international design firm with studios in Toronto and New York. Entertainment Design Chair Tim Flattery reported companies seeking new talent have hired three of the five seniors in his program.

To see more of the talent launching in to the world from Tink Adams basecamp in Pasadena, visit the Environmental Design undergraduate site and the Product Design grads site.

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