View from the Bridge: Grounded in reality and ready for professional liftoff

Students present work to Honda Research and Development executives.

In a Sponsored Project, Graphic Design student Sungmoon Chung, center, presents work to alumnus and Honda R&D Americas Division Director Dave Marek (BS 87 Industrial), far right.

Summertime is traditionally set aside for leisurely activities—poolside lounging, pleasure reading and, at least through June, watching the Stanley Cup Final.

But here at Art Center, our students are as busy as ever. Many students continue their studies through the Summer term, while others, thanks to our dedicated staff in the Office of Career + Professional Development, scatter across the globe working as interns at an impressive array of organizations. It’s amazing, really, when you stop to look at where our students have landed internships:

  • Illustration student Adriana Crespo is at design firm IDEO in San Francisco;
  • Film student Juliana Rowlands is at director Roman Coppola’s production company The Director’s Bureau in Los Angeles;
  • Transportation Design student Harrison Scott Yen is at Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology division in Michigan;
  • Graphic Design student Siyun Oh is at the Museum of Modern Art in New York;
  • Transportation Design student Yang Fu is at vehicle manufacturer Renault in France;
  • Product Design student Benji Kurada is at Google in Switzerland; and
  • Transportation Design student Sean Peterson is at Suzuki Motor Corporation in Japan.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. These are not your everyday assignments; our students are working with some of today’s most prestigious companies.

What made them ready for the task? Their incredible talent? Their dedication? The professional preparation they’ve received at Art Center?

The answers, of course, are yes, yes and, you better believe it.

One major differentiator of our educational model—and one that helps get our students noticed—is our emphasis of the practical and on the significance of real world application. In other words, here at Art Center, we like to get things done in a relevant context. Ours is not an isolated ivory tower education.

Yes, we want our students to think big and to unleash their creativity, but we also encourage them to ground their work in reality. And we want their studies to match the pace and demands of the professional world, so that they can realistically pursue their passion upon graduating.

In a Sponsored Project, then Product Design student John Kim (BS 13) presents work to Purina executives (left to right) Gina Pyle, Heather Scott, Christina Schneider and Bethanie Gasperson.

In a Sponsored Project, then Product Design student John Kim (BS 13) presents work to Purina executives (left to right) Gina Pyle, Heather Scott, Christina Schneider and Bethanie Gasperson.

This is one reason we encourage our students to participate in Sponsored Projects, our classroom studios that embrace collaboration across disciplines and put our learn-by-doing methodology into action. In these projects—which can take the form of a full 14-week course, a week-long DesignFlash or an intensive three-day DesignStorm®—small groups of students are presented with a project brief by an industry partner that poses a specific design challenge. Through the course of the project, students immerse themselves in an experience that mirrors professional practice, including presenting their solutions to a panel of the company’s leaders.

These projects—often proposed and shepherded by Art Center alumni, and coordinated by the ambitious team in our Educational Partnerships office—vary from the highly speculative to the easily implementable. A recent DesignStorm® that garnered quite a bit of attention emerged when Microsoft challenged our students to propose wildly playful uses for its Surface tablet.

Four Sponsored Projects are taking place this Summer term, including a Dell-sponsored studio taught by Brian Boyl, Jeff Higashi and Todd Masilko, and a Special Olympics-sponsored course taught by Cody Clark, Michael Neumayr and Dewi Schoenbeck; along with three DesignStorms®, one sponsored by Visa, one by Sherwin Williams and one by HTC.

It’s almost a cliché, “the summer that changed my life.” But for many of our students, it’s the absolute truth. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what unexpected outcomes are in store for both our students and our project sponsors.

Lorne M. Buchman, Ph.D., is President and CEO of Art Center College of Design. 

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