Author Archive

Furniture designers square off on Spike TV’s “Framework,” featuring Product Design alum Nolen Niu

Thursday, March 5th, 2015
Common, Nolen Niu, Brandon Gore. Image courtesy Spike TV.

Framework judges Common, Nolen Niu, Brandon Gore. Image courtesy Spike TV.

When a casting agent called Product Design alumnus Nolen Niu (BS 99) asking if he would be interested in participating as a judge on a Spike TV show, he said “Hell yeah!” A fan of such shows as Bar Rescue and Catch a Contractor, Niu didn’t even ask what the show was about before agreeing to participate. That enthusiasm, and his well-earned reputation as a furniture designer, landed him a stint as one of three judges on the furniture design reality competition, Framework, Spike TV’s newest reality show, where contestants vie to be named best furniture maker—and win a $100,000 prize. There is still time to binge watch the entire series online before the finale, which will air March 10th.

At first it was a bit surreal for Niu to see himself on TV and to get recognized at some of the most random places. Overall though, “[this] has been one of the best experiences I’ve had during my career as a designer, says Niu. “The opportunity to judge a competition and hold a position of authority related to design was an absolute honor.”

In tune with the current maker movement, Framework offers a glimpse into the process of creating handcrafted goods. “The design and build process is very analog in nature compared to the completely digital lifestyles that we live in today. It’s important that these shows continue to be produced since it shines light on the level of complexity of the work we as designers and makers perform,” notes Niu.

Nolen Niu and Brandon Gore on Framework set. Photo by Rob Kalmbach.

Nolen Niu and Brandon Gore on Framework set. Photo by Rob Kalmbach.

Niu is joined by hip-hop artist, Academy Award-winner and actor Common, and Hard Goods’ founder Brandon Gore on the judging panel. According to Niu, “Common is the tastemaker and represents the everyday consumer and Brandon Gore is the build expert. Both gave insightful critiques without the design lingo.“

As the show prepares for its final episode, Niu breaks down the finalists: “Jason [Radcliffe] is definitely the dark horse of the pack and winning the CB2 challenge by a landslide makes him a dangerous competitor. Jory [Brigham] is the most consistent of the three with great time management skills making him a solid contender and Freddy [Hill] is strategic and the biggest risk taker out of all of them, which makes him a threat because of his unpredictability.”

As the only formally trained designer on the judging team, Niu is often reminded of the intensity of his time at Art Center. “The demands on these competitors, designing, building and finishing an entire piece of furniture in 24 hours, with back-to-back-to-back challenges, was really impressive to watch.”

Responding to critics who claim that short time frames and unnecessary focus on interpersonal drama portrays an unrealistic image of the design process, Niu contends, “What people have to remember is that this is a design and build competition show. In real life a client wouldn’t hand you a fork and tell you to make something with it. The truth is we as professionals are always under time constraints and it’s up to us to come up with the most efficient and best solution to solve a problem. It’s no different being a student at Art Center or a competitor on Framework. I would say Art Center students often face more unrealistic time frames. The gallery to this day continues to amaze me in showcasing what a student can do in the time that they’re given.”

Brandon Gore, Common and Nolen Niu on Framework set. Image by Rob Kalmbach.

Brandon Gore, Common and Nolen Niu on Framework set. Image by Rob Kalmbach.

Starring on Framework has also given a boost to Niu’s business by increasing awareness about his products and showcasing who he is as a designer nationwide. Having opened up his own L.A.-based production facility and design studio in 2011, Niu is known for his holistic approach to design and clean, provocative aesthetics, as well as his desire to keep manufacturing in Los Angeles.

Niu is not the only Art Center alum to turn up in the reality TV sphere recently: Richard Holbrook (BS 81 Transportation) was featured as a guest judge on Framework, offering brutal critiques of the contestants’ work; Harald Belker (BS 90 Transportation) was a judge on truTV’s Motor City Masters (with alum contestants Shane Baxley (BS 12 Transportation), Kevin Chun (BS 02 Transportation) and Bryan Thompson (BS 96 Transportation)); and alumnus Justin Bua (BFA 92 Illustration) is currently producing and starring, as a judge, on Oxygen’s Street Art Throwdown.

Niu has some sage advice for Art Center students and those thinking of entering the profession, “I would have definitely been more open to criticism, pushed myself creatively, and taken bigger risks design wise on my projects. I would advise students to listen carefully to what your instructors have to offer and challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone. The greatest hurdle every designer faces is his or her own pride and ego and if you’re not careful, it can take away from your learning experience at Art Center.”

Nolen Niu on his "ZERO" chaise longue. Image by William Cole.

Nolen Niu on his “ZERO” chaise longue. Image by William Cole.

The redeeming power of Unlovable, a graphic novel by alumna Esther Pearl Watson

Monday, December 15th, 2014
Behold the cover of Esther Pearl Watson's teen angst graphic novel

Behold the cover of Esther Pearl Watson’s teen angst graphic novel

“This is going to be the best summer ever…I know my hot guy is sitting on a couch or mat and wondering if some fine lady is dreaming about him,” muses Tammy Pierce, the unlucky underdog of Unlovable, a graphic novel series by Illustration alumna Esther Pearl Watson.

(more…)

Conjuring the magic of art and design for kids at the Boys & Girls Club

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
Alvin Oei teaching at Pasadena Boys & Girls Club.

Alvin Oei teaching at Pasadena Boys & Girls Club.

Be passionate about what you do. Be thorough and thoughtful doing it. Be a leader. Make something. Make a difference. These are core Art Center values and Environmental Design student Alvin Oei embodies all of them.

Oei’s enthusiasm about art and design drives his desire to share his knowledge and excitement for the disciplines with kids, most of whom attend schools with no art curriculum. He accomplished this in a big way for the children at Pasadena’s Boys & Girls Club when he conducted an intensive two-week workshop. The mini-Art Center boot camp challenged the youths to design different stores in Diagon Alley from the film “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” through storyboarding and physical model making. The project was designed around the popular book and movie series to help make it resonate. Kids “have this unabashed no-limit imagination” says Oei, who is inspired by their energy.

(more…)

Holy grand slam, Batman! Batmobiles times four on display at Car Classic

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
1966 Batman TV Series Batmobile designed by George Barris

1966 Batman TV Series Batmobile designed by George Barris

Four authentic, full-scale Batmobiles will roll onto the field at Art Center’s Street to Screen: Car Classic 2014 event this Sunday. Exploring the impact transportation and entertainment design has had on Hollywood and the entertainment industry—on camera, on the road and behind the scenes—this year’s Bat-tastic concours confab will host a critical mass of the caped crusader’s legendary vehicles.

Art Center’s ties to the Dark Knight extend well beyond transportation. Entertainment Design Chair Tim Flattery designed the Batmobile Val Kilmer used in the 1994 film Batman Forever. Alumnus Harald Belker (BS Transportation Design 90) created the 1997 Batmobile George Clooney drove in Batman and Robin and Illustration Chair Ann Field worked on character design for Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy in that same movie. Alumnus Zack Snyder (BFA Film 89) has added the great detective to his latest Superman epic, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, scheduled to be released in 2016. And who owns Batman/DC Comics? None other than Warner Bros., led by Trustee Greg Silverman, who reigns as its President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production.

(more…)

A celebration of dedication: Art Center employees recognized for years of service

Friday, October 10th, 2014
Hillside Campus in 1978. Image courtesy of College Archives.

Hillside Campus in 1978. Image courtesy of College Archives.

Martina Navratilova defeated Chrissie Evert for the “ladies” championship at Wimbledon, Sony introduced the Walkman and Midnight Express was playing in theaters. The year was 1978, when Hillside Campus had been occupied for about two years, South Campus didn’t exist and three people started their careers at Art Center.

One of those people is Stephen Nowlin, vice president of the Williamson Gallery. “I’ve been pretty fortunate to have watched Art Center from up close through the years—first as a high school student visiting the little hallway gallery on 3rd street; then as a graduate student at the Pasadena campus; and as an Admissions counselor, teacher, web producer and, for most of that time, as the Williamson Gallery’s director. The most impressive thing for me through all those years and roles, I must say, has been the consistency of high quality in the work produced by Art Center’s students. It never ceases to amaze me.”

Every year Art Center celebrates employees who have reached significant milestones in their careers. On September 23, 2014, almost 60 individuals were recognized for having 2013 work anniversaries of 10 or more years. The occasion was commemorated with a formal luncheon and presentation of the service awards hosted by the Human Resources Department. Earlier this year a luncheon was held to commemorate those having work anniversaries in 2012.

“Art Center students are supported by dedicated staff and faculty who do everything they can, directly in the classroom or indirectly behind the scenes, to help students achieve their goals to become professional artists and designers,” said Nancy Duggan, Executive Director, Human Resources. “It is our pleasure to honor these individuals.”

Art Center President Lorne M. Buchman kicked off the presentations with a word of thanks, which was followed by the awards ceremony.

(more…)

Fall 2014 Orientation: Ready. Set. School!

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
New students touring campus with peer mentors

New students touring campus with peer mentors

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

This week, 450 new undergraduate and graduate students will meet with key staff members who will aid in their transition to Art Center, get to know peers, mingle with upper term students from various disciplines, receive insight from faculty members and have a chance to get acclimated to campus life through a networking gathering. This is Art Center orientation—expertly crafted and designed by the Center for the Student Experience (CSE) to prepare the entering class for success in their studies.

It is a week defined by securing ID cards and parking passes, touring the campus, eating, listening and observing. Everything planned this week will help the rookies succeed at Art Center. But one of the most important ways to prepare for what lies ahead is to listen to those who have done it. In the spirit of learning from others’ mistakes and successes, The Dotted Line gathered some nuggets of expert advice (solicited on Facebook from current and former students) for the newcomers among us:

(more…)

Summer 2014: Countdown to commencement!

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
0811GSP1

Getting ready for Grad Show. Photo: Lucia Loiso

The computer labs are packed. The shops are humming at all hours. Visitors from sponsoring companies and organizations are streaming through campus to attend final presentations. And the Student Gallery is full of projects in and out of the coveted space. These telltale sights and sounds can only mean one thing at Art Center: Week 14 has arrived.

The state of the campus is a visual reminder of the frenetic energy generated by Art Center students sprinting toward finals. The end of the term is here; and for 111 students, this week marks their last. Saturday evening, after countless all-nighters, critiques, finals, internships and hopefully some fun, 100 undergraduate and 11 graduate students will be awarded their degrees. As we count down to commencement, we celebrate these creative and talented individuals who are about to take on the world and honor the great teachers who have guided the way. Here’s the lowdown for the week.

(more…)

Graduate Industrial Design alumna snags Rolex Young Laureate Award for newborn hearing screening device

Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Neeti Kailas, 2014 Rolex Young Laureate. India, 2014. ©Rolex Awards/Ambroise Tézenas

Neeti Kailas, 2014 Rolex Young Laureate. India, 2014. ©Rolex Awards/Ambroise Tézenas

Neeti Kailas (MS 13 Industrial Design) heard the news just in time to book a flight to the press conference at The Royal Society, London. Rolex had named her one of five Young Laureates for her work developing a hearing screening device for newborns in India. “I was very happy and excited [to be selected],” said Kailas. “The award will help the project advance, and the visibility is great for a start-up like mine. It is an honor to be selected as part of the community of laureates. They are all visionaries and change-makers.”

She and her husband, Nitin Sisodia, who was named one of the 2013 ‘35 Innovators Under 35’ by MIT Technology Review, identified hearing screening as a critical yet ignored aspect of healthcare across developing countries. Together they launched the Sohum innovation lab and created a functioning prototype that has been tested on adults. They are preparing for clinical trials in 2015.

(more…)

A salute to creative independence to light up your July 4th weekend

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
John Van Hamersveld

John Van Hamersveld

Before we gather with friends and family to celebrate the 4th of July, we want to take a moment to recognize the spirit of independence. At Art Center, we revere art and design warriors who embody this country’s pioneering spirit: the rebels, the change makers, the innovators, the futurists and the unapologetic patriots. On the eve of Independence Day, we’d like to devote some pixels to a few of our unrivaled alumni who blazed their own paths, and who embody the same spirit of sovereignty that founded this country.

The Fourth of July is an opportunity to celebrate independence, which we tend to do over a barbecue grill loaded with savory treats, or sitting at the edge of a pool. Independence Day is the pinnacle of summer. We’re often reminded of John Van Hamersveld’s (BFA 64 Advertising) poster for The Endless Summer, which evokes the dreamy colors of California. His design came to define the iconography of surf culture. According to Vanity Fair, the poster, now over 50 years old, “hasn’t aged a minute.”

(more…)

Grad Art alumnus and library staffer George Porcari receives prestigious Tiffany Foundation Award

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Art Center alumnus and acquisitions librarian George Porcari (MFA 87 Art) was one among 30 recipients of the 17th biennial Tiffany Foundation Awards, which may or may not have arrived wrapped in a little robin’s-egg blue box with a white bow.

Officially announced last week, a series of monetary grants are issued every two years to unsung American artists and craftspeople by The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. What separates the award from other prestigious grants is that artists aren’t able to apply, and funds are unrestricted. The 2013 winners were selected from a pool of 137 nominees proposed by the Foundation’s trustees, artists, critics, and museum professionals throughout the United States. A seven-member jury then reviewed the submissions. The 2013 jury included art world luminaries Phong Bui, Chrissie Iles, Kathryn Kanjo, Charles LeDray, John Perreault, Cindy Sherman and Robert Storr.

(more…)