Spring has sprung for Art Center’s alumni community, which collectively bloomed with media attention and creative activity. Here we’ve gathered a bouquet sampling this group’s impressive undertakings.
“I think there’s a lot of space for designers to expand beyond the producer/client model and become knowledge makers, cultural disruptors and gatekeepers between pure economic gain and the well-being of humanity,” said alumna Viirj Kan (BS ’14 Environmental), currently a graduate student and researcher at MIT Media Lab.
Born in Macau, China and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Kan’s work is inspired by the laws of nature, science, social climates and shifts in the social norm.
Kan and her fellow MIT researchers developed TRANSFORM as Adaptive and Dynamic Furniture, an exploration of how shape display technology can be integrated into our daily lives as interactive, shape changing furniture. The project was recently honored with the Golden Mouse award at a gathering of experts in Seoul examining innovation around how humans interact with digital technologies.
1st Place / $15,000/ OATH: INSULIN TAPE SYSTEM / Martin Francisco
Product Design student Martin Francisco received the grand prize for ‘Oath,’ an innovative insulin delivery system that provides individuals with an accurate and painless method of dispensing insulin, while dramatically reducing material waste and environmental impact.
Oath is designed for aging adults, who have issues with dexterity, needle safety, storing and measuring proper dosages when administering liquid insulin. The tape and dispenser system makes using Oath as easy as applying and removing a Band-Aid. Moreover, Oath has 72% fewer environmental impacts over its life cycle when compared to the current insulin pen. The ergonomic Oath design accomplishes this by reducing the number of materials and components, minimizing waste at all stages, and using non-toxic, recyclable and renewable resources.
Saturday, April 18th, 2015, was a blistering hot day in Pasadena Memorial Park. But the day’s speakers and many in the crowd wore black to the unveiling of the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial, designed by alum Catherine Menard (MFA 14 Environmental Design), whose teardrop concept for the monument was chosen as the winner in 2014 competition, launched by the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee. We caught up with Menard on this momentous occasion to hear how she approached the weight of commemorating the estimated 1.5 million victims who died during a campaign against Armenians and other Christian minorities beginning in 1915, as well as how the experience has changed her.
How did you learn about the competition?
A fresh crop of creatives, 205 strong graduated from Art Center this past weekend, ready to harvest and haul their skills to the marketplace. The first pages of these grads’ yet-to-be-told professional narratives could involve launching a start-up, diving into a new position at a high-profile agency or escaping on a global adventure to see the world and collect some inspiration in the wilderness instead of the concrete jungle.
We decided to check in with a few during Spring 2015 Grad Show—our annual recruitment open house.
The following profile of Environmental Design alumnus Stuart Fingerhut appeared in the January 2015 issue of VSMD Magazine. Read how Fingerhut’s leading-edge thinking about reconceiving the retail experience to be more about connection than commerce informs the success of his experiential marketing work for Toyota’s Scion brand as well as his personal design practice creating functional art.
Stuart Fingerhut seems to have this experiential design thing all figured out. As creative director for Toyota’s Scion brand at the George P. Johnson Experience Marketing Agency in Los Angeles, Fingerhut is responsible for creating Scion’s presence at major international automobile shows.
It’s been a fruitful awards season—and not just for the creative team behind Birdman. Art Center alums have amassed an impressive array of accolades, from the Caldecott Medal (the Oscars of children’s literature) to the Oscars themselves. So in lieu of glitzy after party, we’ve done the next (or perhaps next, next) best thing and compiled highlights from our alumni community’s recent accomplishments below. Enjoy!
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.
Or so one might assume.
A handful of Art Center students defied that assumption, and many others, as they enthusiastically explored possibilities for transforming Hillside Campus into an Eden of eco-innovation during last Fall’s Sustainability Studio.
Linda Estrada, an administrator who manages Art Center’s programs fostering alternative transportation options for campus commuters and other sustainability initiatives, got the ball rolling when she saw an opportunity to participate in a City of Pasadena program offering cash incentives—two dollars per square foot—to replace thirsty green lawns with drought-resistant plants and hardscape.
“And up here,” says Estrada, at Art Center over 17 years, “we have nothing but grass.”
It’s only been a year and a half since Andre Kim (BFA 07 Env) signed on as a senior concept design manager at Starbucks. But the young environmental designer’s creative sensibility has already had a transformative impact on the java giant’s shifting identity. In a bid to compete with the surging success of high-end craft coffee boutiques (hence those ubiquity of long lines of Gen Y hipsters patiently awaiting their $6 pour overs), Starbucks set out to create the ultimate coffee fetishist’s fantasyland in the form of a new flagship retail experience in Seattle, designed by none other than Kim.