Interaction Design Student Klaire Tsai Reflects on Her Internship at Forbes

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This article first appeared on

I was as happy as a clam when I first heard that I was selected to become part of the Forbes Summer Internship program. This opportunity came after I’ve been perusing my goal as an Interaction designer for almost two years. After couple years working as a graphic designer in the field, I decided to pack my bag and continue my study to become an interaction designer. During my days at ArtCenter College of Design, many people have asked me why I chose this path? After eleven weeks of working at Forbes, I have found my answer.

As an interaction designer, I have a strong desire in understanding human behaviors and I believe that’s the key to creating a seamless user experience. Therefore, a well-designed user experience has always fascinated me. My role at Forbes is to work closely with project managers and design team to create the user-friendly design for mobile and web products. I was lucky enough to participate in some of the recent major projects such as Forbes Career page,Digital style guide page, and Level Up Webinar. I have also attended many productive meetings that I found really enjoyable. My personal favorites are the Product technology and product developments meetings. I was amazed by the teams’ in-depth explanation of their projects and how it will benefit the company. The meetings also help us connect with other departments and work towards the same goal of creating a great user experience.

Besides from the meetings, I have gotten the chance to work with the product and design team, which allowed us to work together and get a project created from start to finish. I have learned it is okay to take a step back on projects, take a deep breath because the perfect project requires countless efforts from all different departments and every vision is valuable in the final outcome of a project.

The last eleven weeks as an intern has been invaluable to me and has given me an in-depth insight of what it is like to work in a media based industry, I have learned a great deal about the business and I’ve managed to bring my own vision to it. Once again, thank you, Forbes, for giving me this great opportunity.

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Fine Art’s Sound Lab Makes Waves of Noise

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This story first appeared in Dot magazine.

On a recent Friday night in July, Fine Art student Mehregan Meysami stands behind two tables heaped with music equipment—a turntable, mixer, black audio cables, effects pedals and more—on the spacious second floor of the 870 Building.

A distorted child’s voice—her own as a 5-year-old recorded in her native Iran—swells through speakers and crashes against a cacophony of ambient noise that reverberates in your chest. Meysami, set to graduate this term, takes a contact microphone she made herself and drags it along the turntable’s edges, unleashing guttural splinters of sound. Students and faculty sit transfixed in front of her.

Meysami’s piece is part of Summer 2017 live student performance night Communistation, hosted by Fine Art’s new Sound Lab, a hub of sonic creation founded by Fine Art faculty, sculptor and sound artist David Schafer.

“Sound is a material, similar to paint, wood, metal, steel or clay,” says Schafer, sitting in the Lab’s first-floor room in the 870 Building at ArtCenter’s South Campus, surrounded by posters, vinyl records and long colorful audio cables. “Sound is formless and can affect us emotionally, physically, physiologically, mentally. Like with a material, you can cut up sound. You can reshape it. You can layer it. You can compress it.”

Students can engage with the Sound Lab—just one of several labs in the College’s Art Labs facilities—in various ways, Schafer says. All majors can take a tutorial on the lab with Schafer or a Sound Lab teacher’s assistant such as current T.A. Meysami. In the lab they can experiment with a load of equipment, including turntables, mixers, effects pedals donated by EarthQuaker Devices and modular synthesizer keyboards donated by companies Arturia and Roland. They use software such as GarageBand and Logic to process and edit sound files to create recordings as deep and thick as sculptures.

“I experience immediate joy when I bring students into the Sound Lab, demonstrate the turntables and give them permission to play and experiment with the record as a physical object,” says Schafer. “They can scratch it and reverse it. They can change the speed.”

They can also participate in workshops—a Spring 2017 workshop focused on making contact microphones, which pick up sounds from surfaces—and the recent Summer 2017 Soldering Workshop: Soldering Audio Cablesworkshop taught by Los Angeles-based Stones Throw Records house engineer Jake Viator. In that workshop, Fine Art students including Meysami and former Sound Lab T.A. Victor Artiga Rodriguez made their own slinky audio cables with soldering irons and wire cutters, and then used those cables to plug into mixers in the Sound Lab. “It’s important for students to learn to be self-reliant,” Schafer says.

Schafer’s own love of sound extends to his childhood. He grew up in the Midwest listening to his shortwave radio at night, and would twist the dial to hear different languages, static and fuzz. He also played the trumpet and French horn and went to punk shows. A degree in sculpture and an interest in urban environments and architectural scale led him to create large-scale works and sculptures. He used experimental sound and spoken word in his colossal metal, wood and plastic sculptures starting in the ‘90s. He fully embraces noise.

“Noise is generally heard and viewed as an unwanted sound that might create discomfort, from the sound of airplanes to a neighbor’s washing machine,” says Schafer. “But it doesn’t have to be loud or harsh. It can be really subtle or just a weird frequency. Noise can be expressive as something improvised, textural, immersive and outside of control. You are born into sound, starting with the sound of your mom’s body when you were carried in a womb.”

“The Sound Lab is very open to all kinds of experimenting with the making, recording and processing and manipulation of all kinds of sound,” adds Schafer, who this coming Fall term will teach Advanced SculptureStudio Practice and Professional Practices for Artists.

Schafer teaches a number of sound-based courses such as Broken Music, a Humanities and Sciences seminar on the history of sound in the arts, and the upcoming Spring 2018 Fine Art studio course Sound, focusing on sound and its relationship to Fine Art practices.

In these courses, Schafer introduces students to composer John Cage’s work on silence, post-World War II composer Pauline Oliveros’s theory of meditative “deep listening,” and an early form of ‘40s electronic avant-garde music incorporating environmental sounds called musique concrete—music concrete—invented by French composer Pierre Schaeffer. Plus, he delves into the work of early 20th-century Italian Futurist painter and composer Luigi Russolo, who built noise-generating music devices called Intonarumori, and more modern-day Japanese noise artists such as Masami Akita and British band Throbbing Gristle.

Meysami, who studied architecture before coming to ArtCenter, became interested in diving into the world of noise and sound after taking the required Fine Art course Art: Structures and Systems with Schafer in 2015.

“When I took David’s class, I first thought, ‘What the hell is that? Sound art? I’m not interested,’” says Meysami, smiling. “But then he opened a new chapter for me. You don’t need to necessarily know music to be able to use sound. My visual work is very architectural and deals a lot with space. I use sound as sculpture to activate a space and evoke a sense of memory and feeling.”

Meysami’s senior project I Am in the Shelter of Window is directly inspired by musique concrete, and incorporates influential Iranian writer Forough Farrokhzad’s poems. For one part of the project, Meysami taped a contact microphone and surface transducers—which convert the surfaces they touch into speakers—onto a block of concrete.

“It’s music concrete, so it’s kind of like a joke,” she says. “The sound from the concrete is spacey, dreamy and intense, and similar to the air conditioning sound we hear in industrial buildings here.”

For an early Sound Lab piece, Meysami took a political speech and distorted it until it because unintelligible noise. Her booming, thunderous Communistation live performance piece—featuring a childhood recording of her speaking and singing songs in Farsi and ABCs in English to her parents—conjures up powerful emotions.

“I just want to cry when I listen to it, because I remember that moment, and how I thought so positively about the world,” she says. “Distorting that voice to something dark shows adulthood being very different than childhood. Noise can be open, abstract and very deep, and a lot depends on how you perceive it.”

During his own sound performance at Communistation, Rodriguez—who went to see noise bands in his native El Salvador before coming to ArtCenter—bounces in place behind the turntable and mixer table while a video of a car being assembled is projected onto a wall behind him. Keyboard dissonance combines with a crescendo of fuzz, which Rodriguez made by layering and distorting a numerical data set he learned about from Humanities and Sciences course Visual Math.

Part way through the performance, Rodriguez pulls into the middle of the floor blocks of concrete, a slab of wood, a roll of metal mesh and wrapping paper, and begins to crack the concrete. A melody begins, and he takes a contact microphone and rakes it over the mesh—releasing a metallic sound like skittering robots—and then along the ridges of the concrete while a relentless beat unfolds.

The piece ends with Mexican dance music Rodriguez grew up listening to in El Salvador, and the sculptor and sound artist grabbing friends in the audience and joyfully twirling them around.

“I feel like visual art and sound complement each other,” says Rodriguez. “My sculptures are wood, steel, very architectural, and I’ve been combining them with video components. I want my visual art and performances to have an edge of playfulness. I really like that push-pull between that and extreme harshness.”

As for Schafer, his face virtually lights up watching his Sound Lab students go down the rabbit hole of noise, sound and aural freedom live.

“I sometimes refer to our performance night as the night of psychic liberation, because it’s a little bit unpredictable and it brings everybody together.” he says. “It’s a party, a club, an experience.”

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A Preview of Thursday’s Formula-E Races

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This story first appeared in Dot magazine.

Imagine taking a 16-foot rubber band, stretching it taut and then twisting it and stuffing it into a carbon tube or another contraption—with wheels attached—created to look like a foot-long race car. When the wound-up rubber band is released, the car is off! Either to surge for 25 seconds with a burst of power down a track, or swerve and crash (but not burn).

ArtCenter’s annual international competition Formula-E—yes, the “E” is for “elastic”—will showcase on Thursday, August 10 both corporate and student teams who have worked towards just this purpose: win a 136-foot drag race course, a 322-foot figure eight course and a 228-foot hill climb using innovatively designed and constructed rubber-band powered race cars. The event takes place on the paved sidewalks of the Hillside Campus Sculpture Garden.

“This is a classic example of people doing something difficult together as a team that’s also a bonding and fun experience,” says Andy Ogden, who jumpstarted Formula-E in 2005 when he became ArtCenter’s Graduate Industrial Design chair.

This year, four teams of Graduate Industrial Design students and four teams of undergraduate Product Design and Transportation Design students, along with Pasadena City College students on each of those teams, will participate in the competition. Four Chinese teams who had won a June race in China—using a track that exactly replicates the Sculpture Garden’s sidewalks—are traveling to the final. Corporate participants include Honda and Mattel Hot Wheels.

“This is a very hard project, and people don’t realize how hard it is until they get into it,” says Ogden. “Design school education usually ends with a conceptual proposal. This actually has to work, and work within the constraints of a schedule.”

For the past 12 years, third term Graduate Industrial Design students have spent 13 weeks preparing for the race as part of their Summer 3D Development course. This term, for the first time, undergraduate Product Design and Transportation Design students have been able to take a Formula-E elective course. Formula-E’s ArtCenter roots, it turns out, go back to the ‘80s.

“The students I know who took the Formula-E course in the ‘80s and went on to be successful design professionals at Honda and Toyota would reminisce about it,” Ogden says.

Grad Industrial Design faculty Stan Kong, who along with co-instructor Javier Palomares takes students down the zig-zagging road of conceptualizing and constructing their race cars, cites Formula-E’s ability to stimulate “competition, comradery and working in teams to solve a problem that’s challenging.” Students start by reviewing different vehicles created in the past year, Kong says. Then they use 3D modeling software to design, calculate costs and foresee structural issues in advance, says Palomares. They make working models through a high-tech 3D printer, test them, narrow down an idea and build and refine many versions. Students “push all boundaries not only structurally but also aesthetically and performance-wise, always within budget,” says Palomares. Adds Ogden, “It’s a process of learning through testing and failure.”

As for ArtCenter’s Formula-E gaining steam in China—Chinese teams have won final races in past years—Ogden celebrates the competition’s global appeal. “Chinese schools participating signifies the importance of relationships we’ve cultivated with Chinese ArtCenter graduates and with Chinese companies,” he says. “We welcome schools and companies all over the world to enter.”

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GradID student Xinyao Liu awarded IDSA scholarship

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In a year when IDSA has chosen Design IS Business as the theme of its International Design Conference 2017, the winner of the Gianninoto Graduate Scholarship says it was her passion for the intersection of design, business and technology that drew her to join the GradID program at ArtCenter College of DesignXinyao Liu, S/IDSA, expects to earn her master’s degree in industrial design in fall 2017. This summer, she’s interning at Kohler, applying human-centered thinking, ideation and quick prototyping to create an experiential shower enclosure.

Liu earned a bachelor’s degree from East China University of Science and Technology and interned at TotalBrand 2, Bantum and Moma Design in Shanghai. She got hands-on experience in everything from branding a robotic vacuum cleaner, to designing an elevator panel, insulin injection pen and an oven range hood.

Liu’s passion and persistence in ideation and iteration was inspired by the advice of her frst supervisor at TotalBrand2: “Don’t stop developing your concepts, and you will surprise yourself!” Liu sees design as a vehicle to make the world a better place. She employs system design research to find meaningful insights and opportunities, create the product or service with effective design skills and develop the business model to make an innovation evolve strategically. “I put lots of effort in helping the aging population and in sustainability,” she says.

In a project called Primavarra, Liu aimed to inspire and empower seniors to lead joyful and healthful lives. In sustainability, she designed a shared bike system to promote ecofriendly commuting, and built apps to encourage carpooling and reduce food waste.

“It’s such an honor to receive this scholarship,” says Liu. “I’m very thankful that IDSA supports students in their education and development in various ways!”

This story was originally posted on IDSA’s website.

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End of Term Reminders from Environmental Health and Safety


As we enter the final stretch of the summer term, please review the following Environmental, Health and Safety reminders.

Faculty, please take a few minutes to review the list with your students. ArtCenter is committed to providing you with a healthy and safe environment along with the tools and resources necessary for a successful end of term.

  • First Aid: contact Campus Security to report all first aid or medical concerns/issues.
  • Environmental Concerns:  Please contact Campus Security ext 2211 (  or Cynthia Quentin (  to report any environmental or air quality issues.
  • Fire and Emergency Equipment: Do Not remove, cover, hang items from,  modify or relocate any fire or emergency response equipment such as strobes, alarms, extinguishers, maps, exit signage, first aid kits, fire pulls, etc. NO EXCEPTIONS.
  • No Smoking: Please be mindful of ongoing hazardous and flammable chemical application.  NO Smoking in the proximity of flammable fumes, high hazard areas, or outdoor dry brush areas.  Please stay in designated smoking areas and be mindful of cigarette butt disposal.
  • Emergency Exits and aisles: Keep a 36” clearance in front of or exiting from all doors.  Maintain 48” clean and clutter free aisle ways throughout all buildings.  Trash and debris will be removed and disposed of daily.
  • Chemical Handling: Please read all labels and warning language prior to using any chemical.  Focus on precautionary language (i.e.: highly flammable, corrosive, apply in well ventilated area, etc.) and recommended personal protective equipment (i.e.: respiratory protection, gloves, eye protection, etc.)
  • Chemical Application: Please use the designated shop spaces for mixing and/or application of hazardous chemicals.  Always wear the recommended personal protective equipment appropriate to the chemical being applied.
  • Chemical Disposal: Please dispose of chemical saturated rags, napkins, paper or empty chemical containers in the red hazardous waste containers located in the shop areas.  If you need assistance or guidance, please speak to your instructor or shop representative.
  • Respiratory Protection: Please wear your ½ mask respirator with cartridges when spraying or mixing chemicals; when applying chemicals or while sanding your projects. Keep your respirator clean and stored in a sealed bag when not in use.
  • Shared Shop Spaces: Drying Room, Composite Room, Spray Booths, 3D Labs, Laser Labs – please be respectful and mindful of your fellow students by keeping the rooms clean, free of trash, clutter, debris and stored materials.
  • Cutting Safety: Practice caution when using cutting tools, use appropriate table or desk location for cutting, dispose of all used or broken blades in appropriate receptacles located in the shop.
  • Stay Focused: Stay alert, focused and calm during these last two weeks of the term.

If you have any questions or are in need of additional guidance or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact Cynthia Quentin, Director of Environmental Health and Safety at , mobile: 626-485-3207 or send an email to .

Thank you in advance for your support and cooperation.

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ArtCenter Library Celebrates Zine Month


July is International Zine Month, and to celebrate, ArtCenter’s library is presenting a series of events promoting its circulating zine collection, which is very rare among libraries, and showcasing zines created by ArtCenter students and alumni. The library is hosting  pop-up zine libraries throughout the month, a zine reading party and an exhibition in the library featuring risograph zines by Never Press (a printing company run by ArtCenter alumni and featuring many alumni works). There will also be a button making workshop on Monday July 31st from 12-2pm at the South Campus Library.

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Alums and faculty from Google, NASA, Fiat, Sony Share Survival Tools and Strategies for Success in Tech and Design

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For designers, who often create structure out of chaos, it is critical to establish a common language across a variety of disciplines and have a strong point of view. Leaders, many who work in male dominated fields, reinforced those points at ArtCenter’s Women in Industrial Design Forum on July 15. Women designers from Nike, Airbnb, Sony, Mattel, MIT Media Lab, Google and Snap gathered on campus to share wisdom from the trenches.

“Being opinionated and having a point of view is even more important when working in a male dominated industry because you’ll get a lot of no’s and people talking over you but you have to push past that and not be personally offended by those obstacles,” said Angie Park (BS 2011), who is a hybrid UX researcher at Sony in San Francisco.

When asked “Why do you keep redesigning our product?” by a colleague, Sara Ortloff Khoury (MFA 1992), user experience design director at Google, responded by explaining the iterative process, reflecting a core principle of design thinking particularly relevant to the tech industry: everything can be upgraded into a new and improved product, app, service or device. Khoury lead the design on Google’s recently launched Hire, a new service that helps businesses more effectively manage their internal recruiting process.

“It’s a life long endeavor,” said Angie Park. “A large part of what we do is educate coworkers and clients, champion the idea of design thinking.”

“Engineers think of you as an afterthought,” said Kristina Marrero (BS 2014), colors, materials and finish (CMF) designer at Snap Inc., who makes it a point of educating more people about her field to make products more successful.

While it’s easy to obsess over whether or not you play up your femininity or play it down and what in the room is working against you, the consensus among attendees was that working in a male dominated field, it is important to find a support system, be strong, fight for your point of view and be yourself.

“Don’t be afraid to speak loudly,” said Jenn Kuca (BS 2012), senior strategic designer, BCG Digital Ventures. “When people are talking over you, speak louder.”

When asked if there is a way to approach the design research process that is enhanced by being a woman, panelists agreed women are better collaborators, more empathetic especially in awkward situations, and more detail oriented in their observations, generally speaking, than men.

Some projects are male driven and it’s obvious based on the output, said Angie Park. “You can’t design well if the team is not diversified, it can’t be only female driven either.” Diversity among voices represented by gender and ethnicity, they agreed, is most important.

“I was inspired to pursue a leadership position at Nike when I realized there were no women in senior positions at the organization,” said Marni Gerber (BS 1985), ArtCenter faculty and senior design director at Nike. She created a group within the footwear leader to focus on constructive changes to the corporate culture and be a safe place for women with the purpose of helping senior leaders become more supportive of women. She urged audience members to have many mentors, not just one.

Khoury said while it’s hard to bear witness to gender bias, we must stop thinking about the fairness issue because effort doesn’t know gender. “At the end of the day, I’m judged by my effort.” She encouraged the audience to read Angela Lee Duckworth’s writing about the power of passion and perseverance.

Panelists encouraged women to approach job qualifications as wish lists not check lists because, they said research shows women tend to only seek jobs they’re 100 percent prepared for and men pursue positions they’re only 60 percent prepared for.

Mariana Prieto (BS 2012), a design innovation consultant, summed up the day by saying you’re never too young or too old to be a mentor or a mentee, there’s always someone on either side to learn from and when you help others, you learn a ton. Follow your intuition she urged, because once you take the first step the next will follow.

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Photo student makes the most out of study abroad opportunity

Photo courtesy of Maribel Barcena, from her summer travels

Photo courtesy of Maribel Barcena, from her summer travels

Maribel Barcena is a fourth-term student who took the study away course Berlin: A City as Portrait in the Spring term. Wanting to take advantage of her time in Europe after the class ended, Barcena had asked around to see what opportunities were available.

She got an assist from Ken Marchionno, one of our instructors and her Fine Art Photography teacher. Marchionno connected Barcena with the director of ArtMill, a non-profit near Prague, and Barcena is now starting her internship there, where she is setting up a darkroom for the mill and helping install a show about migration.

Because she had some time to kill between the Berlin class and starting at ArtMill, Barcenaasked the director if she knew of other opportunities, and as it turned out, they knew of two. The director helped Maribel land internships at ArtMap and Fotograf Gallery, a bookstore and gallery, respectively, both located in Prague. Her jobs varied from photographing books and events, to shooting some still life for the new issue of the magazine.

It looks like Barcena’s love for travel and eagerness to gain work experience have helped her land a pretty awesome summer.

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Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography Announces the HMCT 2017 Educator Grant Awards

blogThe Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography announced the recipients of the 2017 HMCT Educator Grants today. The HMCT Educator Grants invest in the professional and personal enrichment of ArtCenter faculty members to support research, workshops, seminars, conferences and other activities which augment their knowledge and benefit their teaching. Grant recipients are asked to investigate new opportunities and ideas in the area of language and typography, and to grow as creative artists, designers and educators. In turn, faculty members bring new and refreshed knowledge and experiences back into ArtCenter’s academic community, which enhances the quality of their teaching.

Educator Grants were awarded to the following faculty members:

  • Christina Aumann (Graphic Design): to produce letterpress printed specimen broadsides and a PDF booklet of the Archetype Press wood type collection
  • River Jukes-Hudson & Dante Carlos (Graphic Design): to produce a website and annotated digital image collection for Design Atlas, an online educational tool for teachers, students, and designers
  • Eva Forgacs (Humanities and Sciences): to present an academic research paper at the international conference on Russian Western Art at the University of Venice, Italy
  • Greg Lindy (Graphic Design): to attend the 2017 ATypI conference in Montreal, Quebec; and to develop the transitional serif family typeface, currently called “Burlington”
  • John David O’Brien (Integrated Studies): to create an artist book prototype with the poetry of Laura Mullen
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ArtCenter Premieres Student Self Portrait Video Series

Product Design student Miguel Harry

Product Design student Miguel Harry

ArtCenter has launched a new video series featuring student self portraits, providing a glimpse into the creative journeys of five of our students.

“In their process of researching colleges, most prospective students plan a campus visit, browse the website, or make an appointment with an admissions counselor,” said Kit Baron, senior vice president of Admissions and Enrollment Management for ArtCenter. “While these experiences are valuable and provide a great way to gather information, hearing directly from ArtCenter students to learn about their stories and their lives provides yet another deeper level of sharing. We’re often asked ‘What’s it really like to be an ArtCenter student?’ We hope the stories of these five talented individuals helps answer that common question and provide prospective students with a realistic glimpse into their world.”

Illustration Student Cristina Wilson

Illustration Student Cristina Wilson

The five students were asked to share their creative journeys and reveal personal details such as their early inspiration, decision to attend art school, current projects and long-term goals. All production in the field was completed by the individual students, who were commissioned to spend 12 weeks meeting once a month to workshop their projects, from proposal through final cut, while undertaking the challenging process of capturing their own creative evolution in a professional quality video—all in addition to their demanding studio and academic course load. Light guidance was provided throughout the creative process by a small team of staff from Admissions and Marketing and Communications. The result is a series of video self-portraits that truly capture the student’s intimate voice, motivations and distinctive viewpoints.

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