X Stands for the Variable

Over a year ago, I began talking with Nik Hafermaas about a graduate program in graphic design at ArtCenter. The undergraduate program had been through a remarkable revitalization and metamorphosis, and the time was right to apply the same thinking and ArtCenter's stellar reputation and network to a masters degree.

I've spent over two decades looking at portfolios from recent MFA grads from other schools. While they were almost all impressive and conceptually thorough, I saw a disconnect with the professional world. Projects were personal and unique, but were often so removed from applicable design I wondered if the designer would be terribly bored leading a branding campaign.

In 2011, ArtCenter embarked on a new course "to learn to create, and influence change". The Graphic Design MFA program embraces new ideas, innovation, and technology, while maintaining a connection to the profession here and now. We can explore the "C" word that everyone runs from, craft: typography, form, content, and the artifact. And we had the physical and intellectual resources to be the leader in leadership and entrepreneurial thinking.

What was truly unexpected was the reception the philosophy of innovation in the real world for real people resonated. Very quickly, several of the profession's leaders signed on as Advisory Board and Visiting faculty. This connection to the field and practice is critical as they will help guide the program, injecting ideas and wisdom based on their professional, rather than purely academic, experience.

Today the site for the ArtCenter Graphic Design Graduate (MGx) program is live and we are building an amazing space with a national American furniture company. I'm excited to serve as the Director of the program, providing designers with the skills and tools to not just succeed, but be the next generation of leaders.

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

The Graduate

Quite often, I receive notes from designers looking for freelancers or designers to hire. Since my mind is a sieve, I only recall the last person I saw. Typically, I send an email to Petrula Vrontikis and Nik Hafermaas and ask for any Art Center grads who are out there. Now here is the problem: I’m sure they are tired of my relentless harassment. I don’t know who has been hired, and who is looking. I don’t have anyone’s email address after they graduate. The solution is to create an interactive job bank for Art Center alumnus. But, I don’t want to be the person watching the doors to check the quality of employers, or graduates. And I have a full time job, so that’s not going to happen.

As a simpler approach, I’m using this post as a center for a list of recent graduates and their websites. If you are looking for a designer, feel free to peruse the amazing work on each website. If you are a recent grad and are contacted, I’ll let you be the judge about the person contacting you. A good tip: if you are asked to remove your shirt and send in bare chested photos, don’t. This is typically not required for design interviews.

Adam Hale
Alexia Pellegrini
Andrea Lee
Paul Kim
Caroline Kim
Christina Nizar
Dominique Wu
Douglas Chang
Eugene Art Seo
Guea-Yea Lian
Gyum Heo
Jaime Lopez
James Bogenrief
Jeff Han
Jesse Merrell
Jiin Kim
Jinhee Jung
Jeong Youn Choi
Nico Sala
Randi Cheung
Sora Park
Steven Ligatsa
Tracy Hung
Winnie Yuen
Yerina Cha
Also the grad show (showing faces with names) can be seen at:

The Great Wall(s)

This term, Nik Hafermaas, the chair of the graphic design program at Art Center, asked me to help curate the gallery. It seemed like an easy job. How hard could it be to choose some posters and hang them evenly spaced apart? The reality was more complicated, in a good way. In the end, I was faced with an enormous wealth of incredible projects. My first impulse was to put everything in the gallery. That, unfortunately, would lead to an episode of Hoarders. I didn’t want to be faced with a professional organizer, television crew, unhappy movers, and weeping family members while I tried to climb over mountains of design projects.

Let me define “incredible projects.” These aren’t the perfectly made and tasteful wine labels, or nice and tight simple logos. These are the projects that go beyond the assignment and ask fundamental questions about culture, how we read symbols, and what we make. And they are perfectly made. The high point of the gallery task was seeing the work and being endlessly energized and inspired. The low point was not being able to fit everything in our space. I need design a solution that allows for more projects and doesn’t point to a psychological disorder.

Below is one of my favorite projects from last term, Dawn Kim’s map poster for Knotts Berry Farm. First, it’s beautiful, like a Jackson Pollock painting. Dawn’s poster is so dense and multi-layered. It isn’t collage to solve a problem of filling space. It’s frenetic energy and possibility of discovery does the job of redefining the Knott’s experience beautifully. I would gladly show more great projects from the gallery if my students sent me their pdfs. Hint, here, guys.