A multidisciplinary team of nearly 50 RIT students combined organizational strength with the power of social media to host Thought at Work, a conference that drew some of the industry’s hottest designers and hundreds of college design students from across the nation to campus earlier this fall.
Nearly 400 graduate and undergraduate students at RIT and throughout the Northeast networked with peers and industry professionals while engaging in discussions about current design topics.
“Our mission is to provide a platform for interesting people to talk about their passions by creating a dynamic experience for students and industry professionals to network, share and learn,” says John Leavitt, a fourth-year industrial design major from Tully, N.Y. “This conference was entirely driven by students whose initiative has helped build something that now has national influence in the design community.”
Thought at Work organizers nearly doubled the number of students and colleges that attended the inaugural conference last year. According to Leavitt, some students traveled more than 11 hours to attend. Attending schools included Columbus College of Art and Design, Carnegie Mellon, Ohio State, Penn State and Syracuse.
In yet another testament to the power of social media, nearly all of the publicity surrounding the conference, and even some of the speaker invitations, took place over social media—primarily through the conference’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
“For the most part the conference was organized through social media,” says Leavitt. “By keeping our costs down we made the conference accessible for college students.”
Keynote speakers and presenters included a veritable “Who’s Who” in the design industry today, including Bradley “GMUNK” Munkowitz, a design director for the motion graphics industry; RIT alumna Patti Moore ’74 (industrial design), a 2012 inductee into RIT’s Innovation Hall of Fame and internationally renowned gerontologist and designer who serves as a leading authority on consumer lifespan behaviors and requirements; and Spencer Nugent, a product designer whose Sketch-A-Day.com project has become popular after what started as a personal project for self-improvement inspired the drive to sketch daily among budding new artists as well as seasoned designers and illustrators.
In addition to presentations, workshops, panel discussions and a drawing competition, students received portfolio reviews from many of the designers in attendance. Sponsors included Microsoft, Autodesk, Keyshot, Modko, Roc Brewing Co., and CURE restaurant.
“I found the whole experience very eye opening,” says Leavitt. “The response from the sponsors and designers proved it’s not as scary a world as you think out there.”