Social media credited for ‘Thought at Work’ success

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Photo by Thought at Work Photographers

Designer Bradley “GMUNK” Munkowitz, center, interacts with students before presenting a workshop during the Thought at Work conference.

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 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.”