From pixels to pearls, design student flexes creative versatility

Tobi Ashiru

The stars of necklace and earring designs by Tobi Ashiru '25 (industrial design) are multi-colored, gemstone beads and statement-making, gold-plated brass pendants. 

Tobi Ashiru ’25 (industrial design) enjoys having creative freedom.

Whether it’s hand-crafting a stool in the furniture design studio, making a bag in a soft goods class, designing a website, painting, or threading gemstone beads onto metal wire to create her signature necklaces, Ashiru takes advantage of the wide range of studio courses available to College of Art and Design students. 

In addition to being in an industrial design program with many different pathways, she pairs her major coursework with electives in furniture design and metals and jewelry design, with her sights set on a glass course next.

“The way I think about design is I don’t like being limited. I want to do and try everything, and now is the time to try,” Ashiru said. “RIT has everything right here. You just have to sign up for a class.”

Exploring different areas of art and design is helping Ashiru solidify her future goals. 

“It’s so freeing,” Ashiru said. “I don’t like not knowing what I like. I would panic if I was in that spot. I just like making stuff and I’ll try anything one time. If I don't like it, that’s fine. But if I like it, I will continue to make it. With my hobbies, every month it’s a new rotation so I don’t get bored.”

For Ashiru, user interface and user experience (UI/UX) design and jewelry making have developed into heavy interests. She has been able to place a focus on each as an industrial design student. 

Ashiru’s jewelry — sold under her brand, Artobi — has a vibrant palette that matches the energy she puts into the making process. The stars of her necklace and earring designs are multi-colored, gemstone beads and statement-making, gold-plated brass pendants. 

Ashiru spent her childhood growing up in both her parents’ native Nigeria and Philadelphia. She started making necklaces using plastic beads at 10 years old and has explored high-quality materials and more sophisticated making processes the last few years. 

The colorful schemes are a reflection of her wardrobe of solid colors mostly devoid of patterns. Her jewelry is meant to stand out as a stylish addition to an outfit.  

“For my jewelry, I like to have different colors,” Ashiru said. “I just like bright colors. They make me happy.”

After carefully organizing gemstones by color, the rest of Ashiru’s design process is a bit spontaneous, resulting in original pieces. Ashiru photographs her jewelry for her website and social media platforms in a style that is also uniquely her.

“I don’t think I’ve ever made the same necklace more than two times,” she said. “I’ve made at least 200 necklaces, and they are mostly different designs.”

Ashiru spent the last two summers completing internships doing UX/UI work for Meta and educational technology company Duolingo, respectively. This summer, she is returning to Pittsburgh, Pa., to again intern at Duolingo’s headquarters. 

With the internship experiences enabling her to build her resume and portfolio outside of coursework, Ashiru said she feels empowered to explore more offerings within the walls of RIT.

“It allows me to relax more and focus on what I’d like to study instead of stressing about, ‘Am I going to get a job when I graduate?’” Ashiru said. “I’m able to take the classes I want and advance the skills that make me happy.”

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