Reinvented design workshops connect students with alumni, industry

Gallina Development's Evan Gallina shares an aerial rendering of Innovation Square, a project slated to transform downtown’s former Xerox Tower into multi-college housing and space for business innovation.

Programs in RIT’s School of Design traditionally begin each spring semester with an engaging weeklong experience where teams of students work together to solve a real-world design problem. 

This year, some of the collaborative, program-wide workshops were creatively adjusted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while still providing equally meaningful experiences. 

Industrial Design (BFA and MFA) executed a virtual alternative to its normal T-Minus workshop, for which students work with a client to complete a sponsored project. Meanwhile, Interior Design hosted a series of online industry talks in place of its annual Hyperspace workshop — which has seen students produce interior design packages for clients such as the Rochester Music Hall of Fame and Rochester Public Library.

Industrial Design

The program organized “Connecting the Dots,” a succession of daily workshops during winter break (Jan. 18-22) facilitated by distinguished Industrial Design alumni working in the industry. The series examined how the processes of design integrate the goals of business, community and governance in the delivery of empathetic, holistic solutions.

Students, faculty and others from around the world attended throughout the week. Each session focused on conversations around a key topic and the development of skills critical to career success, especially those that enable a post-COVID-19 world. The week culminated in some participants using the newly gained insights to develop design concepts for showcase in an online gallery.

“I enjoyed Connecting the Dots because it was helpful to see a number of perspectives on design and how we use it to interact with the world around us,” said Meg Stafford ’23 BFA (Industrial Design). “Each of the speakers brought something different, and each day was informative and thought-provoking.”

The alumni facilitators were:

Patricia Moore ’74, President of MooreDesign Associates and winner of a 2019 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award

Workshop: Design for All: Creation of the New Norm Post-COVID-19 (view here)

Moore’s workshop detailed the need for “humanism” in design for the future, and inspired participants to apply an inclusive design methodology to their interest areas.

Tatiana Ferrucio '21 MFA (Industrial Design) said she was heavily influenced by Moore's talk in creating her design for the gallery.

"I would say that each talk uniquely supported my final concept," said Ferrucio, who designed a wearable necklace that functions as a communication device for women to seek help in vulnerable situations. "While the workshops were exciting and helpful to boost my creativity, Pattie's talk was the inspiration source. I loved her presentation around the world's most dire calls and how designers can take an active role and address those issues."

Joey Zeledón ’06, head of industrial design at HP (Barcelona) and principal designer at Joey Zeledón Studio

Workshop: Design with Wonder (view here)

Zeledón shared a personal project of his during COVID-19 and encouraged attendees to find joy in experimenting with ideas.

Jeff Smith '93, cloud adoption specialist at Autodesk

Workshop: Sketching and CAD as Partners for Design Exploration (view here)

In his session, Smith demonstrated how sketching and computer-aided design — both essential components of concept development — complement each other.

Paul Magee ’93, director of industrial design at Crown Equipment (Americas)

Workshop: The Business of Design (view here)

Magee explored the factors that influence decisions on which ideas are made, and not made, into reality.

The four alumni also took part in a panel discussion as part of Connecting the Dots. 

Interior Design

Interior Design’s first-week experience featured virtual presentations by industry professionals, including alumni and faculty, on a range of topics: preparing facilities during a pandemic, the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), equitable design, sketching and rendering and more. 

The two-day virtual series provided students in the program unique access to dialogue about 10 topic areas crucial to the industry. 

Presenters included:

  • Ryan Ben, director of association experience for IIDA, IIDA Rochester City Center members (including Interior Design alumni Kara Brown ’14 and Robyn Hadfield ’13) and RIT’s Interior Design Club discussed the benefits of IIDA student membership.
  • 3D Digital Design faculty Shaun Foster (associate professor) Gary Jacobs (assistant professor) demonstrated real-time immersive environment 3D tools, such as Unreal Engine, used to enhance and animate architectural drawings.
    • "I never realized that a game engine could be used to produce realistic renderings and walkthrough videos," said Risa DiSano '21 (Interior Design). "This was helpful insight into the advancement of technology in the industry."
  • Evan Gallina of Gallina Development presented plans for Rochester’s Innovation Square, a project slated to see downtown’s former Xerox Tower transformed into multi-college housing and space for business innovation. 
  • Donna Deckard and Lynn Kenney from the Center for Health Design. They covered resources available from the center and provided students and faculty with an overview of evidence-based design accreditation and certification. 
  • Chip Israel, CEO and founder of the firm Lighting Design Alliance, delivered a talk on lighting. Israel’s career includes internationally recognized work for clients such as Beats by Dre, Disney and Sony.

“The industry talks gave me a closer look into the profession and steps I need to take to succeed,” said Maya Zelazny-Medina ’22 (Interior Design). “Discussions on becoming certified, communicating with clients and business partners, and the ability to work on projects that are going to be built in the real world and not just stay in academia — all these things are what gave me the confidence to succeed after graduation.”

For Leeann Perkowski ’23 (Interior Design), Israel’s talk further fed her excitement for her lighting theory and hospitality design courses. Among Israel’s many memorable quotes that inspired Perkowski was “lighting is the tool that unifies design.”

“He created such an amazing introduction to this semester,” Perkowski said. “His talk was my favorite for so many reasons. I loved seeing the pictures of his beautiful work, hearing his advice, listening to his stories, and I loved hearing his breakdown and analysis of each project.”

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