2016 Fellowship: What Did Our Design Students Learn?

Photo: Alexander Kusak

Photo: Alexander Kusak

Think about your time at college: what were - or are - you really looking to learn? Do you remember the days spent sitting in lecture, or the time spent at a fun internship, in museums or outside the classroom, actively exploring the world on your own?

As rigorous research and bold experimentation lead to better, original design, Be Original Americas believes that a hands-on, immersive design education can lead to a well-rounded designer. The Be Original Americas Summer Fellowship program was created to offer just that opportunity: real-world experience to give two students an in-the-field creative start to a career in design.

For the past 7 weeks, they have visited over 10 companies in 5 states, including Herman Miller, Carnegie, Chilewich, Emeco, Vitra, Bernhardt Design, Design Within Reach, Ligne Roset, and more.

As the first-ever Summer Fellowship draws to a close, we talked with fellows Sarah Ahart of Virginia Tech and Karina Campos of Syracuse University about how their experiences in the program will shape their futures in the industry.

Photo: Alexander Kusak

Photo: Alexander Kusak

How do you think you’ll approach your schoolwork differently in your final year, as a result of your experiences during this fellowship?

Sarah: Now that I have a much broader understanding of the steps needed to create a final product, I will be able to design in a way that keeps the full process in mind.  Prior to the fellowship, I was designing based on my limited knowledge of industry.  The fellowship has made me aware of the many considerations needed to bring a product to market, as well as all the steps that a product needs to go through before being market ready.  I can now include these elements that I have learned throughout the fellowship in each of my future projects.

Karina: After this incredible experience, I have learned to approach design a little differently and think beyond the confines of my own discipline. It makes for a more holistic and meaningful way of designing. Also to continue being curious and never settle in your design work.

How has your view of your future in the design industry been changed or influenced by the Be Original Americas Fellowship?

Sarah: I realized that there are so many different paths that I can go down once I graduate.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do just based on what I knew existed. Now that I have been exposed to so many different options, I realize there are many more opportunities for me than I had originally thought.  It makes me feel like I can pursue anything that interests me, and that wherever I end up working, I will be able to contribute my own valuable skills .

Karina: One thing that became more apparent during the fellowship is that in order to sustain the design industry, it is vital that we challenge the way in which knowledge is passed from established design professionals to young designers–especially since we are the future of the industry. We can influence change.  Although there is only slight correlation between school and the real world, that rigidity in school teaches essential basics that come in handy in an office setting, at least from what I saw during the past seven weeks.

Photo: Alexander Kusak

Photo: Alexander Kusak

What key learning from the fellowship are you most excited to share with your peers?

Sarah: In school, I feel like a lot of us think that we need to go work for consulting firms and get the traditional ‘industrial design’ job.  Because of that, I see some of my classmates being discouraged when their interests and skills don’t line up with the traditional jobs that we hear about.  I think that it is extremely important for students to know that there are so many different options once they graduate and that our major is extremely flexible, allowing us to fit into many career paths.

Karina: I am looking forward to sharing those mind-blowing moments I experienced, anything from incredible manufacturing processes to how design professionals behave in an office setting.  I think I am going to talk about the more intimate moments I experienced that some students often don’t get while doing a traditional internship.

Authenticity in design begins with intent. Be Original Americas is committed to creating access to the kinds of design education that foster a creative future for the industry at large. Many thanks to our fellows Sarah and Karina for a successful inaugural year for the Summer Fellowship program, and to our participating members and media sponsors for their support. You can read more about the Fellowship experience on Interior Design and Designmilk.

Interested in this year’s fellowship? Find out more here.