Having dedicated physical space is mandatory for a creative person. However, what is the intention, purpose, and value of a design studio?
People often comment on how a studio space looks “fun”. Don't get me wrong, a studio should absolutely be fun! What they really might be wondering is, “Can’t designers get their work done without this space? Is this really necessary?” From my own experience, I have learned that a design studio holds much more value than just being a fun place to work.
My appreciation of dedicated studio space grew during my time as a student in the Media Design Practices program at ArtCenter College of Design. Our studio space was an 18,000 sq. ft. former aerospace supersonic jet-testing facility. The “Wind Tunnel,” as it was known, became a space used for events, prototyping, testing, documentation, and exhibition of creative work. While the Wind Tunnel itself has an enormous cool factor, what I experienced during this time was the magic of being immersed with fellow design students and faculty in a shared space. I was deeply engrossed in my own projects and surrounded by peers discovering their own design practices. This was also a space for collaboration. We worked together ideating, rapid prototyping, and iterating through constructive feedback and ongoing support. We formed a design community.
When I began as faculty at Santa Monica College, it was immediately apparent that Interaction Design students were in need of a dedicated design studio. They did their best using disconnected areas in and around the Center for Media & Design building as temporary makeshift studio spaces. Windows were covered in post-it notes for brainstorming sessions and movable whiteboards were pulled into hallways to sketch and further develop concepts. Students continued with creative workarounds doing what they could to meet their needs. However, physical space needs to be available for the entire duration of a project—not taken down, dismantled, and erased every day.
Enter Luke Johnson. Luke has been a part of studio life where serendipitous interactions and feedback among peers elevate project outcomes. He also shares the understanding that designers need a studio space to house their work as it progresses. Therefore, when Luke joined the IxD program faculty he made it his mission to create a dedicated studio space for SMC IxD students.
In Fall 2022, the SMC IxD Green Room Studio Space opened. This happened thanks to the efforts of Luke and with support from Tricia Ramos, the Dean of Academic Affairs as well as Jason Beardsley, Vice President (Interim) of Instructional Services. To say that the Green Room has been game-changing is an understatement! On any given day, you might find a student group testing physical prototypes, others calibrating sensors connected to microcomputers, or refining project deliverables. This creates a vibrant inclusive space and a balance between formal classroom education and learning by making.
As the Interaction Design class of 2023 moves through their final year of the program, the Green Room echoes the benefits I continue to draw on from my own design education. It encourages an environment of healthy critique, inspiring confident, analytical learners. Just as important, it fosters a culture of support and generosity. These embedded experiences will continue to be expressed through this new generation of designers as they launch into careers and new design communities.
Faculty Lead, SMC
B.S. Interaction Design program
The California Community Colleges Board of Governors has expanded and made the existing program in Interaction Design a permanent part of the Baccalaureate Degree Program. This decision further enhances opportunities for Californians to earn a four-year degree from a community college, addressing workforce needs and supporting the state's economy. The program continues to provide accessible and affordable education options, with changes to the Middle Class Scholarship.
This design challenge asked students: How can we enhance the guest experience to encourage visitors to co-create the story of Grand Park so that they can have a slice of the park wherever they go?
In the course of Design for the Future class (IxD 480) the IxD program seniors participated in 2022 Snap Lens Challenge - a Snapchat lens design competition annually held by Snap Inc. The participants were asked to design and present augmented reality experiences adhering to the 22 theme: “Sending Love and Light into the World”. All three winning spots went to the IxD students - Eduardo Paz, Vianey Gracia and Emily Hicks.
In this design challenge, students were tasked with developing an interactive experience centered around an object or character from Meow Wolf’s “Convergence Station” installation. The goal: bridge the physical and digital worlds to drive audience engagement.
MaCher, a local B-Corporation and IxD project partner, donates a 10k scholarship for emerging Native American designers.
Collaborating with current Graphic Design instructors and advisory board members, the Graphic Design curriculum launched a new and improved Graphic Design curriculum. The goal of this redesign is to update class content to current industry standards and streamline the student experience. New courses include Interactive Advertising, Communication Design, Information Design, and Industry Project.
The 22-23 academic year began with long-awaited news of the Center for Media and Design re-opening for the on-campus classes. The IxD program held its first in-person kick off even in years to welcome both the seniors and the incoming juniors on campus. They were greeted by the Dean for Career technical Education Patricia Ramos, the Department Chair for Design and Technology Sheila Cordova, the IxD Program Lead Nicole Chan, the Chief of the SMC Police Jonny Adams, among others.
The “Green Room” is our design studio. It’s a dedicated, IxD only working space where students can get work out of their computers and up and on the wall. It’s also a space for them to just hang out.
It’s also a great marketing tool! Internally, it signals to the school and students outside the program who we are and what we do. For current industry partners and possible partners it shows off our process and potential.
Design Club concluded the fall semester by organizing a casual networking event, bringing together design students and alumni from SMC. The gathering provided a platform for participants to exchange their experiences and offer valuable advice to one another.
This design challenge asked students: How might we….change the perceptions of CicLAvia as a “just cyclists” event to one that celebrates city exploration and all forms of non-motorized transportation including foot, skateboard, scooter, wheelchair and even bystanders. Press about the project can be found here and here.
Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA) convened more than 300 higher education leaders from across the nation to its 2023 national conference in Palm Springs. Together, IxD faculty presented—So You Want To Start A Bachelor's Program: 13 Considerations Before Saying YES—a talk on the systems, people, and spaces needed to build a supported B.S. program from the ground up.
As part of the spring semester kickoff, Junior and Seniors IxD students visited SMC’s Art Department. The visit featured a tour of the department’s facilities as well as a demo of equipment.
Joe Robinson is one of the most quoted experts on work-life balance, stress management, and productivity. He has appeared on CNN, NBC Nightly News, and in publications from the Los Angeles Times to Entrepreneur and Fast Company to share how we can work smarter and avoid the burnout cycle. For IxD students, Joe led an interactive workshop that provided students with the tools to manage demands and build attention, mental health, and resilience—including a mini samba lesson!
In this design challenge, students reimagined 5 key products that MaCher provides for its clients. For each key produced, students were asked to consider real-world advancements in materials innovation and sustainability, opportunities for integrations with innovations in digital media, as well as budgetary constraints, project management timelines and target applications/audience/demographic.
In the course of Design for the Future class (IxD 480) the IxD program seniors participated in 2022 Snap Lens Challenge - a Snapchat lens design competition annually held by Snap Inc. The participants were asked to design and present augmented reality experiences adhering to the 22 theme: “Make a Fashion Statement”
1st Place🏆 Devin Anderson 🏆
2nd Place🏅Miranda White🏅
3rd Place ✨Chrissy Stevens✨
IxD students visit video games behemoth—and neighbor—Riot Games! The trip included a tour of the studio, talks by a variety of industry experts in diverse design fields, and a chance to meet Annie and Tibbers IRL.
IxD students have been working with SMC’s Admissions & Records department to redesign the online student portal Corsair Connect, as well as redesigning the Commencement section of the school’s app SMC Go. Press about Corsair Connect redesign can be found here.
This year’s graduating IxD students participated in a new end-of-year format. Students in Service Design presented their work to IxD advisory board members as part of the CMD Student Showcase, an end of year celebration of student work at SMC’s Center for Media and Design (CMD). In addition, IxD graduating seniors will present their work as part of a webinar and live Q&A (June 5 and June 12). These presentations reflect a culmination of work produced by students during their time in the IxD program and reviewed by industry experts.
Grand Park is a beautiful public park and vibrant outdoor gathering place for the entire community in Los Angeles County. Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the 12-acre Grand Park stretches from The Music Center on the west to City Hall on the east and is easily accessible by Metro via the B/D (formerly Red/Purple) line to the Civic Center/Grand Park station. The park was named one of the American Planning Association’s 10 “Great Public Spaces” in the U.S. for 2013, and is preparing to celebrate its 10 year anniversary in 2022.
This design challenge asked students: How can we enhance the guest experience to encourage visitors to co-create the story of Grand Park so that they can have a slice of the park wherever they go?
Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment company that creates large-scale interactive and immersive art installations. MaCher, Inc. is a Certified B Corporation and a EcoVadis Platinum-rated company, among the top 1% of sustainable businesses in the world. Together these two industry partners asked IxD students to explore the connection between physical products and interaction design.
Based on Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station installation, the students were tasked with developing a sustainable product that would add value to gift shop purchases and extend the exhibit's content and storyline through a digital companion solution.
Inspired by Bogotá’s weekly ciclovía, CicLAvia temporarily closes streets to car traffic and opens them to Angelenos to use as a public park. Free for all, CicLAvia connects communities to each other across an expansive city, creating a safe place to bike, walk, skate, roll, and dance through Los Angeles County.
This class challenge focused on: How might we change the perceptions of CicLAvia as a “just cyclists” event to one that celebrates city exploration and all forms of non-motorized transportation including foot, skateboard, scooter, wheelchair and even bystanders.
MaCher is a product design studio with a focus on sustainability and community engagement. The studio specializes in strategizing, designing, developing and producing branded promotional and marketing products for their clients. They came to the IxD program looking for the next generation of innovation to build the next iteration of their top best-selling products.
The students were asked to reimagine 5 key products that MaCher provides for our clients - taking into consideration real-world advancements in materials innovation and sustainability, opportunity for integrations with innovations in digital media, as well as budget constraints, project management timelines and target applications/audience/demographic.
As part of his independent study, senior Andres Muñoz created a reel of student work. This video captures the breadth and depth of the projects made by the class of 2023 and 2024 during their time in the IxD program.
As the Dean of Academic Affairs at Santa Monica College, Dr. Patricia Ramos assists the college by developing partnerships with business, industry, labor, NGO, and other educational institutions, in an effort to align SMC’s career technical education programs to the current and projected workforce needs of the Los Angeles region and the State of California. Her civic engagement spans over two decades. Dr. Ramos has served as an appointed official as a member of the Woman’s Commission and the L.A. County Workforce Development Board. She serves on educational and workforce committees at local, state, and national levels. Dr. Ramos holds a doctorate from the University of Southern California.
Nicole Rife Chan is invested in accessible design education as a medium for positive community impact. She serves as Faculty Lead of the Interaction Design B.S. and Graphic Design Program at Santa Monica College. Nicole held non-profit and corporate design roles involving media, print, and digital before earning her MFA in Media Design Practices at ArtCenter College of Design.
Maxim is a creative technologist and a design educator with experience in multimedia-rich Web applications, interactive installations, and generative computer graphics. He comes with a background in linguistics and audio-video design. His current work centers on new forms of media and emerging interfaces for human-computer interaction. Maxim holds an MFA in Design and Technology from Parsons School of Design in New York.
Luke Johnson is an employee engagement strategist and design educator whose portfolio includes work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Nokia, and Riot Games. He collaborates with HR, internal comms, and executives to develop customized products to solve unique, internal problems. Luke holds an MFA in Media Design Practices from ArtCenter College of Design. He currently works as a professor in Graphic Design and Interaction Design at Santa Monica College.
Nicola Vruwink, MFA, is an artist, educator, and designer who is committed to mentoring future creatives. With an extensive background in private postsecondary education, Nicola is committed to making high-quality education more accessible and equitable. She has found her home in the California community college system. Her passion for design and design education fuels her teaching practice; currently, Nicola is full-time faculty in the Graphic Design program at Santa Monica College and maintains her own design studio Poni.
As a former community college transfer student and first-generation college graduate, Amanda Garcia is dedicated to advocating for a more equitable and inclusive learning environment that serves all students. Her primary goal as the CMD Counselor is to empower students by highlighting existing strengths, so they can feel confident entering the industry as their authentic selves. Amanda is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Ann Marie came to SMC’s Career Services Center with a background in marketing project management. With several years’ experience hiring artists and designers to execute corporate visions, Ann Marie brings and shares her knowledge on how to stand out and get hired to the IxD Program Students.
Jeff Gordon comes to IxD with twenty-plus years of experience at Santa Monica College. He was a highly involved student leader at SMC before transferring to Cal State Northridge for his bachelor's degree in radio and television production. He later continued his studies at Loyola Marymount University for his master's degree in counseling. While at SMC he has served in a myriad of areas including classified staff in student services and as counseling faculty in Associated Students, Scholars, General Counseling and Transfer Services, Welcome Center, and Outreach and Recruitment. In his role as IxD project manager Jeff Gordon is focused on increasing the pool of talented applicants with students that come from a multitude of diverse backgrounds. At the center of his approach in working with IxD is a warm and welcoming environment that is inclusive and equitable for our students, faculty, and staff.
Dr. Julia G. Raz is a faculty member in the Communication and Media Studies Department at Santa Monica College. She earned a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in communication from UC San Diego, and her area of expertise is women in gaming culture. Dr. Raz has been teaching in higher education for the past decade. In 2017, she created the Media 4: Introduction to Video Game Studies course for SMC.
Dee Foster, an alumna of Santa Monica College's Interaction Design program, is the founder of Wheeler Dempsey Studio and Meadow co-working space. Leveraging her degree, Foster has built a career around helping others. At Wheeler Dempsey, she offers research and design services to kickstart businesses and secure funding for startups. At Meadow, she has created a work space that cultivates community and creativity. Her central mission is to foster innovation and empower individuals, providing the essential tools and guidance to bring their ideas to fruition.
Dr. Lea Hald is a professor in the Psychology Department at SMC. She has a doctorate in Psychology with a focus in Cognitive Science, a master’s degree, and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Her undergraduate teaching experience includes courses in research methods, statistics, cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, and introduction to psychology. Her recent research focuses on applying embodied pedagogy to improve learning.
Alisa Olinova is a freelance creative consultant, art director, graphic designer, and illustrator— a professional creative person based in LA. She loves making things come alive through design. Formerly very nice, she has held every role from Design Intern to Design Director; working with 100+ organizations, many of them nonprofits, as well as teaching and speaking about design and social impact.
Richard Schuler is a Los Angeles-based product designer focused primarily on architectural lighting. His experience also includes work in furniture and consumer products. He has also had his hand in several creative efforts, including collaborating as an illustrator on the internet’s first hypertext novel, Sunshine 69, and the comic novella Dead in Desemboque, as well as a drummer for the post-rock swamp-boogie band, King Kong. Richard holds a Masters of Industrial Design from Rhode Island School of Design.
Brooklyn Brown is a digital product design leader, currently working for GitHub on tools that help open source maintainers have conversations with their developer communities. She holds a BFA in graphic design from Otis College of Art and Design and began her career at a small design studio working on brand identity and print publication projects. She transitioned to product design after finishing her MFA at ArtCenter College of Design’s Media Design Practices program. She has worked for a variety of tech companies in the last several years, from design consultancies to startups to Microsoft and now GitHub.
Shannon Herbert is a writer and professor in the English Department at SMC. Her dissertation research at The University of Chicago examined the relationship between fiction and the late Twentieth-century fetish for technologically-enhanced objectivity. Both her research and teaching employ feminist and decolonial practices to center the experiences of historically marginalized communities and perspectives.
A Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary Creative Director & Designer with an award-winning track record of delivering creative strategies and executing design solutions with the most iconic brands in the world: Nike, Adidas, YouTube, Warner Bros., Ford, and more. David is currently the Director of Product Design at Red Bull, responsible for leading a global creative design and research team creating the next evolution of consumer-facing digital products.
Guild Copeland is the Co-Founder of Sisu, an award-winning digital design studio based in LA. Guild handles all business development efforts and also serves as the strategic lead for Sisu’s clients, including Disney, DC Comics, American Express, Western Union, and the Grammys. He began his career in Washington, D.C., navigating the high seas of politics after graduating from Yale.
Santa Monica College alumna, Jill DaSilva, is the CEO and Founder of the UX Design agency, Digital Karma. Jill began programming when she was 8 years old and has been designing digital experiences since the early 2000s. Beyond her consulting work, Jill teaches and speaks globally about User Experience Design, is a mentor for UX Designers, is an official Adobe XD Instructor.
Sam is a graphic designer and information architect with 18 years of direct hands-on experience in graphic and mobile/web design practice. Sam has an MFA in Graphic Design from OTIS College of Art and Design and a bachelor of science in Biomedical Engineering. Crossing over to Graphic Design with a Mathematics and Engineering background has given Sam the ability to look at communication challenges from a unique perspective. Sam views graphic design as a multidisciplinary practice between “Art” and “System Engineering” plus “Linguistics” with the goal to establish a clear and universally understandable dialogue.