Art Center College of Design recently bid farewell to the very first graduating classes of its two newest programs; Graduate Transportation Design and Graduate Environmental Design. Like their 192 fellow spring graduates, these design students learned to solve problems “from the inside out,” crafting beautiful and meaningful projects that address specific needs. Much of the resulting student work has proven not only comprehensive and socially responsible but also highly marketable. At the spring graduation show two weeks ago, covered by the LA Times, recruiters from vaguely familiar-sounding places like Disney and Google surveyed the senior projects of highly capable and exhausted students.
The new graduate programs take the school’s holistic design philosophy even further. David Day Lee wasn’t content with ‘just’ designing the cutting-edge consumer vehicles for which Art Center alumni are famous; he considers himself an “experience designer.” For his thesis project, he conceived of CUVE, a “mobility platform” that combines advantages of public and private transportation and social media to create a whole new traveling experience. CUVE responds to changing needs–carrying Art Center students between campuses on “flex routes” with adjustable paths and stops–and encourages social engagement during travel. Of course, the idea is also scalable and monetizable. Designed to bridge Art Center’s Hillside campus and its recently expanded South Campus in Pasadena’s “Innovation Corridor,” the system could eventually transport and engage a wider (and more revenue-generating) community. With its new graduate programs, Art Center proves once again how design can move things forward.