My decision to attend Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA) goes back to sketching cars in my notebook during my high school years. I have heard stories and read about the school in car magazine articles that featured notable alumni: Chip Foose, Michael Bay, J. Mays and Syd Mead. I had this idea that one must be able to sketch/illustrate like them to be able to work in the auto industry. I just didn’t know how to get to their skill level. I didn’t have a portfolio beyond several watercolor paintings. I attended a school in the Northeast that didn’t require a portfolio to enter the Industrial Design program. After graduating and attempted to look for work. No one was hiring during a recession. My desire to be a car designer was strong and made a decision to visit the school. An important phrase I learned early on is: “To be the best, gotta learn from the best.” One summer, I came for a tour of the campus to see if I am ready to commit the next several years of my life. I entered the building that overlooks the hillside of Pasadena, California and suddenly never felt so intimated by the works that were in the gallery. There were numerous illustrations, models, and drawings that blew my mind. All I can think was “Can I do this?” I wasn’t gonna let that stop me.
I was told to attend the Art Center at Night classes to rebuild my portfolio as part of my entrance application. As the end of class term approaching, I would build my physical portfolio since my work was on large format paper. I had to think about which of my sketches to present. We did the 1, 3, 2 approach (the best first, second best last then everything else in the middle.) With all the planning, I did have doubt whether my skills were good enough to impress the chairman of the Transportation Design department. After submitting my application along with my portfolio, my mind was racing in all directions in anticipation. I had to focus on distractions to keep my stress level in check. I kept checking my mailbox every day! Then that magical day arrive when I received my acceptance letter from Art Center. It came in a foil envelope that made it more special. I first had to call my family then my friends to spread the news! I was on a high for the rest of the day. Through night classes I was able to get a sense of what it took to get through my assignments.
I was warned about the long hours and humongous amount of work that is required. We called this the concept of “mileage.” By that, the school will work you into creating tons and tons of ideas as well as honing the skills through iterative practice. There is truth to a lot of outside perception of Art Center. We were focused with a go getter attitude to better handle the workload that require numerous all-nighters. It is that camaraderie among the students that motivate each other to be better than the day before.
Art Center maintains their strong reputation in the design industry. The school continues to graduate quality and respectable designers.
Author: Joshua Hoffeld