Art Center College of Design: Innovation Corridor
There are many true stories of how one man can change the course of the world, but how many people follow in their footsteps today? Edward A. “Tink” Adams must be some influential figure, for his legacy never seems to cease.
It is amazing what a man can accomplish for hundreds of young creative aspirants. Many would agree that Tink Adams embodies the soul of Art Center College of Design. Some might go as far as to hail him as the personification of art and design education.
Pompous it might be to say that the history of design begins with Art Center, but if education is the backbone of an industry, then Art Centre is the vanguard of shaping art and design.
A practical, industry-oriented education program that promises — and delivers — designers geared for the business world, it is this quality of professionalism that is the cornerstone of Art Center’s educational philosophy. The paradigm remains, and still addresses the needs of the real world, even after the passing of founder Tink Adams in 1981.
The extensive list of noteworthy individuals in Art Center’s alumni bears testimony. Many have gone on to become familiar faces at award ceremonies, while others are making their contributions through their positions at renowned corporations like Matt Rhoades, creative director for Team Sports Equipment and Fitness in Nike, and Michelle Chin (PHOT’98), art director for Technicolor Design Group. Before he was appointed Vice-President of Creative Services of MGM Consumer Products, Randy Nellie (ADVT ’92) was Creative Director at DreamWorks.
Yves Behar founded the award-winning industrial design and branding firm fuseproject. As the Chair of Industrial Design at California College of the Arts, he was featured in the July 7, 2007 edition of Newsweek in an article highlighting the five awards fuseproject received from IDSA, including gold awards for MINI-motion Strategy and the Toshiba Transformer Laptop.
Other decorated graduates include Sarah May Bates (ADVT ’03) who won both a gold and silver pencil at The One Show in New York and a Silver Lion at Cannes. She was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial and was awarded a Belding Bowl at the Advertising Club of Los Angeles’ Belding Award Show.
Dan Abrams (PROD ’00) and his team won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects on Spiderman 2.He also worked on The Aviator, Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, Spiderman
and is currently working on Superman Returns with fellow Art Center alumnus Mark Stetson (PROD ’78).
Besides public figures like Mike Shinoda (ILLU ’98) and Joe Hahn of Linkin Park in their illustrious alumni, Art Center had the honor of design greats who graced Art Center’s faculty with their presence, such as the world-famous photographer Ansel Adams, who began teaching at Art Center in 1942. Tink Adams’ educational strategy was to have “a faculty of professionals rather than a professional faculty”. Through such an import of relevant professional practice and professional standards of performance into the classroom, Adams fulfilled his vision of imparting students the value of professionalism.
Click on the thumbnails to view Edward A. “Tink” Adams, Ansel Adams and Don Kubly in detail.
THE ORANGE DOT
A dot may not amount much to many, but to the alumni and faculty of the Art Center, its significance outweighs its diminutive size. For the past 78 years, it spotted the school’s printed materials.
A filled-in orange circle is closely associated to Art Center. The Dot, as it is affectionately known, has gone through ups and downs in the school’s history to emerge a triumphant survivor to the acknowledgment as its official symbol of the renowned Art Center brand.
When the school opened in 1930, it was known as The Art Center School and designers were exploring primary shapes. That explains how an orange dot came to represent the school and its ideals.
While alumnus Robert Brown (ADVT ‘32) claimed that The Dot was his idea, Don Kubly, the school’s president from 1969 to 1985, believed that the school’s founder, Tink Adams, chose The Dot because it effortlessly added a splash of color to the school’s publications.
The color seemed to bring the school to life. The establishment, located in a courtyard of buildings in downtown Los Angeles, outlined its glass front door with a border of red-orange. In the front window, the name of the school carried a matching red-orange dot.
However, The Dot was not limited to this color. Nor was it the only shape the school used in their promotional materials.
Click on the thumbnails to view The Dot and its other reincarnations in detail.
The Dot went into semi-retirement in the 1940s. Either it was the changes in contemporary design, or the association with the Japanese flag, or the school wanted to present a new look with its new address when it moved to 3rd Street in Hancock Park, The Dot was no longer employed, in any color, towards the end of World War II.
The Dot was revived when Don Kubly (ADVT ‘49) returned to the school to serve as Director, and then later as its second president. As the school received its new name Art Center College of Design in 1965, it also received The Dot warmly.
There are two reasons why Kubly chose to use The Dot to build a cohesive design for the school’s publication. Firstly, it has an irrevocable link to the school’s earliest years and its unparalleled ability to represent a “center”. To strengthen its school ties, The Dot was limited to the color orange. Founder Tink Adams was very fond of the color and it was commemorative of the school’s original glass front door. The Dot became “The Orange Dot”, and became a graphic representation of Art Center.
However, its return did not last long. In the late 1980s, not long after David R. Brown became Art Center College of Design’s third president, he chose to overhaul the school’s graphic presentation. Alumnus Kit Hinrichs (ADVT ‘63) designed a new logotype omitting The Orange Dot. The new “dot-less” look was launched in 1987.
Hinrichs did not foresee the furore that was to follow.
An unofficial, but persistent movement staged by the alumni, students, and probably inclusive of faculty and staff, protested against their beloved Orange Dot’s demise, lobbying for its resurrection with a “Bring Back The Dot” campaign.
Click on the thumbnails to view the new “dot-less” look and the “Bring Back The Dot” campaign in detail.
It took three years before The Orange Dot officially reappeared at Art Center in 1990, incorporated into the school’s corporate identity. It was returned to its rightful position at last. The Art Center welcomed The Orange Dot back in style, celebrating its homecoming in many creative ways in the school publications, on new student T-shirts and on the school’s website.
Even as Art Center’s public image is undergoing a facelift (with award-winning artist and designer Takaaki Matsumoto (GRPK ’80) as one previous design consultant lending his services to helming the art direction for the visual identity project), one must concede that The Orange Dot is a truly survivor, and undoubtedly the true symbol of Art Center College of Design.
Click on the thumbnails to view the new identity in detail.
The Art Center’s 78-year path to become a leader in art and design education is intricately interwoven into design’s long arduous road to recognition and excellence.
In this long history, Art Center remains through true to its founder’s objective through adaptability. Anticipating changes and addressing challenges— in enrolment, in cultures, in technology and in job market — has led to the tight grip the college holds on its position at the cutting-edge of design leadership for the past 78 years. Crucial to this adaptability is an unwavering commitment to provide the essentials in physical space, resources and facilities, all must-haves to prepare each generation of designers and artists.
Needless to say, such foresight can only come from a visionary dedicated to the future of art and design education. Edward A. Tink Adams was an advertising man who established the first school that imparted real-world skills to artists and designers in order to prepare them for leadership roles in advertising, publishing and industrial design. Such a radical concept in 1930 yet, its viability was quickly proven — Art Center’s graduates achieved a 97% job-placement rate, even in the midst of the Great Depression.
News of Art Center’s capability to deliver spread, possibly through Art Center’s sponsorship of a traveling exhibition of students’ works installed at various high schools and junior colleges throughout California. By 1940, the campus on West 7th Street in Los Angeles could no longer afford accommodation. From 12 teachers and eight students, enrolment boomed, welcoming nearly 500 students from 37 states in America and other countries. Veterans who returned from the war pushed enrolment numbers even higher. Art Center had to move to a larger building on 3rd Street in Hancock Park in 1946. Overwhelming demand prompted a commitment to a year-round schedule. When Art Center became an accredited four-year college three years later, it offered its first Bachelor of Professional Arts degrees in Industrial Design, Photography, Illustration and Advertising.
Click on the thumbnails to view life on campus in detail.
In 1955, under a program sponsored by the Japanese government to expand foreign trade, Art Center welcomed its first students from Japan. A year later, Art Center went to Japan on the invitation of the Japanese government to visit manufacturers and report on Japan’s state of industrial design.
Art Center marked another milestone with its seminal role when, after launching a transportation design program in 1948, it built the first advanced-concept design studio for the automotive industry in the 1950s, leading to its strength in automotive design. Renault Design India’s Design Chief Ajay Jain (TRAN’95) graduated from Art Center’s Transportation Design while Chris Bangle (TRAN’00), the Chief of Design at BMW, is also a graduate.
In 1965, Don Kubly, an alumnus of Art Center, succeeded Tink Adams. Under his watch, the school made the move from LA to Pasadena. That year, The Art Center School changed its name to Art Center College of Design.
Although students took classes in what is considered Environmental Design as far back as the 1930s, the program was not formally established until 1969. Similarly, film was part of the curriculum for decades, long before a formal Film department was established in 1973.
After 30 years at its 3rd Street location, Art Center moved to its new Hillside campus in Pasadena in February 1976, ushering a new era of growth and expansion.
In the 1980s, it spearheaded the revolution in digital design by being the first design school to install computer labs. James Blinn, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, was one of the first computer graphics instructors at Art Center. Till this day, Art Center sets the pace with trans-disciplinary programs and studios that equip students in their quests to lead and innovate within, and outside, their chosen fields.
David R. Brown was appointed Art Center’s 3rd president in December 1985. During his 14-year tenure, Art Center opened Art Center’s Europe campus in Switzerland in 1987 with 39 students from 13 countries.
Before the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery was built in 1992, Art Center exhibited its art shows in one of the larger classroom studios. Trustee Alyce de Roulet Williamson funded the atrium’s conversion into a permanent gallery.
When Richard Koshalek assumed presidency in 1999, the former Director of The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles had drawn up a blueprint for Art Center’s future: A commitment to educational excellence, greater accessibility and cultural relevance.
Perhaps it was this vision that piloted Art Center’s feats in the new millennium.
In 2003, Art Center marked another first when it was granted Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status by the United Nations Department of Public Information. A year later, the high achieving institution held its inaugural Art Center Design Conference where for three days, it played host to an esteemed group of provocative deep-thinkers from the broadest reaches of design. Maybe it was a nod to Tink Adam — its theme “Stories from the Source” invited world-class designers to share their first-hand tales of their inspirations, process and ideas.
Art Center hosted its third biennial Design Conference in May this year, bringing together some of the greatest inventors, designers and architects, tech wizards, performers, and artists of our time.
Earlier this year, the College presented The Art Center Global Dialogues: Disruptive Thinking in Barcelona, the first in a series of on-stage conversations with internationally renowned thinkers in many fields whose “disruptive” ideas and actions challenge convention, break current paradigms, and inspire positive changes in the larger world.
In 2007, The Art Center Summit, a five-year series focused on sustainable mobility, was launched in support of Art Center’s long-term commitment to sustainability as a key part of their educational mission.
Throughout the years, Art Center has never stopped anticipating and responding to the many cultural and technological landmarks of the 20th century while persistently refining its educational arsenal to remain on the forefront of design education.
“The future may be unknowable, but it’s not unthinkable. We welcome you to explore it with us.”
President, Art Center College of Design
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