Well Done, Grasshopper: ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena
“Before art school I was doodling in the margins of my notebook,” Nancy Nguyen told us. “My English teacher saw them and suggested a career in design.” In a maybe familiar scenario, and bolstered by that encouragement, Nguyen chose art school and a satisfying profession. Currently looking to enhance her skills as a product designer at Google, she started looking for an Industrial Design graduate program, and states the facts, “ArtCenter’s history and reputation attracted me, it speaks for itself.”
Former Juxtapoz cover artists Mark Ryden, Jeff Soto and Tara McPherson must have felt the same way about the school, not to mention Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary and a roster of transportation designers, as well as product designers, like Kenji Ekuan who fashioned the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle—and guest photography instructor Ansel Adams! Respected for its dedicated engagement with humanitarian issues, Pasadena’s ArtCenter became the first design college to receive NGO status by the United Nations. Recognized as one of the best college values, the school has made affordability a key goal of its mission statement, which continually stresses access and inclusion. Understanding the need for flexibility and the need for more remote learning opportunities, ArtCenter is developing more non-degree and on-line programs.
Which brings us back to Nancy Nguyen, who wanted to learn the modeling programs Rhino 3D and Grasshopper, those tractable tools for greasing the wheels in architecture, entertainment, product design and engineering projects. “ArtCenter Extension is great for anyone working a 9 to 5 job, as classes are typically scheduled later in the evening,” she notes, with the added incentive of taking the course from Professor Yelen Aye, known to be “really knowledgeable and “passionate about art and design.” As she waded into the weeds with Grasshopper, Nancy specifically wanted to learn how to create the intricate lattices and structures not afforded by other modeling programs. As it turns out, the assignment for this project directed students to find an object and utilize a voronoi (related to points on a plane—math!) and as it turns out, She had an idea, “I thought a shoe wedge would be cool. There’s a concept called biomimicry, where we take inspiration from nature. I was thinking about honeycomb structures and how they are full of voids but still structurally sturdy.” Nancy also spoke about the the enthusiasm and participation of students and instructors from so many backgrounds, and sounds like the shoe definitely fits, “I’m curious about the intersection of additive manufacturing and fashion, thanks to this class; but at the end of the day, I just want to make stuff and get to do something fun and creative.” —Gwynned Vitello
ArtCenter College of Design maintains two campuses in Pasadena. Visit for a full list of programs and departments at artcenter.edu.