On a recent gloomy afternoon Kiley Davis, a Laguna College of Art and Design graphic design senior, immersed herself in color by creating a “mood board,” an electronic sketchbook to design sports apparel, accessories and equipment.
Working on state-of-the-art computer equipment, she and her classmates are participating in the action sports design program, a new curriculum training students for jobs in the roughly 200 action-sports companies concentrated in Southern California.
Graphic design department chair and instructor Catharin Eure, along with the college’s president, Dennis Power, and its dean of visual communication, Jack Lew, initiated the program after noting that local manufacturers of sports wear, surfboards, skate decks and ski equipment are eager to hire imaginative and thoroughly trained designers as interns and staffers.
Davis, 22, spent two months as an intern for Flow, a maker of snowboarding equipment. “I do everything from designing logos to retouching photos and, since it’s a small company I get lots of mentoring,” said Davis, who along the way is learning to maneuver in a male-dominated work world. “I love action sports but I was kind of a girly girl before. Now I am learning how to think and act differently,” she said.
Travis Poe placed himself at the epicenter of action sport with his design of a sleekly futuristic motorcyle. With 50 to 60 hours invested already, the bike is Poe’s senior project and, he hopes, entrée into the automotive design industry.
What makes outfits like game maker Blizzard Entertainment, the Walt Disney Company, Nickelodeon, Dreamworks Animation, Surfer Magazine, Nike and Billabong turn to LCAD for animation, game art, illustration and graphic design grads?
Eure credits a teaching method akin to a palm tree: the trunk represents the credo that all students, regardless of major, are required to master fundamental basics of fine art, including drawing, painting, anatomy and perspective. As upperclassmen, they reach for the fronds, learning the fine points of their major and up-to-the-moment requirements of their elected professions.
Even before this specialized track within the graphic design major began in September, surf wear makers Hurley and Billabong and others were training LCAD interns and hiring graduates. “We emphasize all the skills that make people hirable in today’s market,” said Lew.
Shannon Garcia, 33, graduated LCAD in 1999 and after stints at Surfer Magazine, and Billabong found her niche as a graphic/fashion designer at Hurley. Over time, Garcia had noted the strength and weaknesses of students and grads in the “real world.” Over consultations with Eure, she discerned what was necessary. “I needed interns with applied training, capable of creating their own ‘moods’ for (clothing) lines,” said Garcia, who teaches LCAD classes and reviews portfolios.
Otis College of Art and Design and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising are just beginning to offer more market related curricula, according to Garcia, who says LCAD is already readying students for viable careers.
“I have mentored 10 interns who have found full-time employment in the industry,” said Garcia.
Among them is Danae Cendejas, a 2009 graduate with a degree in illustration. After an internship with Garcia in her senior year, Cendejas was later hired to design a girls’ clothing line for Hurley.
While the school could not provide figures by department, at least 29 of 40 students who graduated in 2009 are working in their field, according to a post-graduation employment survey, said LCAD’s career and job placement officer Robin Fuld.
“What could be a better mix than an art and design college in Laguna Beach that offers a special connection with some of those companies that started in southern California, but have now had an impact on youth culture around the world? A perfect fit, we think: and a great reason for the next generation of artists and designers to seek us out,” said the college’s president, an unceasing recruiter.