Interview with 2 x 4

2×4 is a global design consultancy headquartered in New York City, founded in 1994 by Michael Rock, Susan Sellers and Georgianna Stout. We have satellite studios in San Francisco, Beijing and Madrid. The focus of our work is brand strategy for cultural and commercial clients who value the power of design. Our intellectual and creative conviction is that thoughtful design can make an essential contribution to every level of cultural discourse.   – 2 x 4

 

1. What sets your company apart from competitors?

There are many studios that have a similar focus to ours, but I think we have developed a really thoughtful approach to design. Working closely with our clients, we identify and help clarify ideas and values to develop content that can be expressed visually. We create meaningful experiences that merge content with brand, space and technology. I think part of our uniqueness as a studio is our ability to really seamlessly integrate all of these different mediums and executions into a single powerful experience. 

 
2. What are your biggest challenges as a company?
I think our challenges have always been around how to stay current and grow with the work. A lot of that comes down to people, technology and space. We’re constantly innovating the work, and to do that, our staff is always changing and growing. We have teams in the studio that focus on brand, architecture and digital design. We have strategists in the studio, and we have freelance animators, programers, and interns. We’re constantly shifting people and space to make it all work. The challenge is always to maintain our focus and goals when everything is constantly moving around us. 
 
3. Please give the most important lesson you’ve learned in the workplace.
I think I’ve learned to be supremely comfortable with change. In design, especially in the digital and experiential space, things change constantly so that it’s important to always be agile and ready to look at things in new ways. We’ve been working together for 20+ years, and I don’t think any year at 2×4 has been the same as another. That’s one of the most interesting parts of the studio. It keep us engaged and excited about the work.
 
4. As projects develop, do certain aspects of the process take priority or is the process perceived as an equally important whole?
We consider our projects as a whole and work as diligently on each part. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of shifts in the process, but no one part of the project takes priority over another. Our strategy and thinking is just as important as the final execution.
 
5. Should students be augmenting what they learn in college?
Personally, I think students should engage in as much as they can in college. It’s the best time to experiment, try as many new things as possible, take classes outside of your comfort zone, fail at things. I worry that programs today get too focussed on the reality of what happens after college. There’s plenty of time to do that after you get out of school and get a job. I graduated from RISD in 1989. The year that I arrived in New York, studios started using computers to design. I had no experience or exposure to working that way and had to re-invent and teach myself a new way of working. But it was invaluable to have learned all of the different kinds of things I learned in school- from drawing, silkscreening/printmaking, photography–to letterpress, bookmaking, painting a perfect letter A in plaka–to critical and visual thinking. Everything adds to your experience later on in life, so dig in. 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Stuart Karten

[Industrial Design]

“To create products that are truly making a difference in peoples lives and providing better health outcomes is true psychic income!” – Stuart Karten

1. What work experience did you have as a student?                                    I did a Wintersession internship with RISD ID Alum George Horton at the Mann Horton Design Firm in New Jersey.  As a result of this they hired me upon graduation.

2. Describe your career path since graduating.                                                I left Mann Horton after only a few months and headed to the West Coast.  I landed a job at ID Consultancy in Beverly Hills, The Stansbury Company. From there I went to Mattel Toys, then to Baxter Medical designing disposable medical products.  In 1984 I started my own firm which celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year.

3. What was your most fulfilling work experience?                                   The last few years have been very fulfilling for multiple reasons. Having a staff of 30 talented Researchers, Designers, and Engineers has been very stimulating.  The types of projects and scale of clients has also made this exciting times.  But the ability to take all our learnings in designing consumer products and now leverage into the Health/Medical world has been the most rewarding.  The convergence of the connected world and consumerization of healthcare has brought us many projects in the Digital Health space. To create products that are truly making a difference in peoples lives and providing better health outcomes is true psychic income!

CLICK TO VIEW WORK                                                                                        BY KARTEN DESIGN

Interview with Roz Chast

“I had three different majors at RISD: graphic design, for which I was completely unsuited; then illustration, which was ok but I got tired of it; and finally, painting.”     – Roz Chast

 
1. What work experience did you have as a student?

 

I had three different majors at RISD: graphic design, for which I was completely unsuited; then illustration, which was ok but I got tired of it; and finally, painting. I had been drawing cartoons since I was 12 or so, and when I was at RISD, I stopped. I felt like they weren’t real Art, and I felt kind of embarrassed by them. Teachers didn’t seem very interested in them.
Also, I had had an awful, but “character-building” experience: a group of boys started a cartoon magazine called “Fred.” I submitted some cartoons and they rejected them. This was extremely depressing to me. Not only were my teachers unimpressed, but my fellow students were unimpressed as well. In my senior year, I started doing cartoons again, but they were for myself. I didn’t show them around. Nevertheless, no regrets: I learned that I could survive rejection. Also, I haven’t heard of any of the Fred boys. If any of you are reading this, hi!

 

 

2. Describe your career path since graduating.

 

I graduated in May 1977 and moved back to NYC, which is where I’m from.  I took around an illustration portfolio to magazines because I didn’t think the cartoons would sell– they were too weird, too uncategorizable.  Sold a few illustrations, but not many. Finally I decided to try selling the cartoons.  By December, I was selling cartoons to The Village Voice and The National Lampoon. In April 1978, I sold a cartoon to The New Yorker and by the end of that year, they offered me a contract.  I have been with them ever since.  I still submit weekly batches.  I also do a lot of other things– books, and some design projects.  And some craftsy things that I get obsessed with, like Pysanky eggs and rug hooking.

 

3. What was your most fulfilling work experience?

 

Writing this book about my parents’ decline– Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?– was one of the most fulfilling.  But so many things have been great.  I’ve been extraordinarily lucky.  I’ve had a lot of great jobs and worked with so many wonderful, talented, smart, and inspiring people.  Knock on a squintillion pieces of wood!!!
(Here is a link to Roz’s website)  www.rozchast.com
CLICK TO VIEW WORK                                                                                       BY ROZ CHAST

Interview with Kristen Harada

“RISD secretly wants you to bend and, if needed, break the rules to get the experiences that you want. I really enjoyed learning the basic making skills as well as business and entrepreneurial philosophies.” – Kristen Harada

 

1. What was your major at RISD?

Industrial Design

2. How did you connect to the working world? (what have you done before and since graduation? Internships, jobs, networking, online resources?)

I’ve done internships almost every summer after each school year at RISD.  And all of them were in the NYC area.  I also used the RISD career services, including the Design Portfolio Reviews, to just talk to people already in the working world.  Networking through friends and their friends also helped connect with a barbershop that I currently design apparel for (http://www.rsbsx13.com/).

3. How well do you think RISD prepared you for the working world and do you have any suggested improvements for your former department at RISD?

RISD secretly wants you to bend and, if needed, break the rules to get the experiences that you want. I really enjoyed learning the basic making skills as well as business and entrepreneurial philosophies. This sort of integration was really helpful. There could definitely be more motivation to collaborate with other majors and other schools, but it has definitely grown.

4. What would you advise undergrads to do now to be best prepared later on?

Go to lectures hosted within AND outside your major! It’s an amazing resource (free!) that you won’t get after graduating. I wish I had gone to more, but the ones that I went to were eye-opening and really cool.

5. Is your current job what you imagined you would be doing?

I never really knew what I wanted to end up doing. And I still don’t know. I think, as long as I’m making things, I’ll be pretty happy. But I’m always looking forward to a new challenge.

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Interview with Karan Mudgal

“Ultimately this all led me to Philips Design Healthcare. I work as an Interaction Designer on interfaces for patient monitoring software and various other healthcare applications.” – Karan Mudgal 

 

1. What was your major at RISD?

Short answer: Industrial Design

Long answer: I transferred to RISD into Architecture, switched to a double major with Industrial Design and Printmaking briefly and then ultimately graduated with a BFA just in Industrial Design.

2. How did you connect to the working world? (what have you done before and since graduation? Internships, jobs, networking, online resources?)

In my last semester of RISD (I completed my course load in December 2012) I took a studio with Professor Andy Law. The class was essentially concerned with service design but it gave me my first taste of UI / UX. I wasn’t very adept at any 3D modeling software so I decided to quickly create a few UI projects for my portfolio and hoped that I could find some work in that field. Thanks to a reference by a friend I was able to find work at a company in Boston just a week after I finished RISD. Connections there led me to other small consulting gigs and overtime I was able to build up a real UI portfolio. Building up my LinkedIn profile helped to some degree in attracting headhunters but overall, as everyone knows at RISD, your portfolio should be your number one focus.  Ultimately this all led me to Philips Design Healthcare. I work as an Interaction Designer on interfaces for patient monitoring software and various other healthcare applications. 

http://venturebeat.com/2014/06/26/salesforce-com-and-philips-partner-in-ambitious-health-data-venture/ 

3. How well do you think RISD prepared you for the working world and do you have any suggested improvements for your former department at RISD?

Often times I wonder what it is exactly that I got from my RISD education. I don’t practice work with 3D forms nor do I use much of the software at work that I worked with during school.  I think RISD prepared me for the worst though- no workplace after RISD has been even a tenth as trying or stressful. The long nights in studio, the amount of thought that went into projects, all of these things and more have contributed to making my work that much simpler. 

The critical thinking skills and the strong work ethic developed at RISD in addition to the expectation to learn quickly by doing, have made adapting to workplaces from startups to the corporate environment, fairly easy.

That said, I wish the Industrial Design department was more forward thinking. RISD does things in a very analog and old school way. It’s great to really understand the tried and true practices in the industry but it’s also really important to completely understand the new and transformed industry grads will enter into. More of an emphasis on technology and design could really round the department out. Many recent grads will end up in some off shoot of interaction design, whether they had intended to or not. It would be helpful for RISD to realize that and make sure students are prepared.

4. What would you advise undergrads to do now to be best prepared later on?

Take as many classes as you can in other departments. Have your focus but round yourself out and be the best all around designer you can be.

5. Is your current job what you imagined you would be doing?

In terms of making products that help people- yes. I definitely wanted to work in a sector of design that improves the quality of life for consumers.

5. Share any other part of your story.

I will be starting graduate school at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) in January of 2015. My ultimate goal is to work at a consultancy and do work in the developing world…maybe teach at a university at some point too…This is the first step to achieving those goals. 

http://www.ciid.dk

Also, on the side I’m doing design work for a startup (Averta Biomics) that makes anti-inflammatory medication. Currently we’re in a few pharmacies but we’ll be expanding pretty quickly.

https://www.facebook.com/GetSONA

http://www.avetabiomics.com

 

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Interview with Maeve Jopson

“At RISD, I felt like school was about learning how to break the rules, which inspires entrepreneurship, regardless of what you’re studying.” – Maeve Jopson

1. What was your major at RISD? 

Industrial Design

2. How did you connect to the working world? (what have you done since graduation? Internships, jobs, networking, online resources?)

 During my senior year at RISD, I did a collaborative degree project with Cynthia Poon (also ID ’13), which has developed into Increment, the company that we are building today. Increment creates playthings for children with disabilities that are appealing to all kids. Since graduation, we have been able to maintain relationships we built with schools like Meeting Street where we found our inspiration in the first place. We were also Maker Fellows at Providence’s business accelerator Betaspring this fall, where we were able to gain a lot of valuable insight into the startup world, and learn what it takes to get a business going.

In addition to Increment, we were lucky enough to find Eone Timepieces, who have a similar mission of inclusive design. We now work for them part-time. They have also provided incredible mentorship for us, and inspire us to keep our mission at the core of our company.

3. How well do you think RISD prepared you for the working world and do you have any suggested improvements for your former department at RISD?

At RISD, I felt like school was about learning how to break the rules, which inspires entrepreneurship, regardless of what you’re studying.                       ID = physical making skills + bending the rules + developing communication skills + learning how to research + user-centered thinking and doing.

It’s kind of incredible really.  

I was lucky enough to take a few classes about production and how to succeed in bringing a product to market. The most important thing I learned in those classes is that the learning never stops. A semester-long course barely skims the surface of such huge subjects. Fortunately, I had teachers who focused on learning by doing, and I’ve been able to keep that mentality.

There are definitely things that any department could do better, but I already see amazing developments in communication, collaboration, and entrepreneurship in the few months since I graduated. As long as RISD keeps encouraging curiosity and learning by making, it will continue to produce incredible graduates with incredible work.

4. What would you advise undergrads to do now to be best prepared later on?

COLLABORATE! Working with other people is amazing and incredibly important, but finding creative people with a RISD work ethic after school is tough.

Also, take advantage of the career center. Make friends with them. They are AMAZING.

5. Is the job you have now what you imagined you would be doing?

It took a while to realize what I did and didn’t want to do. I just knew that I wanted to be making a difference, and I’m happy to say that I’m doing much more than I’d imagined (and having a lot more fun).

6.  Share any other part of your story. (I don’t have to include this if you don’t know what to say)

Look out for our Kickstarter, coming Feb 2014!!

Check out our website! Join our mailing list!

http://incrementstudios.com/

Like us on Facebook!

https://www.facebook.com/incrementstudios

Follow our process blog!

http://incrementblog.tumblr.com/

Send any questions to hi@incrementstudios.com

Interview With Carrie Lee Schwartz

“In all areas of my studies, I was working with light…either in glass, or on the computer screen or with photography.”        -Carrie Lee Schwartz

1. What was your major at RISD? 

MFA GLASS

2. How did you connect to the working world? (what have you done since graduation? Internships, jobs, networking, online resources?)

After working in internships in NYC I  moved back to LA and reconnected to what inspires me most- Southeast Louisiana and its wild natural state.  I also realized that there was a tremendous need here- so I began teaching as well.  I started the first computing in the Arts class at the old NOCCA on Perrier street,  and participated in the planning of the new one.  http://carrieleeschwartz.com/cv.html  

I also created courses that lead to the creation of the Digital design degree at  Tulane University.   http://carrieleeschwartz.com/instruction.html

 

3. What would you advise undergrads to do now, to be best prepared later on?

There are so many amazing people at RISD.  Find them, ask them what they are doing and why and then LISTEN to them as well as observing what they do. 

Ask everyone  you can and then make your own path.  

4. How well do you think RISD prepared you for the working world and do you have any suggested improvements for your former department at RISD?

RISD Prepared me for being an artist  in many ways- Having the ability to work on the APPLE /IBM project and in the Market House & Mac Center at the time was phenomenal. Attending RISD & the Glass dept.  as well as the Graduate Program and the First Art  and Computing class taught at both RISD and BROWN gave me  the freedom to explore my soul purpose as a creative being. It gave me incredible freedom- but not without self discipline. RISD honed my analytical and critical thinking skills… To question what I  perceived as art or expression or being an artist.  It allowed me space and time  to reflect on the work,  and to go beyond what I thought was possible in many materials- especially digital media at the time- and to always look further once I thought the work was done.. as it never really is.. and to get used to that.  

To the glass dept- keep up the great work ! and maybe think about keeping bees on the roof of Metcalf, as you can have fresh beeswax  for glass working and help support the pollinators.. ; )

5. Is the job you have now what you imagined you would be doing?

In all areas of my studies, I was working with light- and how the materials interacted with light as form. So either in  glass, or on the computer screen or with photography-  I am still working with light and form. I am and always have been inspired by  Nature and especially the wild Louisiana Landscape- so living in Southeast Louisiana is not a surprise.

RISD alumni – stories of success

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