My Senior year of high school ended with me accepting a full tuition scholarship in Industrial Design but it certainly didn’t start off with that direction in mind. In fact it would be hard to find any direction giving my elective courses. My day started with an “independent study” art course - a little know option offered by our school that was basically like a self-directed study hall for artists. I was one of 2 students in that class. Art 4, Biology 2, English and Mechanical Drawing 4 filled the rest of my day. The later of those courses at that point in time was called Creative Design Studio (CDS) and was my first foray into Industrial Design. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do after high school - Marine Biology sounded promising. My guidance counselor sternly advised against my passion for illustrating coming books. It was a bit of serendipity that my instructor in CDS knew about a certain scholarship and started pushing me towards pursuing it.
Prior to that senior year I never felt like art class and drafting could be related to each other. Like most classes they felt like silos, there was no tangible connection from one to another. That all started to change as I started to learn how to render. I was able to apply things I’d learned in art and photography to product illustrations that made them stand out, these product designs weren’t setting the world on fire by any means. Some of them were just plain bad, but I always gave the presentation my all. It got attention and after winning a few awards in high school competitions I started working on my portfolio submission to the Art Institute of Philadelphia. This effort united all my silos; using my independent study with the Art 3 instructor to document my drawings from CDS and sculptures from Art 4; enlisting my english instructor to help proof my “resume.” I packaged everything up and sent it off and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the 35mm slides for the projects I submitted were the only copies of those projects. What I do still own is some of the ones that didn’t make the cut:
I do remember a few of the projects not featured above that I did submit for the Art Institute of Philadelphia’s high school portfolio competition. There were some interesting sculptures made of phone books, and a pirate ship themed crib that I spent hours rendering. I got a call in April, the letter below, and it made the school morning announcements. It was celebrated news in all the silos. In Art 4: John was going to Art School. In Creative Design Studio: John was now the 2nd consecutive student to use their work from that class as a platform for this particular school's scholarship! In Biology I think there was a disappointment that John was pursuing Art and not academics but I think that the idea that “John could be designing non-traditional educational environments someday” was not on the radar of anyone in any of those silos. Certainly not mine, I left for art school with no clue what I was going to do when I got out.
In my time at AIPH I relearned a few things I already knew, took courses in product design, furniture design, packaging design, transportation design, sculpture / prosthetic design, and exhibition design. I found the most satisfaction in exhibit design and product design, these also happened to be areas of study with particularly easy connections to internships given the school’s faculty connections. I took an internship in product design that eventually led to my first professional design job. I wanted to take a second paid internship at an exhibit design firm the next semester but was offered a senior intern position at the company I was with that was slightly more money then the exhibit design internship. At this point I was fairly certain I wanted to do more environmental design but I had some interesting projects going on at the product design internship and I was beginning to focus on developing my portfolio. I do still have several original pages from that portfolio. If nothing else these were incredibly resourceful layouts using multiple layers of papers because I couldn’t afford more then a few large format prints.
I received a lot of accolades at AIPH, but my proudest and most sought after was the prestigious best portfolio award.
I graduated with honors and the best portfolio award in 1998 with a part-time job offer with the company I’d been interning with. I already had one project close to being complete which is the feature of the next blog post. I’d started to dapple in graphic design and website design while at my internship to keep me busy but I can honestly say I definitely regretted never taking that exhibit design internship, I knew I didn’t want to be design flashlights and portable comodes (I really did work on those…) I went on numerous interviews and received a lot of good feedback about lack of exhibits in my portfolio so I started sketching ideas for the one aspect on exhibit design that really stood out for me in all my exhibit design classes, museum exhibit design. Despite never actually having a museum exhibit project assigned to us in school It was something I found intriguing the first time I’d heard it mentioned. At this time I also had a part-time job at a themed retail store and I started sketching ideas for an animation museum. I’m including these hear as the end to this post since it doesn’t make much sense anywhere else..