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Opening career pathways for talented urban youth

Youth Designers in College:            Shirley Fang at Wesleyan!

January 08 2015


After three years of high school summers spent with Youth Design, it is time for me to start another chapter of learning in another setting. For me, it's at Wesleyan University. College has been a peculiar place where I'm trying to find my academic and social niche. I had a lot of enjoyable adventures, such as going to elective seminars about international politics and sexuality, exploring the quaint shops in Middletown, and drawing a life-sized nude self-portrait for my final. All of these activities opened hidden doors of knowledge and possibilities. Driven by curiosity, I had the courage to let myself explore a variety of topics that put me out of my comfort zone.

My exploration led me to continue my involvement in design and have the opportunity to lead a student forum on human-centered design thinking! Using many of the skills I have gained from Youth Design, I was able to tackle this new task with passion. I have been constantly researching creative exercises and reflecting on the structure of the curriculum. Design has such a great impact in my life that it will continue to be with me even after my precious time with Youth Design. Because of this, I know I will continue to seek opportunities to strengthen my design and critical thinking skills.

Besides design, I have also explored other subjects, such as learning hip-hop and taking Italian for the first time. In addition to trying new things, I continue to build on my art skills and knowledge by taking Drawing 1 and Renaissance Art History! All in all, I had a pretty solid first semester of college.

I am proud of the knowledge and lessons I have learned over the whole semester and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead!

Happy New Years, everyone!


Beyond text books – real lessons from college

December 05 2014

Take a moment and read this letter from Jeff Freedman from Small Army
Shortly after graduating from UNH in 1990, one of my favorite professors invited me to speak with two of her classes about my new career in advertising. I had just started working as a Media Buyer at Hill Holliday, and was excited to share my experiences (and, of course, brag about my cool new job – especially since an ex-girlfriend was in one of the classes).

The first class went great. I wowed the students with the millions of dollars of buying power I had, working with brands like Lotus, Wang and Hyatt Hotels; how I was being wined and dined by people from The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated; and how I was spending most evenings at Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox games with free tickets from my newfound media friends. (I, of course, neglected to mention my huge mid-teen salary).

After the first class, I had lunch with the professor, who further complemented me on my amazing position, and then we went to the next class for a repeat performance. At the end of the presentation, one of the students asked, “So, how much did UNH prepare you for what you are doing today”? I paused, smiled, looked over at my ex, and said something like, “Well, honestly, most of the things I do now, I learned on the job.” Since that day, I’ve not only regretted my response, but the way in which I approached the entire experience. It was not my best teaching moment.

So, a few weeks ago, when I had the opportunity to return to UNH and speak with the incoming Freshman class at UNH’s Paul School of Business, I presented a very different (and more meaningful message). The fact is that, without UNH, my advertising career would be very different (or, likely, non-existent) . College prepares us for the real world in many ways – but some of those are difficult to see at that time or, in my case, even for a few years after).

So, for those college students (or recent graduates) who are wondering how their days in college will help them in a career in advertising (or most any other industry), here are a few things to consider:

1. The toughest part about most careers (especially advertising) is getting in the door.
I was too busy playing in a rock band to take advantage of all the career services that UNH offered. So, by the time I got around to applying for internships, they were all taken. When I noticed that the rejection letter from Arnold Advertising was signed by my former Resident Assistant at UNH (Jon Castle), I picked up the phone and begged him for a job. He took care of me, and one week later, I was a media intern at Arnold Advertising. The toughest part of this business is getting into it. UNH (and Jon) took care of that one for me.

2. An internship IS school.
I’ll save the debate about paid vs. unpaid internships for another day (although, for the record, mine was unpaid). But, many of the “media-specific” skills I used at Hill Holliday came from my internship at Arnold – which was a credit-earning class from UNH (not a paying job). If you haven’t done so already, visit your school’s career services office and see how they can help you. Don’t choose it for the money, choose it for the experience. (Of course, everyone’s financial circumstances differ but at this stage, greater learning is more valuable than greater salary.)

3. What is in text books is only part of the lesson.
It is true that most of the day-to-day tasks I was performing in my new job were leaned “on the job” as opposed to from text books. However, without exception, every task was dependent upon my ability to work with other people. To collaborate, negotiate, share ideas, listen, learn from one another, navigate problems, etc. At the time I didn’t even realize it, but those are some of the most critical skills I learned in college (and some of the most valuable skills I use today). Every moment in college is a learning experience. Always remember that – and make the most of each one.

4. Every day is an opportunity to build lifelong relationships.
Success in any business depends upon relationships. And shared college experiences can be a great connection to build those relationships. The advertising industry in Boston (and beyond) is full of great people from UNH. People like Jane Deery (PGR Media), Lynne Montesanto (Dow Jones), Peter Ockerbloom (Penn Foster) and Mike Densmore (Bartle Bogle Hegarty). I’m proud to be associated with all of these industry rock stars – and each has been an important part of my career. Your college network can be among the most important network you will ever be a part of.

So, take a moment to thank your alma mater for all it’s done for you. It likely has much more to do with your success than you may give it credit. I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to re-visit my alma mater, and look forward to many more great conversations at UNH.

Go Wildcats!
Jeff Freedman

Fashion Design Workshop teaches students to find creative inspiration in “anything and everything”

December 03 2014

As part of Youth Design Academy, our fist-year Youth Designers enjoyed a terrific workshop led by MassArt Fashion Design student Christian Restrepo, whose extraordinary, award-winning clothing designs have been showcased at the ICA, in Boston Magazine, and many other venues and publications.
The workshop took place in MassArt’s Fashion Lab and began with Christian showing his designs and talking about what inspires him. “The designs Christian showed us were very interesting and different. I learned that you can be inspired by anything and everything,” said Youth Designer Tara Rahman, a junior at Boston International School. Students were wowed by the theatricality of Christian’s work and by the resourceful, often painstaking methods he employs to construct his designs into real clothing to be modeled and photographed.
Christian’s presentation challenged the students to think about fashion in a new way—as visual story-telling and “wearable art” that needs to be bold, daring, dramatic, and original in order to get attention and compete in today’s crowded high-fashion market. Jessica Villar, a Youth Designer from Brighton High School, echoed Tara’s sentiment. “I learned that anything can be a great idea,” she said, “like when Christian used the bottom of a frying pan in his dress design!” Yes, Christian did, in fact, incorporate an image of a frying pan into the design of a gorgeous gown; after he cooked his breakfast one morning, he was struck by the interesting combination of colors and textures left in the frying pan, so he photographed it, printed the photograph on fabric, and designed the rest of the dress to harmonize with it.

“What I really LOVED about the workshop is that we got to do our own designs. It was really cool and GREAT!” said Janet Diaz, another Youth Designer from Brighton High.
The students were assigned to each design a “collection” of  three looks on a common theme, employing many typical steps in the design process—defining the brief, creating a mood board, sharing their ideas and sketches for feedback, exploring a range of tools and materials, and finally presenting their work in critique format for discussion. “The project we did was helpful because we got to learn about the process and the work it takes to just make one design,” said Tara.

Although time was short, the students took up the challenge to mine their own interests and look towards what is important to them outside the world of fashion as inspiration for their clothing designs. Janet, for example, made great use of various materials available in the MassArt fashion lab, cutting up fabric swatches and collaging from old magazines, to explore and communicate her vision of clothing inspired by the colors and textures of the beach in her native Puerto Rico. “I’m very proud of my design, “ said Janet, “and Christian was an awesome teacher! I would really love to work with him again!”
“The Fashion Design workshop was a great way to engage our students to think more about what what they see—not just the ‘how’ but the ‘why’ of fashion design,” says Alisa Aronson, Youth Design Education Specialist. “Moving from uncritically following trends to thinking more deeply about their individuality and how they can express their uniqueness by being resourceful, imaginative, and using the design process to create their own looks is empowering.”
The chance to learn more about the world of fashion is of strong interest to many of today’s teens. Youth Design provides a variety of opportunities for students to explore fashion design process, learn about careers in the field, and express themselves through this medium while building a range of transferrable skills.
Youth Design thanks Christian Restrepo for inspiring the students with his fashion designs and his teaching, and also MassArt Fashion Design faculty Sondra Grace and Meg Young for working with Alisa to plan and coordinate the workshop.

YD + TROY Boston: Playing a Role in the Topping Off!

December 03 2014

Being a part of the Youth Design/Troy Team was a great opportunity. I have never painted a beam (actually ever) that would be a part of a new development and actually see it get placed into the building! I felt like an iron worker, with my hard hat on and my brush in my hand. I had a creative experience with my YD designers and mentors getting to express my take on “movement in my city” Boston. I created a visual using the (MBTA) logo.
I think I can safely say that we all had a great time and felt productive that day, being able to be included at a top-off ceremony. Period. Although I am from Dorchester, I can’t wait to see when TROY Boston opens.

Elizabeth Resnick Engages Youth Designers around The Power of the Word!

December 03 2014

Professor Elizabeth Resnick of Graphic Design at MassART honors us that she continues to participate and lead these incredible workshops each summer for our Youth Designers. She has been a wonderful advocate for Youth Design since its founding and volunteer Educator to our Youth Designers for the past 10 years. We thank her for her time and dedication. Her Thursday workshop this year was entitled, Three Expressive Modes of Visual Language: The practice, the poetic, the persuasive, challenging the Youth Designers to create three small posters analyzing the differences in a word when it’s combined with three different images of their choice to express these three modes:

> Practical - used to communicate information with a single meaning, characteristic of clarity for direct information
> Poetic – used to communicate with experience through the senses (metaphor)
> Persuasive – used to communicate to send a bigger message that argues from a single point of view
Each individual work was the basis for each poster. To headline the project each group of 3-5 students was given a word: culture diversity, consume, or community. Contributing to this year’s workshop was Dan Vlahos. What makes these workshops so unique is that professional designers participate in the education, training and design mentorship throughout the program with our Youth Designers.

After Professor Resnick’s lesson, the students broke off into groups and began to brainstorm the images they would use to convey their word. Upon the completion of the brainstorm, students shifted their workspace downstairs to the computer lab. Working together the students produced their posters.

Professor Resnick served on the Board of Directors of the AIGA Boston chapter (1989–2007) where she has organized numerous graphic design lectures and events. She is currently a member of the AIGA Boston Advisory Board, 2008-present.
Curated Exhibitions Russell Mills: Within/Without (1991) with Teresa Flavin; Dutch Graphic Design: 1918-1945 (1994) with Alston W. Purvis; Makoto Saito: Art of the Poster (1999) with Jan Kubasiewicz; The Graphic Imperative: International Posters for Peace, Social Justice and The Environment 1965–2005 (2005) with Chaz Maviyane-Davies and Frank Baseman, and Graphic Intervention:25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985-2010 (2010) with Javier Cortés.
Publications Design for Communication: Conceptual Graphic Design Basics for John Wiley & Sons Publishers (2003) and Graphic Design: A Problem-Solving Approach to Visual Communication for Prentice-Hall Publications (1984). Elizabeth also writes short critical commentaries and event reviews, and has published interviews with prominent designers and design educators in the following design magazines: EYE (England), AIGA Journal of Graphic Design (USA), Graphics International (England), tipoGrafica (Argentina) and IDEA (Japan).
Awards Type Directors’ Club, Print Magazine Annual, AIGA Fellows Award, AIGA Boston 2007

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