Orrin Shively: I grew up in Europe and Marina grew up in Asia. Our union truly was the East meeting the West out in California.
Marina Chang: Before I ended up at ArtCenter, I was at UCLA for four years, where I majored in industrial design. My last year there, a friend gave me a catalogue that mentioned an art and design school in Pasadena. She told me I should check it out.
O: I spent a year of high school in the United States – during which I was required to work a real, grown-up job during the holiday season. My advisor put me in a studio. As it happened, my boss was a former industrial designer. I was compelled by the process of design but had zero idea of how I would incorporate this new discipline into the fabric of my everyday life.
M: I submitted my portfolio, got a scholarship to ArtCenter and was accepted. There was certainly nothing sexy or unusual about it.
O: When back at art school in England, a teacher dropped some catalogues on our desks. They were advertising various art and design academies across America. I was particularly drawn to an orange catalogue whose header advertised a place called ArtCenter College of Design. I began to investigate the ins and outs of industrial and transportation design. Later that day, I jumped on the phone with my dad and told him I had found a school that was the perfect fit. To say that he was skeptical would be an understatement.
M: Community has been a huge constant for Orrin and me. We couldn’t have made it through the College if we weren’t all doing it together. When I think of ArtCenter, I think of a dozen friends slaving away on final projects in the same house. It was monastic in the sense that we were a part of this holy thing, but it never felt solitary.
O: I flew out to California with my portfolio literally under my arm. Three weeks after my initial ArtCenter interview, I received a disturbing letter telling me that although the school wanted to accept me, they wouldn’t be able to since my academic record at the time was fairly abysmal. They proceeded to tell me that if I took courses at an accredited American university for a year, I could at least apply to ArtCenter.
M: All of our friends have some connection to the school. It informs so much of who we are and what we do. Even now, we still get excited about “the work,” and we still actively seek out critique from each other.
O: California has been a great home to us both. Everything is so beautiful and comfortable; it’s never a struggle to think outside of the box in such an open environment. Innovation happens in California for a reason. It’s about embodying the freedom this place represents.
M: Travel is essential if you want to continue learning about the world. I remember traveling to somewhere just north of China a few years ago and marveling at the sophisticated underground aqueducts and water systems that they had mastered. Even in Europe you see a different approach to design – a different method, a different creative language.
O: Due to our time at ArtCenter, Marina and I speak the same creative language. You could say it’s a kind of nucleus in our relationship. Whatever else we do, that experience will always be something we return to. We’re design partners that also share a life and business.
M: Not a day goes by where we don’t talk about design. It can be exhausting. Sometimes you need to remember to stop and smell the roses. It’s what keeps you inspired.
O: As I get older and people move on with their lives, one of the great joys is reliving old times with my ArtCenter friends. That’s what FullCircle has been all about for us. It’s about more than just staying in touch with friends – we’re staying in touch with the culture of creativity that fueled our relationship in its early days. In a sense, we’re both intertwining and reaffirming our romantic and professional pursuits.
M: Orrin and I are building a house right now. The process involves a lot of our skill set from design: researching, laying a foundation, assembling a team, putting in overtime hours, etc. Even when we are simply trying to make a home for ourselves, we are still immersed in a designer’s way of thinking.
BS 88 Environmental Design
Architectural and Interior Designer
BS 84 Transportation Design
Editorial note: Plenty of brilliant minds have honed their talent at ArtCenter, but how many people can say they met their life partners at the College? In this week’s Storyboard, we talk to two distinguished alumni whose creative journey started in sync with their romantic one.
Did you meet your partner at ArtCenter? Drop us a line if you’d like to share your story…