Storyboard: Mike & Hailey Warsaw

Drive and focus across generations

For this special Storyboard, we speak to designer, alum and trustee Mike Warsaw (BS 1990) and his daughter Hailey, a current student in her third term at ArtCenter.

Mike: Going through high school, I loved to draw and make things. I didn't really understand what industrial design was, so my counselors told me to go into engineering because I was always curious about how things worked. They were wrong...

I was already in my second year in engineering at the University of Maryland when my dad showed me a multi-page feature on ArtCenter in Smithsonian magazine. He said, “You’re always drawing cars. You’re always making things. You’re going to love this.” It was an aha moment – one that changed my life. I read it through a thousand times. I couldn’t leave it alone.

I convinced my parents to take a trip out to Los Angeles and set up an interview. I still remember the feeling of driving under the bridge, walking in, seeing the gallery of work and being completely intimidated. And then walking down a short hallway to the project room where everything smelled like clay. I saw all the students with their cars, and it felt like an unbelievable dream – wow, if I could do this it would be the most amazing thing in the world. I knew that’s where I had to be.

Hailey: As a kid, I was always into drawing. In elementary school, I was that kid who would always draw on my homework. Around middle school, I got focused on doing art. In high school, I started working on my school’s yearbook. That’s how I got interested in pursuing graphic design.

When I was looking into colleges, my dad never pushed me to go to ArtCenter. He never made a big thing of it. ArtCenter was always an option, but we looked at other schools together. He was always very open about it, which let me figure things out on my own.

M: Right out of high school, Hailey really knew what she wanted to do. She’s already eager to get out into the world. That’s an important characteristic for an ArtCenter student to have.

At ArtCenter, you don’t start with foundational classes like you do at a lot of other design and art colleges. You declare your major and go deep into it right away. That’s not for everybody, but it was for her. Of course I’m excited for her to select the same school that I did, but there’s no way I would’ve encouraged her if she didn’t have those particular characteristics and that kind of drive.

H: I’m only in my third term, but the classes have encouraged me to really view myself as a designer and not just a student – to take the work seriously. I’ve been able to identify myself as a designer more since I’ve been at ArtCenter. I have enough experience and confidence to see myself as more than a student.

Everything comes from the perspective of what you’ll actually be doing in the real world and in industry. I’m able to focus on projects that are true to the spirit of what I want to do after graduation.

M: Technology and tools change with the time, but the things that make ArtCenter great don’t change with time. The highest quality students. The highest quality faculty. The curriculum that requires total dedication and totally consumes you but is designed to make you better faster. It’s certainly what I see resonating with Hailey.

H: When my dad tells me about his experiences at ArtCenter, I definitely see myself in what he’s talking about. In some ways, not a lot has changed in the way that people experience the learning process, how dedicated and focused people become. He’d tell me about his roommate and staying up all night, buried in the work – little stories like that – I can relate to.

M: There’s a bond that forms among ArtCenter students that is akin to what I imagine some veterans must feel. You’ve been through something that comes with a tremendous amount of heartache and reward and frustration and exhilaration and individualism. It can be pretty harsh, and yet there is teamwork and relationships that bind everyone who’s been through the experience. If you think of all those contrasts toggling back and forth throughout your journey at ArtCenter, it feels like you’ve been through a lot. So when you meet someone and you’ve got that in common, you’ve got an instant bond.

H: It’s nice to be part of a group of people who share your focus and passion. When you see someone work really hard, it inspires you to do the same. Everyone works together beautifully. Everybody wants to grow and be better. ArtCenter tends to bring that out in people.

M: ArtCenter creates professionals who are here to solve real problems and change the world in tangible ways. Hailey’s our future. She’s serious about doing great work. She has a tremendous amount of empathy, and she wants to do good in our world. She really wants to be tangible and effective and work on solving real problems.

H: Since I’ve “found” myself as a designer, I think I’ve achieved a new level of relatability with my dad. We’ve always been really close, but he really helped me through the process of figuring out where I wanted to go to school. That made us closer, and now we’re having this shared experience of both being at ArtCenter.

M: I’m deeply connected to ArtCenter in lots of ways. I’m a trustee. I sponsor projects through my company, and I often hire graduating students. But to have this other connection through my own child is pretty profound. Thirty years ago, I drove cross-country with my dad to see ArtCenter. I did the same thing with my daughter. That’s pretty special.

It’s a tremendous feeling to have all of those elements. ArtCenter is part of my life, and I’m a part of ArtCenter.

Mike Warsaw
BS 1990 Transportation Design
Global Vice President of Design + Innovation at Haworth
ArtCenter Board Trustee

Hailey Warsaw
BFA Candidate December ‘21 Graphic Design

When my dad tells me about his experiences at ArtCenter, I definitely see myself in what he’s talking about. In some ways, not a lot has changed in the way that people experience the learning process, how dedicated and focused people become.

Hailey Warsaw
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