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Art Center College of Design | Pasadena, California | Learn to Create. Influence Change.
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Oliver Lo

Graphic Design

3rd Term

What was your background prior to Art Center?
My undergraduate degree was in architecture, but my conviction to serve the inner city instead led me away from the creative field into education. I studied to become a bilingual teacher and taught in a public elementary school in Los Angeles for several years. I stumbled upon graphic design quite accidentally after I participated in Design-Based Learning, a professional development workshop that Art Center offers to K-12 educators. I enjoyed the experience so much, I began taking design classes at Art Center at Night for my own personal development. I often wish I had started in graphic design sooner in life, but looking back I would not trade my years of teaching for anything. I am glad to have made a positive impact in my students’ education. My training and experience as an educator have also equipped me to become a better designer and have proven to be great assets in both the academic and professional setting.

What's the most interesting aspect to your experience at Art Center outside the classroom?
Some of the most unexpected and incredible experiences I have had as an Art Center student are my internships at two reputable and renowned graphic design studios. I appreciate how much Art Center values internships as an important part of design training. The school provides such tremendous support and resources for helping find students find internships and prepares them well for what to expect. The training that I have received from my instructors—everything from “concepting” to presenting our work and making pitches—have equipped me to excel in the professional setting. When I was applying for internships, my instructors put me in touch with design firms where they had personal connections, provided me with strong recommendations and even graciously offered positions in their own studios. I was blown away by the network of Art Center faculty and alumni and the number of doors that were already opened to me as a student.

What advice would you give to prospective Art Center students?
Take advantage of internships. Don’t underestimate how much you’ll get out of it. Your time at Art Center will be intense and rigorous and at many points exhausting. Taking a break from school to do an internship allows you to physically and mentally recharge while giving you a chance to experience something new and restore those creative juices. As great as the instructors and courses are at Art Center, there are simply things you learn on the job you can’t learn at school. Internships are like training wheels. It’s a great way to experience what it’s like in a real professional setting while enjoying the safety of being able to make mistakes. When you return to school, not only will all the things you’ve learned on the job make your work stronger but you’ll also be aware of the areas you want to develop further. Finally, internships are a great way to network and get your foot in the door. A successful internship could lead to an offer for a full-time position at that firm. At the very least, you’ll have made great connections with other designers that will add to your network and come in handy when it’s time to apply for a job and get referrals.

Describe a memorable project, from conception to ideation to production.
"Spiff" is a project I completed for an introductory packaging course taught by Dan Hoy. For this project, I created an elevated brand and packaging system for traditional wet shaving products geared towards the everyday man.

The idea for "Spiff" came to me while I was conducting an in-store survey of men’s grooming products. As I observed the products of existing brands, I began to notice both the subtle and blatant cues found in the packaging of men's personal care products. Many of the products' packaging perpetuate a hyper-masculine ideal that portray men as athletic, highly sexualized, muscular adrenaline junkies. Further research led me to studies that have linked these harmful gender ideals to body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem, which can lead to negative consequences such as eating disorders and the use of growth and performance enhancing drugs.

I also chose traditional wet shaving products over disposables because my research showed that it was more cost-effective over time and less harmful to the environment. A big hurdle, however, is that a majority of men lack familiarity with how to use traditional wet shaving products and feel uncomfortable about using an open razor. Many have the perception that it is inconvenient and a ritual reserved only for the “old-school” or “image-conscious” types.

The challenge then was, first—to create a brand that would demystify and repopularize traditional wet shaving to a contemporary male audience, and secondly—to create a brand that would reflect authentic masculinity and embrace a wide community of everyday men from all walks of life.

During the ideation phase, I sketched out several possible names and logos and landed on “Spiff” because it felt like the right personality for the brand. I enjoyed the meticulous work of hand drawing and refining the logotype until it was just right. The final logotype was completed digitally. I took inspiration for the typography and color from a lot of vintage typography, posters and packaging. The 1950s-inspired look gives the brand a fresh yet classic personality that gives a nod to the rich heritage of traditional wet shaving.

After sketching out ideas for the packaging, I decided that I would create a packaging system for individual shaving products—the razor, soap, brush and soap bowl—as well as a special kit that would include all the items. Building “comps” or physical mock ups became a crucial part of the process. Using materials such as wood, fabric, and cardboard to build models allowed me to visualize my ideas and make refinements in real three-dimensional space. For the final “comps” I built cartons out of printed output from an inkjet printer on paperboard, fabricated the kit by hand using the school shop and contracted a seamstress to sew the outer pouch.

The final design is a packaging system that utilizes different structures according to each product’s distinct shape and size. The folding carton packaging for the razor and brush features a unique opening ceremony that alludes to the ritual of shaving. The brand logo informs the shape of the die-cut windows on the primary face of the packaging and becomes a unifying element across the different packaging structures.

For the kit, I wanted to design a container that would extend the packaging’s life beyond the store shelf. I came up with the idea of a box that also doubles as a storage and drying rack for the shaving products. A cloth drawstring pouch not only serves as the outer packaging at the point of sale but also holds the individual shaving products for compact travel on-the-go.

The final design solution stands apart from the competition because it is beautiful, simple and smart. One of the reasons I believe this project turned out to be so successful was because of the exceptional creative collaboration that happened in the classroom. During every step of the design process, my instructor Dan and my fellow colleagues continually offered honest and constructive feedback. They helped brainstorm ideas and point out strengths and weaknesses in my work. I felt that everyone was invested in seeing my project succeed.

How did receiving scholarship support impact your educational experience at Art Center?
Receiving scholarship support has had a tremendous impact on my educational experience at Art Center. Even with the generous help I received from my entrance scholarship, I have had to pay most of my way through school. At the end of my third term, I found myself at a place where I could no longer afford to continue my education. I took a leave of absence to find an internship but with little hope that I would be able to save up enough to return to school and complete my degree.

I came to Art Center because I believed that the school's academic rigor would help me reach my fullest potential as a designer. It was very disheartening to have come so far in my training and not have the ability to go further.

During my leave of absence, I entered my portfolio for scholarship review and received additional support through a donor-funded scholarship at Art Center. This scholarship has enabled me to reenroll in classes next term.

By the way, both internships have turned out to be amazing experiences. It not only confirmed my zeal for design but has also helped me identify specific areas I would like to develop further if I am able to return to Art Center. Now with this scholarship, I can!

   
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