A high-tech nail salon student project co-created by alums Kristina Ortega (MFA 15) and Jenny Rodenhouse (MFA 15) caught Intel's attention. Below: Intel recently announced partnerships with Fossil, New Balance and Tag Heuer.

design, people, student
Writer: Mike Winder
Kristina Ortega photographed by Savannah Mark
April 27, 2016

Kristina Ortega: Intel from the Inside

Intel made waves in the technology sector this week by announcing its new strategy to transform itself “from a PC company to a company that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices.”

One major component of Intel’s new strategy is to shift more of its focus to the Internet of Things, which it defined as “encompassing all smart devices—every device, sensor, console and other client device—that are connected to the cloud.”

One person at Intel already focusing on smart devices is Media Design Practices (MDP) alumna and wearables user experience designer Kristina Ortega (MFA 15).

“This sounds really cheesy, but I can’t believe the stuff they’re working on,” said Ortega recently of her colleagues in the new devices group at technology firm Intel. “Coming from MDP, we asked ourselves, ‘How will designers own the future?’ and now I’m actually working on these things? It almost seems impossible.”

What exactly are those “things” she’s working on? That will remain a mystery for now, but recently announced partnerships with Tag Heuer, Oakley, New Balance and Fossil may provide clues. Regardless, its probably safe to say that Ortega’s vision will inspire somebody, somewhere to create a future Best of CES award-winning, Intel-powered wearable experience.

And based on Ortega’s offbeat student work and her background in fashion design (prior to ArtCenter, she studied fashion design at Cal State L.A., interned at Rodarte and co-founded an experimental resin jewelry line), that experience could be anything.

She first came into contact with the tech firm through an Intel-sponsored, wearables-focused MDP course conceived by Wendy March, a user experience manager in Intel’s new devices group. In that course, Ortega and fellow MDP student Jenny Rodenhouse (MFA 15) created a high-tech nail salon in which sensor-laden nails provide users a variety of feedback options. That project captured the media’s attention, landing stories in Fast Company, Wired and The Daily Beast.

“That class was a great opportunity to showcase our thinking,” says Ortega. “I also had three critiques with Wendy [March] and that really helped form a relationship that wouldn’t have occurred through a formal interview process.”

Though she feels well prepared for her new challenge (“I’m still unpacking everything I absorbed at MDP”), Portland transplant Ortega knows she still has a lot to learn.

One example? “I went out the other day in full winter gear, but wearing flats,” laughs the L.A. native. “It didn’t even occur to me that you can’t wear canvas flats in the rain.”