Storyboard: Preston Sánchez

Transcending Function

Some phone calls, you never forget. The phone call where I was told I had been accepted to ArtCenter to study Transportation Design was definitely one of those.

After spending the better part of a semester at California State University, Northridge, I had amassed a portfolio that was worthy of my dream school. ArtCenter orientation was a whirlwind. The caliber of the student work was lightyears beyond anything I was familiar with, yet I was not intimidated. On the contrary, I was thrilled at the opportunity to rise to this standard of excellence. I felt as though I were looking at the top of an enormous peak from far away, and wondering, “how do I get there?” After years of searching, I had finally found a home.

Acclimation began early in my first term, when my fellow Transportation students and I would hang in the student parking lot and geek out at length about cars. I experienced this intense sensation that told me I had found my people, my place, my purpose. That’s something we all want for ourselves when we’re young: to belong.

Eventually, I found my way into student government. For two years, I served as the College’s Transportation Design representative. After that, I pivoted into orientation, welcoming new students, showing them the proverbial ropes, and giving them tips and tricks on how to adapt to ArtCenter’s academic culture. In a way, I was trying to do what others had done for me. I wanted to show these kids, “you can do this, too.”

ArtCenter can be a solitary place. During COVID, classes were remote, and we were all trying to keep our heads on straight. We needed some channel of communication that wasn’t exclusively academic in nature. To keep things social, I hosted regular game nights and virtual hangs via Discord. Doing this, I met ArtCenter friends from all over the map.

I’m proud of the friendships I’ve fostered via these platforms. The best part of it all? Returning to campus life and seeing that people who had previously only been Internet friends were suddenly hanging out in person.

I grew up in San Marino with a dad who would regularly take me to the L.A. Auto Show and the San Marino Motor Classic. At a young age, my mind was blown by Aston Martins and Lamborghinis. It made me realize that auto design wasn’t a purely operational undertaking. It drew me toward the nucleus of SoCal car culture.

Cars, and Transportation Design, have always meant the world to me. Cars are this incredible marriage of form and function, stylish and beautiful, yes, but also the definition of practical. ArtCenter opened my eyes to the idea of conceptualizing a car’s physical dimensions. Suddenly, I didn’t feel restricted to a simple teardrop shape. A car could have sharp, defined edges and lines to it. A car could be art.

Of course, as a young man, I was interested in cars that went fast enough to break records: the Bugatti Chiron, the Nissan GTR, and the like. This passion has steered me toward many remarkable opportunities, like designing a livery vehicle for a formula drift car, the Nissan R34. That undertaking was the result of a friend reaching out and simply vouching for my ArtCenter-honed design skills.

Currently, my creative energy has been spent designing upcycled sweatshirts with a focus on sustainability and ethical manufacturing. A project like this hits close to home for me. Global warming is all too real, and our earth, our home, deserves better. Future generations, who will inherit the earth that we leave for them, also deserve better.

I would love to stay away from fossil fuel consumption altogether and go completely electric. Alas, I’m not sure the rest of the world is ready for that. Still, we can be mindful in other ways. For a car’s interior, designers can utilize materials that might otherwise be deemed waste. They can source parts locally. It’s all about creating a template that serves as a conservational design language.

Simply put, sustainability needs to be at the forefront of our making and manufacturing process. My hope is that we can be the spark that leads toward other, more influential companies taking the lead and adopting an eco-friendly stance.

Designing for purely aesthetic reasons is not only selfish, it is counterproductive. Design means looking out for each other. Design, as a practice, transcends function.

Preston Sánchez
BS 23 Transportation Design
ArtCenter Orientation Leader, 21-22
ACCD Student Government, Transportation Design Representative
Recipient of the Nissan Diversity Scholarship; William Clay Ford Scholarship; Ford Motor Company Community Grants Scholarship, Toyota Endowed Scholarship, Patricia Howell Memorial Endowed Scholarship; P.A. Blackwell Endowed Scholarship; Bruce and Raylene Meyer Endowed Scholarship and the Martha Marsh Chandler Memorial Endowed Scholarship

Designing for purely aesthetic reasons is not only selfish, it is counterproductive.

Preston SánchezBS 23 Transportation Design
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