In this 14-week sponsored studio, Gravity Sketch (a 3D design platform) and automotive manufacturer Stellantis teamed up with ArtCenter students to create the next generation Jeep Wrangler for a new realm of electrification and autonomy in 2030. In an ArtCenter first, the project was documented in real-time across social media, as students were encouraged to post regular updates of their design process using #GravitySketchJeep. This offered the community real time access to the innovation and techniques used by the students to arrive at their final designs.
Interview with instructor Marek Djordjevic:
ArtCenter: Can you share more about what makes this course so unique?
Marek Djordjevic: In a course like this, we typically host one industry sponsor. But in this case, we have a partnership between Stellantis and Gravity Sketch. Gravity Sketch was keen to engage students with their new VR creative tool, and I happen to be one of the early pioneers in the use of that tool at ArtCenter — it was a natural fit.
Gravity Sketch wanted to frame the project so it was relevant to car design; and Stellantis chose the brand Jeep. Through this partnership, students were empowered to push Jeep, as a brand, forward into the future, with a focus on electrification and autonomous driving. Usually, these projects are conducted more confidentially, but in this case, the sponsors put much of the material on social media, so audiences could see the project progressing, in real time. It's been great exposure for students. Additionally, the founder of Gravity Sketch, Seyi Sosanya, and the Chief Design Officer of Stellantis, Ralph Gilles, both came into the classroom to attend our students' final presentations.
AC: How did the students adapt to using Gravity Sketch? How did using the platform help students break new ground creatively?
MD: Quite well. Other 3D modeling tools have steep learning curves. The great advantage with Gravity Sketch is the intuitive interface. Our students could generate work within the first week of first using it, which is incredible. Plus, Gravity Sketch brought two industry professionals into the classroom to offer training, tutorials and feedback.
We are blown away by the talent of ArtCenter students. We saw this larger-scale project and as a great opportunity to drive student creativity, learning and career opportunities.Becca MillerEducation Program Manager, Gravity Sketch
AC: The Sponsored Project was documented in real-time across social media: How was this experience for the students?
MD: Some students were more cautious about sharing work that was still in progress. Other students who felt confident saw more traction with that engagement. Gravity Sketch loved posting their work and tapped them for other opportunities, including an online seminar that one of our students participated in.
AC: What are your thoughts on VR for design in the automotive industry?
MD: Pretty revolutionizing. As far as the logistics of how projects happen, it opens up so many possibilities. For example, students had concept reviews in our classroom in California, with their instructor in Rome, and with sponsors in London and Detroit — all in the same virtual space interacting in real time. That alone is an amazing thing; it's incredibly adept at facilitating collaboration.
AC: How has the partnership between Gravity Sketch and Stellantis helped the students and the studio?
MD: Students benefit tremendously when they interact with professionals, which is one of ArtCenter's core strengths. It offers students the experiences and expectations that are very close to a professional studio. For example, students had a chance to work with one of the key Jeep designers. Thanks to the capabilities of the tool, students could reach out to him for guidance and spend time with him in VR getting his feedback in between classes. That's been one of the pioneering parts of this project.
AC: What were some of the most surprising ways students responded to assignments?
MD: Whenever we're trying something completely new, like using Gravity Sketch, there's an element of risk. I believe students perform best when they have an adequate challenge, and they've been pushed tremendously on this project. What's surprising is that all of them have been able to grasp the technology and use it productively — that alone is a strong result. One of the requirements for the final is to do an animation of their digital model in a narrative that highlights the key characteristics of their design. And students have been able to learn the tools and software they need to accomplish that.
It's so rewarding to help nurture the next generation of designers. When we give input, students take this feedback to the next level, which always excites us.Mark MoushegianDesign Manager, Stellantis