April 07, 2016

ArtCenter mourns the passing of Martin Smith, beloved faculty member and former chair of Product Design

A Message from Lorne M. Buchman, President, ArtCenter College of Design

It is with deep sadness that I write to tell you of the passing of beloved faculty member and former chair of Product Design, Martin “Marty” Smith. An industrial designer and educator with over 35 years of experience in product development, design education and design management, Marty was a pillar of this community and will be greatly missed.

Marty served as the first chair of Product Design at ArtCenter (when it first split from a larger Industrial Design program) from 1985 until 2008, and his skillful leadership helped build the nationally recognized department at the College today. In October 2008, he assumed a professorship of industrial design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where he served as “Professor Chair” of the program. In 2014, Marty returned to ArtCenter to teach product and transportation design, and all of us – especially his students – were delighted to have his great energy and talents with us again.

As chair of Product Design at ArtCenter, Marty also conceived and created a study abroad program with INSEAD, one of Europe’s leading business schools. The program continues today and offers a rich opportunity for our students to study business in an MBA curriculum at INSEAD’s locations in Singapore and Fontainebleau, France.

In his professional life, Marty worked for many years at Designworks USA, where he managed several major automotive design projects for Volvo, Mazda, General Motors, Chrysler and Subaru. As a consultant, he designed products for Avery-Dennison, Reebok, Salomon, Olympus Image Systems, Playtex and Coca-Cola. He held numerous U.S. and international patents for his designs and inventions. He licensed a half a dozen products to major companies for manufacturing and distribution.

Our hearts go out to Marty’s family – his wife Babette, and his sons Matt and Noah. We extend our deepest sympathies as well to Marty’s brothers and extended family. He was a kind and generous man, a passionate and dedicated teacher, a first-rate designer, a supportive and loyal colleague and a great friend to us all.

We will be holding a memorial service at ArtCenter early in the summer term. We will keep you up-to-date on the details as they become clear.

Students who need help processing the loss of their friend and mentor are encouraged to utilize counseling services provided by the Center for the Student Experience. Faculty and staff can take advantage of the employee assistance program, with information available from Human Resources.

This wonderful man touched countless lives, and his influence ran deep. His passing is a tragic loss for our community.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to fund a scholarship in his memory.


Friends and colleagues, Karen Hofmann, chair of Product Design at ArtCenter, with Marty Smith, beloved faculty member, celebrate the 10-year partnership of ArtCenter and INSEAD in February 2015.