After two years of online hosting, Lightbox Expo returned to the Pasadena Convention Center this past weekend. For three days, the space was bustling with creatives and game design enthusiasts. Walking through the Expo, you could hear languages from all around the world. Everyone from media giants like Netflix and Disney to freelance artists like TB Choi and Max Ulichney were there. In total, more than 600 artists and participants, plus thousands of attendees were gathered for the event.
The Lightbox energy was back in spades. The crowds who, in the past, reveled at the opportunity to meet the designers behind their favorite shows and games, seemed especially enthusiastic to be back together in person. “Oh my God, it’s been years!" shouted one attendee who rushed to greet their friends for a group selfie.
Whether you love creating worlds, or simply being immersed in them, Lightbox Expo 2022 was the place to be. As one of the event’s sponsors, ArtCenter’s booth was nestled up next to Nickelodeon Animation, Sony Pictures and the Art Directors Guild.
ArtCenter carries an immense weight in this industry, with a legacy of alumni including legendary concept designers Syd Mead (BS 56), who worked on Blade Runner and Aliens, and Ralph McQuarrie (BFA 56), the concept artist for the original Star Wars trilogy. Alums currently creating in this space include Neville Agnew (BS 90), who has worked on Star Trek: Discovery and Avatar; Ryan Meinerding and Andy Park, who visualize the heroes, villains and worlds of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and Lizzie Nichols (BFA 10), who helped the Oscar-nominated The Mitchells vs. the Machines movie show that “it’s normal to be queer."
Similar to the experience of walking through ArtCenter’s campus, visitors to Lightbox saw artists and designers working on clay sculptures, creating live drawings, conducting augmented reality tutorials and offering 3D modeling demonstrations. Procreate’s booth at the center of the Expo Hall attracted designers young and old to try out the latest version of the digital studio software.
“I started out as an artist, then a junior artist, and made my way up the chain. I got into game design, then became a game director and founded three companies,” says Emmanuel Valdez (BS 92 Environmental Design), who attended Lightbox with his high school-aged daughter, who is currently considering applying to ArtCenter.
At the Expo, ArtCenter hosted a panel discussion titled “Careers in Entertainment Design After ArtCenter” and the seats were filled with high school students interested in hearing what several recent alums had to say. Featured in the discussion were Prog Wang (BS 16), who works at Respawn Entertainment and has a passion for designing giant robots; Qiu Fang, who works at Blizzard Entertainment and has hired many of his colleagues from ArtCenter; and Ainsley Dye (BS 19), a Pasadena native who has worked at DreamWorks Television Animation, Nickelodeon Animation and Disney Television Animation.
Also on the panel were Guillaume Aretos, the chair of ArtCenter’s Entertainment Design program and Tim Campos, the College’s associate vice president of recruitment and outreach, who helped explain what life is like during and after ArtCenter. When Campos asked if there were any prospective students in the room, several shy and excited individuals raised their hands. “I played League of Legends a lot as a kid and I researched the designers who created the game and many of the artists all went to ArtCenter,” said Fang, when asked why he chose to attend ArtCenter. “All my favorite games came from ArtCenter alum designers.”
Before Aretos became chair of Entertainment Design, he traveled from his home city of Paris to Los Angeles and worked for many years at DreamWorks on films like Antz and Shrek. While at DreamWorks, he quickly noticed how many of his colleagues were graduates from ArtCenter. “About 80% of DreamWorks' concept art department came from ArtCenter,” said Aretos.
During the panel discussion, the alums emphasized how their time at ArtCenter was pivotal in connecting them with entertainment designers working in the industry. They said ArtCenter was where they learned the discipline they needed to succeed in their jobs. And they agreed that the small class sizes and high standard of excellence contributed to where they are now.
“Work on something you really like and are passionate about when building your portfolio,” said Wang, offering advice to prospective students. “Try to specialize in a specific area versus generalizing in everything.”
To learn more about ArtCenter’s Entertainment Design program, click here.