So you want to be a designer… an illustrator… a jewelry maker… an animator… you want to be a buyer for SAKS, animate characters for Pixar or make jewelry for Tiffany & Co… but how does one begin? What is that first step on the road to forever? Enter SCAD.
I don’t have a lot of regrets; I find it a waste of energy to regret something, and yet… I regret I did not go to school at Savannah College of Art and Design. I have toured the campus twice, that’s how impressed I am with it. I’ve made friends throughout the years with SCAD graduates and know many colleagues who have SCAD alumni working with them. I hear their name in the creative industry more than any other!
Let’s talk about the campus – first off, there are SCAD campuses not only in Savannah, but in Atlanta, Lacoste, France, and Hong Kong (um, amazing). But the main campus in Savannah is so beautiful I just can’t help but admire it…nestled in historic downtown Savannah, Georgia (you *know* how I feel about that) SCAD has saved and renovated / restored / preserved 70% of the historic buildings. I’m always one for subtle inspiration and I find that a college interlacing perfectly into a city, tucked away behind plaster moulding from the 1800s and beautiful old wooden floors, to be beyond inspiring. The Fashion Marketing building was so beautiful and so whimsically decorated with its wall of eclectic paintings and research room with a fireplace and bookshelf of artifacts that I told our guide it was just rude the students get to have such beauty.
So here we are in my beloved Savannah; let me take you on a tour of one of the most impressive creative institutions I know…
Before we “go to class”, let’s talk about first impressions – they say that’s everything, right?
While we were down in Savannah, everyone was abuzz about SCADstyle, a campuses-wide event happening April 14th-17th which brings together luminaries from the worlds of fashion, jewelry, interior design and other fields for a series of discussions and lectures about the state of design and fashion. This time guests include fashion designer Alexander Wang, renowned graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, and Domenico De Sole, Chairman at Tom Ford. I want to go back just to hear the digital content panel with Sally Singer, Quentin Jones, Cass Bird (OBSESSED), Sara Moonves and Arnaud Boutin! Even our friends from Dannijo will be speaking!
I’m sure all of these people will walk through SCAD’s main admissions building and why would they not?… it’s GORGEOUS.
One of my *favorite* things about SCAD is how they fill the buildings, halls, shops, restaurants, and town with student and alumni work. The piece I always take a moment to look at each time we are in Savannah is in the admissions building; it is a sculpture of a bee which I find amazing and here is why:
Bees should be extinct.
Natural selection should have eradicated them centuries ago, scientists say. Their bodies are too big for their wings. This is SCAD’s mascot; so chosen because it was widely held that the bee should not be able to aerodynamically fly, yet it does; the school was not expected to do well when it started 35 years ago and yet…it does. The principle the college was founded upon was to give students with interest and passion a chance…to fly…even if they weren’t yet aerodynamically prepared.
A couple of years ago I was sitting at Prabal Gurung’s show and I met the man sitting next to me – he was charming and intelligent, and by the end of the conversation I learned that he was Michael Fink, the Dean of Fashion at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Fast forward and here we are, talking about the fashion program of SCAD and reminiscing about that first day we met. He was formerly the Women’s Fashion Director at SAKS for 15 years and now he talks about his student’s work with as much passion as if he just saw a Jason Wu runway show. One of the points he made I found incredibly compelling was that he sees each senior fashion design student’s collection three times throughout the year to advise them and help ultimately guide their success. I asked him where students go on to work after they graduate from the program and as he begin to rattle off a list of the most famous U.S. designers and brands I cut him off and said, “So… basically there are SCAD fashion design alumni everywhere.” and he laughed and said yes.
The fashion design program in Savannah has 400 students in classes that cover fashion illustration, design and accessories. Senior students make six looks for a collection by hand, which they submit to a juried show. Twenty industry professionals narrow the total submissions down to 20 students who are invited to show their collections in a runway show that is well attended by both the local community and recruiters from top fashion houses.
Ok, so this building is beautiful. I cannot get over that this is the environment students go to class in. The Fashion Marketing program is located in Morris Hall, built in 1853 as a private home for a French diplomat and businessman, and later, was a regarded social club of Savannah (sign me up). Anchored by a staircase adorned with a whimsical column of books, the building is home to students who will go on to jobs as retail buyers, fashion forecasters, fashion promoters, public relations, store planners, global sourcing, import managers and visual merchandisers. SCAD alums fill the ranks at places like Anthropologie, Neiman Marcus, Target, and Bergdorf Goodman to name a few!
Someone posed this question to me on Instagram: Why does an art school need an equestrian center? So I asked our guide. She said, It began as part of the athletic studies and grew to what it is now because of student demand. Amazing, right? A school that listens to what students want! There was actually a SCAD equestrian team before the program itself was founded into the center you see below.
The equestrian center is located in South Carolina just a few miles from Savannah on 80 acres of donated land. The landscaping is inspired by the English countryside (chic).
All of the horses have been donated and enjoy 30 acres of fenced pasture. The horses often have equestrian histories but aren’t able to compete, however they are still healthy.
Students in the equestrian program range from beginner skill to Olympic level skill, and even a riding class will count towards college credit.
I personally love riding as a way to enhance any date, any trip, or as a way to relax and free yourself of everyday stresses. I can’t imagine how much this must mean to the students to be able to get out in this environment with nature and just ride.
We work with amazing jewelry designers from our glamorous European client Chopard to our American friends at Tiffany or even smaller independent New York designers… but where do you learn how to do that?
SCAD’s jewelry department began as a club and has grown into the largest jewelry program in the US, both in faculty and staff, as well as square footage of the facilities. There are 180 students currently majoring in the program!
Graduates are working for virtually every major jewelry house – Tiffany & Co, David Yurman, Kay, Michael Kors, and so on.
Students are taught in future-oriented methods – 3D printing, pieces using micro-controllers for advanced interaction between the pieces, body, and surroundings. As part of the curriculum, students are required to choose and hire vendors as part of real world training so they have a realistic sense of cost and deadlines while creating pieces.
My favorite part was hearing the philosophy and definition of the jewelry department: the creation of anything that interacts with the body. Students are taught to consider the body first, how it feels to wear, and to consider the intimacy of wearable objects.
All the pieces below are showcased student work and have stories about how they came to be, be it inspired by a loved one with Alzheimer’s, inspired by nature, inspired by Native American history…the sky’s the limit in both technical execution and story.
Here is something I know *very* intimately, so it takes a lot to impress me. When I first toured SCAD for fun on that trip with my father I was like, OK… that’s really cool. This time, five years later, I’m like, This is AMAZING. Not only are they teaching with all the best digital equipment with studios available to students, but they also teach the applied history of photography, something that is so very near and dear to my heart. When I was graduating college, it was on the cusp of digital taking over and I would read so much about universities getting rid of their darkrooms and my heart would break. I’m a huge advocate for alternative processes and traditional photography. There is a medium, voice and process for every photographer out there and that doesn’t have to only mean gigabytes. Recently I took a class in carbon printing and made friends with the most amazing tintype photographer! My skin was crawling with excitement as we walked through the photography department’s darkrooms, alternative process floor, studios, digital labs, both film AND digital printing facilities, so much so that I picked out my couch I would sleep on if I could live here. I can’t stress enough how amazing I find the SCAD photography program’s ability to teach what is relevant and important in the industry NOW as well as giving you the knowledge and tools to explore other methods of this beloved subject.
Students are first taught in digital photography before moving on to film, alternative processes and advanced techniques, but also training geared towards a changing photographic world. Classes don’t exceed 20 students and are designed to offer a range of opportunities to help students discover what areas of photography they’re drawn to. Portfolio classes help students create and build a portfolio they can take with them after graduation.
SCAD Photography has eight photo studios to use where they can test and apply knowledge gained in lighting classes and use medium format and other high end camera equipment.
Textiles is something I know less about, even though we all interact with textiles on a daily basis! Think about the clothing you are wearing right now, the sheets you woke up in, the fabric of your car seat or what makes the weave of your handbag. The uses are endless.
Here in the textile department students are taught in a wide range of techniques, from sketching their own designs or making a computer graphic pattern repeat to printing them on high end textile jet printers, or a 3000 strand computer controlled loom (like we saw them doing in Florence in the same way since 1786!), to more organic methods such as growing indigo to use for dye processes.
Another very personal topic here at Ann Street Studio…part of what we do is bringing photos to life or, in other terms, animation. Kevin is a master at this. He has always been fascinated with animation, and while I was putting my best friend in evening gowns doing “fashion shoots” at age 13, he was on a computer making 3D balls bounce up and down. Now here we are, our two worlds and knowledge colliding. When he talks about his path of animation he talks about his dreams of working on films like CARS or FROZEN (all of which SCAD students were a part of!) so it should come to no surprise to you that this interest is in his family blood. Did you know that THIS is Kevin’s grandmother? Unfortunately for Kevin’s grandmother she wasn’t in an era where she could achieve her dreams, but that is not the case anymore. I think if she were alive today, she would be tickled to see what this talent she passed down to him has become.
When we outlined our SCAD tour I was obviously very interested in Fashion and Photography but this was Kevin’s request, digital animation…the rooms where people very intimately and independently bring to life the characters in their mind, and give breath to the creations only they can create.
To get technical- Pixar had so many SCAD graduates working for them they approached SCAD to help create a curriculum of their own within Pixar. The visual effects building has state of the art equipment, from a green screen studio to a motion capture stage, and of course leading edge computer equipment and software. Students work on projects that have a strong tie to the professional world, creating animated logos and opening animations for high profile broadcast spots, most recently for Super Bowl XLVIII.
So now my question to you is, what do you want to be? What are your DREAMS?
To all you people out there who dream of working in the creative industry (no matter what your age), from making animated films, designing for the world’s best fashion houses, being a photographer if it’s fashion or art, to being the person who decides what is on the floor at your favorite department store, here is where it can all begin.
For all the parents, if your child is a dreamer like I was, look at SCAD as an option when the conversation comes up.
And if you see us around Savannah, please stop and say HI! Tell us what you are working on! That’s what’s great about a small town …