Santa Monica College (SMC) is pleased to announce a “SMC Interaction Design Grad Show”, a celebration of the college’s first 18 students to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Interaction Design (IXD). The event — both a showcase of the students’ innovative projects and portfolios and an industry mixer — will be held on Thursday, June 7 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the SMC Center for Media and Design at 1660 Stewart St. in Santa Monica.
John Modestine, creative director of Ring — the global home security company owned by Amazon — will be the guest speaker. Event sponsors are the Santa Monica College Foundation and Lantana Media Group.
“This is a historic moment for Santa Monica College, and I congratulate the talented graduates and their dedicated instructors!” said Dr. Kathryn E Jeffery, SMC Superintendent/President. “We are exceptionally proud of these 18 students as they leave SMC having made it through a rigorous program that transformed them into interaction designers with the skills needed to succeed in this dynamic field.”
The first of its kind to be offered at a community college, SMC’s Bachelor of Science degree was designed to impart fundamental skills in interaction design, a field that blends user experience (UX), design, and technology. The students spent their first two years studying graphic design, and the last two immersed in upper-division interaction design courses, as well as related coursework in computer science, business, cognitive psychology, and media, among others.
In 2015, The California Community Colleges Board of Governors selected Santa Monica College to be among 15 community colleges in California that would offer baccalaureate degrees as part of a pilot program created by the state legislature (SB 850). To support the college’s proposal for a four-year program not offered by the California State University or University of California and in a field where there was a demonstrated local need, over 100 letters of support were sent in from Los Angeles tech and entertainment companies including Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Disney, Fox TV, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Amazon Web Services.
“The Los Angeles tech and media communities will be very grateful in the years to come for having a local pool of talented designers that are ready and eager to provide solutions for everyday problems,” said John Modestine who has led all marketing and product design related initiatives since Ring was founded in a garage in Pacific Palisades in 2011. Modestine also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from Philadelphia University.
Modestine added that Santa Monica College is “taking the appropriate steps to create well-versed students in the Interaction Design Program, who should be capable of addressing a myriad of different product markets.” “We are very excited to see what the future holds for this program, and the relationships that can be fostered with Ring, and other companies looking for talented designers,” said Modestine.
SMC’s baccalaureate graduates have plans to pursue various career options within the field. One is passionate about a career in museum exhibition design. Three have teamed up to launch their own user experience design studio. Another is interested in interactive storytelling, and so on. SMC Interaction Design instructor Selwa Sweidan — designer and co-founder of Artificial Knowing, an Artificial Intelligence Design consultancy —said that the college’s IxD program exposed students to a wide range of opportunities, and prepared them for both current and emerging innovations.
“I came thinking I would focus on systems or visual design, and I’m coming out of it knowing I want to use my interaction design skills to shape human experiences in the workplace through human resources, organizational design, and culture development,” said Amanda Sanchez, one of the graduates.
SMC’s affordability was what attracted Ana Interiano (tuition at four-year private institutions that offer comparable programs can cost $160,000 or more, while the tuition for baccalaureate students at SMC for the entire four-year program is roughly $10,000). Another student, Casey McCallister, chose the program because she wanted a mid-career change. She landed an internship through an SMC faculty member, and used the skills she gained in the IXD program to become an exhibit design intern at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
In addition to rigorous coursework and internships, students also took part in group projects for charitable and corporate partners. One such project involved working with the American Heart Association in addressing the problem of food deserts — communities without convenient access to healthy grocery options — and consulting for business software company SAP on ways to improve the shopping experience at thrift stores and retail entities like Forever 21. The interaction design majors also worked on prototypes to help enhance how students experience SMC’s Center for Media and Design campus, which was unveiled in December 2017 (the four-year program is housed there).
The June 7 exclusive grad show is open to interested members of the public. Space is limited, and tickets are available on a first come, first serve basis at santamonicacollegefoundation.org/ixdgradshow. RSVPs are required by May 31. Street parking around the SMC Center for Media and Design. Complimentary valet parking will be available for the event.
For more information on the event, please contact Cheryl Ward at Ward_Cheryl@smc.edu or (310) 434-4293. More details about the interaction design program is at www.smcixd.org.
Submitted by Grace Smith, SMC Public Information Officer