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School of Web Design + New Media Host Inaugural Ideate Conference

WNM students presented their portfolios to top Bay Area companies, shared their projects during the Tech Showcase and received key advice from guest speakers

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(L-R) School of Advertising Department Manager Liz Lantz, Director of the School of Web Design + New Media Ryan Medeiros, Design Lead DC Scarpelli, Academic Administrator Jenna Robinson, Motion Graphics Lead Colin Sebestyen and Director of the School of Advertising Andrea Pimentel. Photo by Bob Toy.

As the Fall 2015 semeste rcame to a close, the School of Web Design + New Media (WMN) at Academy of Art University hosted their first-ever Ideate Conference at 180 New Montgomery. Director Ryan Medeiros explained that the department sees this event as becoming their must-attend end of the semester event, much like the School of Fashion’s Graduation Fashion Show. “We’re looking to have the best guest speakers, best industry representatives coming every semester and have it be like a real event,” he said. “Also, I think it gives students something to look forward to at the end of the semester.”

The Fall 2015 Ideate Conference took place in multiple sessions. The morning session allowed both B.F.A. and M.F.A. students to meet with some of the most notable companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, such as Google, Tesla, PayPal, GoPro and LinkedIn. In order to participate in the portfolio review, students had to apply and then were placed in a pool. Medeiros said his staff was amazed at the number of entries they received, which was over 100. Prioritizing seniors and juniors and including a few sophomore level students, WNM made sure that their students were ready for the conference by supplying them with lots of information ahead of time and answering any questions they had.

“The format was [that] we had them wait in the gallery and then we had them go out to the different industry rooms,” Medeiros explained. “The idea of this is that they know that they can meet with a company. Rather with them sitting and having companies come to them, they get to pick and choose which companies they want to go to. If they want GoPro or they want to see Strava, they can, on their own, get over there and make it happen.”

The early afternoon session was the Tech Showcase. There were a variety of projects on display and students were eager to share what they have been working on in their classes.

“[Participating in the Tech Showcase] was [based on] recommendations from their instructors,” said Andrea Pimentel, who recently took on the role of Director of the School of Advertising at the Academy.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

One of the students in the Tech Showcase was M.F.A. UX designer Adelaide Bell, who was there with her mobile app, Into the Fog. Bell, who gave her midpoint presentation back in October of 2014, spent the following year dedicating her time to the application. “Just doing all the processes of it, the strategic part, the user experience, usability testing, the visual design and the iterations to the wire framing and then the technical aspect of it,” Bell explained. She described Into the Fog as “a collection of curated tours” created by San Franciscans for San Franciscans.

“My target audience [is] new San Franciscan transplants who have just moved here in the past year, two years, have been here for work or school and don’t really know the area at all,” Bell shared. “It’s kind of to give them a more localized perspective of the city and help them to have more of an appreciation of the community of San Francisco and what makes the city unique.”

Bell said that in the time she’s lived in San Francisco, she recognized that with the tech industry moving in, there was a loss of community around the city. “I realized one of the solutions is to give these new millennials that are moving to the city an idea of what makes up San Francisco, who are the people that have lived here for decades,” explained Bell. “They can learn more about these local businesses that have been staples that are sadly getting evicted.”

Overall the UX designer, who met with industry guests Optimizely and Strava, enjoyed her experience at the conference. “It’s really interesting to see all the different projects that people have been working on,” said Bell. “It’s really interesting to talk to people that are in the industry and get feedback on your project and what you can focus on more in the future.”

The final session of the conference included presentations from guest speakers Adam Ruf and Matt Silverman and a panel event with PayPal. Ruf’s presentation, “How to fix your portfolio,” addressed just that and talked about how students can better understand their audience, demonstrate their design process and what they can do to make their online portfolio stand out.

Next up was Matt Silverman’s presentation, “Motion UI: The Crucial Dimension in Mobile Design.” Silverman, who has previously worked for Apple and Sony, spoke about his role as executive creative director at Swordfish, a locally based motion design company, the different processes and steps in working on various projects as well as sharing a bit about their work on Audi Connect.

Closing out the afternoon was the PayPal panel, moderated by WNM’s Design Lead DC Scarpelli. The floor was open to the students in attendance and the panel doled out plenty of advice their way, highlighting the importance of staying curious, networking, the importance of showcasing your great work first in your portfolio, being open to learning as much as you can, to keep doing side projects, research the companies you will be interviewing with and looking to work for companies that you believe in.

At the end of the panel, Pimentel shared her thoughts on WNM’s Ideate Conference. “There was a great energy here. There were students ready to go and we got really great feedback from industry, that they saw a lot of really great work today and a lot of really great, well-prepared students which is good to hear,” she said.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

 “As an instructor, I’m glad that they were prepared and they were impressive to the industry that were nice enough to come out and look.”

Following the conference, Mike Buzzard, a design manager at Google, praised both WNM’s students and the program. “[We] were thrilled to meet so many talented students,” said Buzzard. “It’s remarkable how much more aligned the programs and projects are to UX process and digital products than they were just a few years ago.”

“In addition to all of our efforts to bring our technology to the cutting edge, we have also been working hard to establish a foundation of rock-solid user experience into our program and student projects,” said Medeiros.

The hard work has paid off as the Academy was recently named first overall on Value Colleges’ Top 50 Alternative UX Design Programs.

To watch the guest speaker presentations from the Fall 2015 Ideate Conference, please visit https://speakers.academyart.edu/content/guest-speakers.html.