A World of Creativity on Display at Spring Show

Hard work pays off for students as they present high quality work to industry professionals


Students from the School of Graphic Design presented their portfolios to industry guests at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

A bright red carpet led the way to the entrance of the Academy of Art University’s 2017 Spring Show Student Showcase on opening day Thursday, May 18. The doors of 2225 Jerrold Avenue opened to a world bursting with color and creativity as the portfolio work from each of the 23 schools of the Academy vibrantly filled screens, walls and floor space. 

This was an event students worked all year for. For many of them, it was an opportunity to shape their future and to prove their talent to industry representatives in attendance from some of the top companies in the world like Apple, Disney, Nissan, Google and Electronic Arts.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for us,” said Fan Wang, an industrial design student proudly standing in front of his prototype of a sleek, fold-up bike. “Normally, you just send in your portfolio online and people don’t even look at it. Here is an opportunity for us to show our projects firsthand and for people to better understand our work.”

Business professionals conversed with students in each of the school’s uniquely designed areas of the warehouse. Every space had its own energy, aesthetic and feel.

As for the students’ feelings, many said they were experiencing a mix of nerves and excitement. And many of the industry representatives know exactly how they feel. At this year’s Spring Show, many alumni, now-working professionals, returned to the Academy because they know firsthand the value of the school’s education and how capable its students are to take on the industry world.


Students view work from the School of Industrial Design at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.


Students had opportunities to discuss their work with industry guests at Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.


Work from the School of Jewelry and Metal Arts was on display for Spring Show guests to view. Photo by Bob Toy.

One 2005 alumnus, Shin Imai, an automotive designer at Subaru, said the work of Academy industrial design students makes an impact that extends further than just looking good.

“A lot of the students have strong thinking behind their design,” he said “Many students tend to focus only on the visuals with nothing behind their functions. Here, students can explain why their projects are valuable.”

Another industry professional who graduated from the School of Advertising last year said he came to the Spring Show to recruit specific students he had worked with. 

“I wanted to try to get as many good students that I’ve worked with in the past to come work with us,” said Thomas Murphy, now a copywriter at Stein IAS.

As a student, Murphy’s own work was showcased in the 2016 Spring Show, and he said the experience was invaluable. “It helped improve my portfolio tenfold just by being able to talk to people actually in the industry.”

Heading down the hall, hundreds of people made their way around sculptures, paintings and flashing screens. In one room, another red carpet was rolled out. The School of Communications & Media Technologies was gearing up for its industry professional speed dating session, something unique to communications. Or the way Jan Yanehiro, director of the School of Communications & Media Technologies (COM) put it, 15 industry professionals, 10 minutes each. Yanehiro brought in professionals with hiring power from KQED, Pac-12 Networks, the San Francisco Giants, KRON-TV and more.


School of Acting students put on a live taping during Spring Show. Photo by Bob Toy.

“The students have time with people who care,” she said. And for Yanehiro’s students, the speed dating session paid off. One student was hired on the spot while others made connections with professionals that landed them a job or internship just a few weeks after the show. 

After COM student Daniel Robertson, who graduated in May, finished a speed dating session with an industry professional from Bridging Consciousness he was offered an internship.

“I was nervous going in, but it was just like having a conversation,” Robertson said. “It’s such a benefit to learn how to talk to professionals and know what they’re looking for. I loved it, I think every department should do it.”

Another opportunity that allowed students one-on-one time with a wide range of business professionals was during the Industry Preview portion of the day. Here, recent graduates had private interviews with industry representatives and impromptu chances to display their portfolios.

While the private interviews ensued, and the warehouse began to fill with noise, the School of Illustration was in a quiet corner. Imagination hung from the walls with drawings for children’s books, realistic portraits and graphically stylized work. Recruiters from Google, artist agents and the Society of Illustrators came to see what the students had to offer.

From Google, Krystal Lauk, an alumna of the School of Illustration was blown away by the work. “So much of the work is breaking boundaries,” she said. “It’s super expressive and delightful as well as being viable in the industry.”

Members of the Society of Illustrators couldn’t agree more. 

“It’s just phenomenal,” said Anelle Miller, a representative from the society about the work of the students. “There’s no other art school in the country which is graduating the level of quality this school is. The students are primed and ready to compete with market professionals and that says something about the leadership of the departments, curriculum and faculty.”

For both students and industry professionals, the 2017 Spring Show Student Showcase was an event that fostered many positive outcomes and opportunities still to come.