March 27, 2015
Five questions for Scott Stropkay '85
Scott Stropkay, a 1985 CIA graduate, is the co-founder of Boston-based Essential Design, a team of consulting researchers, designers, and engineers creating breakthrough physical products, digital products, and service experiences for users and businesses. He visited his alma mater in March to speak with students, critique their work, and soak up CIA’s new campus atmosphere.
What did you think of the student work you saw, and the student presentations you heard, on your recent visit to CIA?
I was impressed by the quality of the thinking especially given the complexity of the design challenge given. The students had to research the issues that contributed to a company's decline, develop a new winning strategy, reposition and rebrand the company, and develop a product portfolio to deliver on the new vision. That's a big job—they had great ideas and great designs.
As co-founder of Essential Design, you hire designers. How does what is being taught at CIA align with what you need as an employer?
We currently employ CIA designers and we're looking for more. The curriculum at CIA is comprehensive and the cross-pollination of ideas across majors is great but I think it's the teachers dedication and critical input that shapes the capabilities and confidence of young designers that I appreciate most. The subjects of the lessons (or the "what") is aligned with our world's needs, but "how" it's taught seems particularly right —CIA students figure out what needs to get done and they go and do it.
Generally speaking, what differentiates CIA-educated designers from the designers you interview who come from other colleges?
We interview students from all over the world and each college has its own philosophy and priorities. I think CIA is different in their dedication to helping students become successful practicing artists and designers. CIA designers are good critical thinkers and problem solvers. They work at a high level both individually and in teams. You can tell they are serious about their creative futures.
What do you think of CIA’s new building?
It's beautiful but more than that, it's a great embodiment of the creative spirit of the institution—all the workshops are shared, all the majors are adjacent—it's like a huge creative playpen!
How do you think the new campus setting might change the learning environment or culture at CIA?
It's so easy to see what's happening everywhere. You can very easily drop-in on a friend in another major; take a wide variety of classes; or just hang-out with diverse interesting people thinking about their art and their creative missions. I think the creative culture at CIA will be stronger than ever!
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