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News . Feature Stories . Fork in the road led 2003 grad to Saks Fifth Avenue, national recognition


December 01, 2015

Fork in the road led 2003 grad to Saks Fifth Avenue, national recognition

Adam Carmichael, director of store design at Saks, earns accolades

By Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz

It happens to many of us—that moment when the career we expected to pursue gets tossed aside in favor of a career that we are passionate about.

Adam Carmichael ’03 made such as switch more than a decade ago, by “breaking free of what I thought I should be doing (business/pre-law), and making the jump to a creative university with a focus on a highly creative field.” Namely: Cleveland Institute of Art and a major in what was then called Interior Design, now Interior Architecture.

The choice didn’t entirely come out of nowhere for a designer who, at the age of five, completed an exterior rendering of Candy Land, and at the age of 12 designed a roller skating rink with a two-story dance floor.

However, it was undeniably a huge shift in focus.

What ultimately caused Carmichael to make that shift, he says, was his excitement for “the idea of sculpting, defining and creating space.

“In commercial interior design, we literally create the three-dimensional representation of the brand experience that can delight all of the senses,” Carmichael says.

As director of store design at Saks Fifth Avenue, Carmichael has brought his innovation and his passion for delighting people’s senses to the renovation of the Saks store in New York, as well as the design of Saks stores in Toronto, Honolulu and Sarasota, Florida.

That’s in addition to his most recent work in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which earned him recognition this year as one of 10 Retail Design Influencers by design:retail magazine. The accolade is one of the categories of the magazine’s 2015 Portfolio Awards.

The honor affected him deeply, Carmichael says.

“As these awards are ‘written in’ by industry peers during an open survey, it means the world to me that enough people thought to write my name in for one of the 10 Influencers in Retail for 2015, and that our new Saks Fifth Avenue in San Juan is considered one of the best designs of the year; in a certain respect, it encourages me to continue forward in my career with great confidence.”

Carmichael credits his CIA education with setting him up for success.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t be where I am today without my education at the Cleveland Institute of Art. The Institute, simply put, gave me equal parts confidence and skill to prepare myself for success in my field; I don’t believe I would have had the exposure to the industry if I had attended anywhere else.”

To students and prospective students, he adds: “If you are truly passionate about immersing yourself into your work, there is no better place to do so than at the Cleveland Institute of Art—your education and experience here will prove priceless.”

To read more about Carmichael’s award, click here.

Above: the Saks Fifth Avenue Store in San Juan, Puerto Rico, designed by Carmichael.

Deutschman-Ruiz is a freelance writer editor and instructor of journalism and mass communication. She lives on the West Side of Cleveland.

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CIA alumna Josette Galiano’s passion lies in exploring behavior and designing immersive experiences. Fittingly, she’s a consumer insights analyst at @NottinghamSpirk​ and a designer at Florette by Josette​.

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