June 18, 2015
Vember Stuart-Lilley '04 said CIA helped her "jump right into" her career
By Cindi Deutschman-Ruiz
It’s a very long trip from Cleveland to Hollywood, and the mileage is the least of it. Most people with that destination in mind never actually get there.
Vember Stuart-Lilley is a notable exception. Just a decade after graduating from CIA with a degree in Interior Design (now called Interior Architecture), she recently began a new job as the driving force behind Warner Bros. prestigious Design Studio.
She couldn’t be more excited about her new gig.
“I love the wildly diverse and complex projects we get. As a bespoke fabricator with an incredible pedigree and unparalleled resources opening our doors to new industries, we get a lot of interesting work. One week we are fabricating a stage treatment for the Academy Awards show, and the next we are designing custom seating for a boutique hotel.”
Stuart-Lilley says her time at CIA was pivotal in setting her on the path that has led to Warner Bros.
“CIA afforded me an incredible network of design professionals, and I was able to jump right into my professional path immediately through summer internships and building relationships with faculty and alumni, leveraging those relationships after graduation to make sure I was where I wanted to be,” Stuart-Lilley explained.
“I credit my mentors and the real world experience I gained at CIA with developing the skills that allow me to take on these complex jobs."
One of Stuart-Lilley’s mentors was Michael A. Gollini, chair of the Interior Architecture Department. He’s not at all surprised by her success.
“While attending CIA, Vember was a dedicated, talented student with a professional work ethic and a true passion for design,” Gollini said. “When a student like Vember has such a strong natural design sense and is so committed to their work, success is inevitable.”
After graduation, Stuart-Lilley continued developing her skills and talents in multiple challenging environments. For seven years, she led the Renovations and Capitol Initiative program at the clothing line Guess. “I was responsible for brand integrity within existing stores through renovations and refreshes of our concept standards, so making sure the overall brand strategy was being implemented through our design team was the goal."
Her time at Guess, “bridging the expectations of management and concept implementation, prepared me for my current role, implementing clients’ needs within our studio framework,” Stuart-Lilley explained.
Indeed, Stuart-Lilley says her primary goal at Warner Bros. is “to make sure that clients fully understand our capabilities and also understand that we have a team devoted to their needs… With my design background, our clients have that extra level of security knowing that someone with a designer’s eye is reviewing every possible detail and understands how important even the littlest design detail can be for the overall project.”
For current CIA students, regardless of career goal, Stuart-Lilley’s advice is simple: “Be out there the first chance you get, figuring out what your real world opportunities are actually going to look like.”
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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