The Next Generation

We’ll be honest—we don’t have a lot of junior team members, but we do have our eyes on the next generation of designers.

The pool of opportunities for college-level students is pretty vast. Unfortunately, there’s a gap in design-focused programming for students in middle and high school—and an even bigger gap in design-focused programming for students in Chicago’s underserved communities.

It is our responsibility as professionals to give back and encourage these learners. We want a more diverse, reflective community, and if we support these students, we strengthen the future of our profession. Don’t know where to start? Here’s where we did:

Opening Eyes, expanding minds

AIGA Chicago and CPS’s CTE initiative has allowed us to visit CPS schools and talk about different job opportunities and areas of focus in the design industry today. What does it mean to be an interactive designer at One Design Company? An in-house designer at Cards Against Humanity? A product designer at Sprout Social? This prompts students to stop thinking of design one-dimensionally but, rather, as a range of viable career options that run parallel to everyone’s varied interests and passions, united by a theme of problem-solving and making.

“If you’re in middle school and you like drawing shoes—you need to know that somebody does that for a living,” Creative Director at ODC and AIGA Chicago President David Sieren says. “You can do that, and you need to start letting that passion guide your educational path now. My philosophy—and what rolls over to ODC is, ‘Yes, let’s grab those students. Let’s tell them their passions can become their profession.’”

After our visits, part two of the initiative involves a day-long, all-encompassing shadow in the office.

Students are introduced to the business side of design as well as how to manage studio operations; they partake in a workshop that is centered around the concept of own personal brand; and we also have them shadow developers, software engineers, brand designers and interactive designers.

Sharing time and talent

Marwen, a non-profit art education opportunity for CPS students who have limited access to art courses within their schools, is another avenue for us to teach and donate time. Sieren co-teaches Design To Print with Angee Lennard from Spudnik Press, an annual class where students concept, design, and produce a holiday card series sold to generate funds and raise awareness for the school. ODC, a sponsor of the program, handles layout design duties annually for the card set every year.

We have also mentored through Spark, an organization that pairs underserved middle-school students with professionals in all walks of life. For three hours each week, over the course of 10 weeks, Director of Business Development Henock Beyen built trust with his mentees so that together, they could engage in social-emotional learning activities and journey through crafting a project to present at Share Your Spark. Students showcase their work to friends, family and the community at this culminating event.

Opportunities in your community

All of these actions aren’t exclusive to ODC, either. Spark, Marwen and other community programs like the Hyde Park Art Center are incredible resources if you want to play your part.

“What’s the point of knowledge if you can’t impart it on someone else?” Beyen says. “When I first came to ODC, I stole so much. I learned from Sam’s authentic charisma, David’s poetry of design, Noah’s curiosity and questions. You never know who you might reach and what interaction can lead to a memorable moment for who you’re interacting with. We all have those bookmarks in our lives—we may not be able to quantify them but the effort alone is powerful.”

Interested in showing young designers that they have what it takes? Set up a CPS job shadow. Reach out to the AIGA education team. Look into mentoring through Spark. Volunteer at Marwen. Let’s enrich our design community together!

One Design Company is a research-driven design and development studio. For over a decade, we’ve explored the intersection of experience and technology—where powerful brands come to life. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

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