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Industrial Design School Exec Director and Students Inspire ‘California by Design’

Fitting the state’s place as a global leader, California by Design is a new TV and web show, which premiered on June 27 this summer, that highlights the innovations brought by industrial design. Executive Director Tom Matano of the Academy’s own School of Industrial Design, along with some of its current students, are a big part of the story.

Matano, famed as a principal designer of two legendary sports cars—the 1993 Mazda RX-7 and the Miata—serves as one of 12 judges on the show. Bachelor of Fine Art Industrial Design candidate E’lan Hawkins is a guest presenter for one of the show’s segments. Santiago Bastidas presents a futuristic automobile design he’s been working on as he seeks his BFA from the industrial design school.

Auto design project Aura was featured in “California by Design” by Santiago Bastidas. Image courtesy of Santiago Bastidas.
Industrial Design student Santiago Bastidas shows his Aura auto design project to “California by Design” judge Dan Harden. Photo courtesy of the School of Industrial Design.

Demonstrating his design and the VR tools used to create it, Bastidas says, “Let’s get inside.” Then he hands the VR headset to the presenter to try out for himself.

World-Changing Designs

As the birthplace of global design hits like the iPhone and Tesla cars, California has an outsize claim on many of the most influential product and technology creations of our time. California by Design focuses on new designs for transportation, lifestyle, medicine and much more. A running theme in the show is how virtual reality (VR) has emerged as a key tool for envisioning and producing these designs.

Like Matano, with his global reputation for car design, the judges for the show are recognized industry professionals, all with their own specialties. The show works like this: Designers of breakthroughs in a wide range of products are interviewed, then compared by all 12 judges. They select one to move on to a championship round.

Six episodes have been produced so far, with hopefully more to come. The show has been airing on CBS in the Los Angeles and Bay Area TV stations, and episodes are available to watch online (see Resources below). Academy of Art University is one of three principal sponsors of the production.

Academy Presence

In episode 3, Bastidas shows how his AURA project is employing VR in auto design. In this segment, Bastidas and Industrial Design Director Antonio Borja demonstrated the school’s advanced design development tools in a real on-campus setup.

Antonio Borja, director of the School of Industrial Design, on the set of “California by Design.” Photo courtesy of the School of Industrial Design.

In another segment in the same episode, Hawkins hosted the presentation of a concept for smart home lighting called Butlr. Her on-camera performance earned high praise from Matano.

In episode 3, Academy students appear, beginning at 4:00 minutes in.

Academy Co-Sponsorship

Says Matano, “I was involved from a very early stage, as the producer contacted me to get the Academy involved as a participating school to the show. We selected a student, E’lan Hawkins, as a presenter, and entered our gravity sketching process with VR headsets as a cutting-edge design process entry.

Tom Matano, executive director of the School of Industrial Design. Photo by Zachary de Guzman.

“Then, they put me in as one of the judges in the show. There were all very creative and innovative ideas. Many ideas solved the problems that each had addressed—and beyond, in some cases.

“The show, in a prime time slot on a major network, should help public awareness of industrial design,” especially, Matano continues, as to “how it will enhance and enrich our lives.”

The Academy and VR

Academy of Art University has been on the VR front lines since 2016, when the Schools of Communications & Media Technologies and Motion Pictures & Television hosted their first-ever VR Summit. 

From spring 2017 to spring 2018,  Academy students from various schools—including Game Development,  Animation & Visual Effects, Illustration, Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media and Interaction & UI/UX Design—collaborated to create an Oculus VR experience for the Norman Rockwell Museum exhibit “Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms,” which toured the United States and returned to Stockbridge, Mass., home of the Rockwell Museum.

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