ArtCenter College of Design

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Jack Telnack is a graduate of the ArtCenter College of Design. He started restyling his 1941 Mercury Convertible in 1954. He completed it in 1955. After the build was completed, Jay moved to California, attending the ArtCenter Design School. He began working as a designer for Ford in 1958 and became the head stylist of the Lincoln-Mercury Division in 1965. In 1966, he became the chief designer of Ford's Australian branch and served as the Vice President of Design for Ford of Europe in 1974. He was the former Global Vice President of Design of the Ford Motor Company from 1980 to 1997. Telnack retired from his post at the end of 1997 and was replaced by J Mays.
Peter Elbert Brock is an American automotive and product designer known for his work in the motorsports industry. His extensive career spans multiple roles, including designer, racer, author, and entrepreneur. This photo shows Brock with his 1946 Ford Convertible. In May of 2021 Brock told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that the original work was done at Olive Hill Garage in Los Angeles, California. "It was started by the first owner whose name I was never able to learn. I believe he was a young man who went into the Army and was killed in Korea. His family placed the car on a used car lot in San Francisco where I discovered it. I was more into sports cars than customs at the time so I sold my MG TC to buy this car as I could see the potential."
A second iteration of Pete Brock's 1946 Ford Convertible of Menlo Park, California. While studying as an automotive designer at the Art Center Design School of Los Angeles, Pete started sketching new ideas for the Ford. He brought the custom to Norm's Auto Body to have the ideas carried out in metal. According to Peter, "It’s interesting to note that Briggs Cunningham was the first to use these "racing stripes" which I added to my car in honor of his participation as an American at Le Mans. I later used those stripes in designing the livery for the Mustang GT350s we built at Shelby American starting in 1965." Known as the "Fordillac," this photo shows the car as it appeared when it was featured in Car Craft June 1956.
Gale Morris of Portland, Oregon was a student at the ArtCenter College of Design when he restyled his 1940 Mercury, giving it an unusual European looking factory production car look. The Merc took 2500 hours to transform, and once it was completed it was featured in Custom Cars September 1957.
Howard R. Miereanu is a well known graphic designer. With degrees in industrial design & graphics from the ArtCenter College of Design, Howard’s experience is wide-ranging; from an exterior automotive designer at General Motors (1959-1963), back to Los Angeles he joined a local furniture manufacturer as head designer and created a line of office furniture, moved on to be Senior Partner at Advertising & Sons (a boutique advertising agency in Beverly Hills), and finally to owner and founder of HRM Graphic Design (a Woodland-Hills-based graphic design studio specializing in packaging, corporate ID). While attending Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, Howard received two summer scholarships to ArtCenter that sent him in the direction of the auto design field. This futuristic bubble top vehicle was one of Howard's designs that they printed in an ACS Catalog as samples of students' work. "It was done sometime in 1958-1959 as a student project." Photo from The Howard Miereanu Collection.
Another one of Howard Miereanu's car designs from the ArtCenter. Photo from The Howard Miereanu Collection.
Howard Miereanu's car design from above pinned up outside along with the work of seven other designers for all to see and each student to talk about his design. "You really got to see the thinking that each student put into their design," Howard told Kustomrama. Photo from The Howard Miereanu Collection.
A construction photo of the 1958 MacMinn Le Mans Coupe by Howard Miereanu. The car stands as a testament to the design prowess of Strother MacMinn, a revered figure in automotive design and education. Miereanu, a former student and friend of MacMinn, recalled, "Mac was not only my instructor while I was a student at ArtCenter studying auto design, he was a great friend over the years." He spoke of MacMinn's unwavering commitment to his students, emphasizing how he would encourage them to think creatively and challenge the conventional boundaries of automotive design. These mentorship sessions, often extending to auto shows and intimate gatherings, allowed students to dissect and analyze the latest in automotive trends, fueling their passion and curiosity. Photo from The Howard Miereanu Collection.
Another photo of the 1958 MacMinn Le Mans Coupe that Miereanu took after Mac had the Fiberglass body finished. "It was one of the most exciting times for all of his students to see a design come from a sketch to fruition," Miereanu recalled, adding that the strips were only tape. Photo from The Howard Miereanu Collection.
Ben Delphia was an industrial design major at ArtCenter Design School in 1961. And his design notebook happened to contain a restyled 1936 Ford Tudor. The car's front end was modified by tunneling the headlights using 1952-1954 Ford/Mercury headlight rings. The door hinges were flushed, and the body seams were filled. The stock front bumper was removed, and a set of Nerf bars were installed. The Tudor was powered by a 1955 Buick Nailhead powerplant. Once the build was completed, Ben entered it in the 1959 National Roadster Show.
Andrew Wilcoxson Graybeal was an inspiring figure in automotive design. Born in Miami, Arizona, his journey began with a fortuitous stop at Gordon Vann's Body Shop in Berkeley, California, in 1953, where his unique sketches caught attention. Graybeal's design flair led him to the ArtCenter School, where he was a contemporary of Syd Mead. After graduating from ArtCenter School, Andy landed a job at General Motors designing cars in 1960. This photo shows Andy with one of his ArtCenter School projects. Photo from The Andy Graybeal Collection.
This photo of Howard Miereanu and two colleagues was taken at the GM Tech Center in 1960. In 2017, Howard told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that the three of them were selected as stand-ins for a publicity photo showing head of design; " Chrysler's Virgil Exner, GM's Bill Mitchell and Ford's Henry Ford II. Left to right, George Angersbach as Exner, me as Mitchell and Andy Graybeal as Ford. All are Art Center grads and all were hired by GM at the same time." Photo from The Howard Miereanu Collection.
Richard Nesbitt is an American car designer best known for his work on the 1974 Ford Mustang II during his tenure at Ford Motor Company in the early 1970s. Nesbitt was passionate about cars and car design from a young age. He would regularly pick up car magazines and read anything related to styling or design. Through these magazines, he learned about the ArtCenter College of Design in California and decided that's what he wanted to do. He applied to the college while still in high school and attended it in the fall of 1967 on a full tuition Ford scholarship.[1] Nesbitt had Harry Bradley as an instructor at the ArtCenter in 1969. " I had the very first class he had at Art Center College in 1969 with legendary Pete Brock for that same time," Nesbitt told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in June of 2023. Nesbitt graduated with honors in 1970​.[2]

Nestled in the vibrant city of Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design has been a beacon of creativity since its inception in 1930. Known informally as "Art Center," this institution started as The Art Center School and later evolved into a degree-granting college in 1965. It's not just a college; it's a community where artists and designers are nurtured by working professionals, bringing an industry-friendly vibe that many art schools can only dream of.[3]


The Iconic Dot and a Splash of Orange

One can't talk about ArtCenter without mentioning its iconic logo, the orange dot. This simple yet powerful symbol has been part of the school's identity since the beginning, resonating with Southern California's sun and citrus. The color orange, chosen by founder Edward A. "Tink" Adams for its vibrancy and energy, has remained a constant in the college's identity, with its shade evolving over time.[3]


Campuses That Inspire

ArtCenter comprises two architecturally significant campuses in Pasadena. The Hillside Campus, designed by modernist architect Craig Ellwood, is a sight to behold, spanning an arroyo and roadway. It's a space where creativity meets nature, offering students a unique environment to learn and create. The South Campus, a former aircraft-testing facility housed in 2023 graduate programs and studios, and was known for its dynamic exhibition space, the Wind Tunnel.[3]


Larry Wood's Experience at Art Center in the 1960s

Famed Hot Wheels designer Larry Wood's journey at Art Center began through an ad in Motor Trend Magazine. As a teenager, Larry's interest shifted towards cars. The catalyst for this change was a Hot Rod Magazine his father brought home. "He was a coach, and one of his guys was reading a magazine during football or something. He brought home this Hot Rod Magazine and put it on the kitchen table, just threw it down there. I picked that up, and it was like the switch went off. It was like, holy mackerel, look at what they're doing in California with these hot rods and customs. That got me going," he told Brad King in an interview he did for the Stories N' Steel YouTube Channel. This newfound fascination led him to start working on cars himself, experimenting in a shed behind his house. Larry also spent considerable time in high school drawing cars. Once a casual hobby, these drawings now seemed like the seeds of a potential career. Encouraged by the colorful world of 1950s automobiles that fascinated him and the Hot Rod Magazine that had always inspired him, Larry decided to pivot his life toward a new direction. The catalyst for this change came in the form of an advertisement in a Motor Trend Magazine. It was an announcement for the Art Center, a school that promised to teach car design and drawing. The opportunity to professionally draw cars, to transform his sketches into a career, was irresistible to Larry. He gathered his drawings and approached his mother, an art teacher, to help him craft a unique portfolio. Together, they created a portfolio resembling an artist's palette, complete with a finger hole, paint colors, and a painted brush. This portfolio wasn't just a collection of drawings; it was a statement of Larry's creativity and ambition.[4]


Larry's application to the Art Center was a leap of faith. He doubted his chances, aware that his skills were self-taught and unconventional. Yet, the Art Center sought potential and imagination, not just technical prowess. They were looking for individuals ready to take their art to the next level, and Larry's portfolio – brimming with creativity and a raw perspective on car design – caught their attention. Receiving the acceptance letter from the Art Center was a turning point in Larry's life. It meant leaving Hartford for California, a place vastly different from what he knew. When Larry first arrived at the Art Center, they gave him a list of places to stay. "I said, okay, where am I going?" He was told to walk down Third Street until he found a place to live. "I got my thing, and I got my map. I must have walked four miles. So I finally found a place that would take me because other places were already full." This place was a unique setup where the third floor of the house was transformed into art studios for Art Center students. Here, Larry and his fellow aspiring artists lived, worked, and fueled their creative passions. This communal living situation created a nurturing environment for Larry and his peers. They were constantly immersed in creativity, surrounded by like-minded individuals, sharing meals, and indulging in good-natured pranks. The atmosphere was not just about fostering artistic skills but also about building a community that supported each other's artistic growth.[4]


However, the Art Center was not just a place for camaraderie and creativity; it was a rigorous institution that challenged its students to their core. Larry quickly realized that the journey to becoming a car designer was not going to be an easy ride. For the first couple of years, he wasn’t even allowed to draw cars. Instead, the curriculum focused heavily on mastering the fundamentals like colors and perspective. This strict approach to education was an eye-opener for Larry. He learned that to excel in car design, he needed a strong foundation in these basic elements. When Larry started at Art Center, there were 50 students in class. Only six graduated. "So that was Art Center," Larry told King, adding that they were tough. "Half were gone the first year." Larry got called into a meeting once because his teacher was Strother MacMinn, and his thing was streamlined cars. "He loved streamlined cars. He said all the cars someday will be pointed in the front and pointed in the back. Streamlined cars. I'm a hot rodder. I'm doing blowers on the hood. I'm putting side pipes on the thing. I'm putting big tires on the back." One day, Larry got called into a meeting where they told him you won't make it. "What crap? I'm the king. I'm doing great. No, you're not listening to the teacher." That was a big breakthrough for Larry, and he returned very humble. He realized that they were right. "I mean, you go to Detroit; they're not paying you to do hot rods. So I graduated in 65, and went to Detroit." Larry emerged from the Art Center not just as a skilled artist but as a visionary designer, ready to make his mark in the automotive world. His graduation in 1965 was not just the completion of a course but the beginning of a remarkable career in car design, taking him next to the bustling city of Detroit.[4]


Education That Transforms

In 2023, the college offered a range of undergraduate and graduate programs in art and design fields, along with public programs for all ages. What sets ArtCenter apart is its commitment to integrating making and doing with conceptual thinking, honing craftsmanship, precision, and professionalism. The faculty, primarily working professionals, bring real-world insights that enrich the learning experience.[3]


Legacy of Influence

ArtCenter's influence extends far beyond its campuses. It was the first design college to receive NGO status by the United Nations, recognizing its role in addressing social and humanitarian issues through design. The college's alumni have significantly impacted popular culture and various industries. This is evident in the establishment of scholarships like the Mike Kelley Endowed Scholarship, honoring influential mentors and providing access to future artists.[3]


ArtCenter Today and Tomorrow

Today, ArtCenter continues to be a hub for aspiring artists and designers, recognized by industry publications and global rankings for its outstanding programs, especially in industrial and film design. With ongoing expansions and initiatives, ArtCenter is not just looking back at its storied past but is also forging a path for future creative minds.[3]


Masters of Design: The Esteemed Instructors of ArtCenter


Creative Minds Shaped Here: Notable ArtCenter Graduates


References




 

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