ArtCenter’s highly respected Sponsored Projects program is engaged by corporations who want to explore the future of design through the fresh perspective of their students. Projects explore a wide range of topics from futuristic retail environments, product design, interaction design (VR & AR), transportation design and new branded experiences through graphic design.

These important partnerships allow industry to stay relevant through the insights, fresh perspective and creative vision of their talented students. In parallel, students experience real-world design challenges that will greatly inform their future as well as provide them with relevant experience and job opportunities.

The Challenge

Despite the success the program has experienced, much of the process and associated tasks starting from when an interested sponsor inquires for more information and/or signed-up through to project completion is a time-intensive, mostly offline custom effort, with uncertain cost and unrealized creative goals. They clearly needed a Collaborative Framework to bring together the stakeholders and required activities critical to project exploration and definition.

Critical Elements to be Address in New Framework:


Not every industry applicant is a “match” for the program – their requirements, expectations and desired outcomes must be carefully considered and synched with student/faculty availability, talent, etc.


Given the process and structure of the program, each project requires 4 in-person team meetings across all members on the sponsor, student and faculty side (kick-off, research review, midterm review, and final presentations).This in-person time commitment has been a barrier to signing on more sponsors and projects.


With the current process and structure, the teams meet 4 times throughout the project lifespan. While each of these meetings are critical and have a specific role, there is very little real-time team interaction, collaboration and iteration. In between the key meetings, most of the work is done in an insular fashion while using email for day-to-day communications and interactions.


Each project has an associated cost - typically between $75,000 - $125,000. In addition to this fixed cost are travel costs for each of the in-person meetings. This includes both actual transportation costs as well as costs associated with productivity loss.

The Solution

ArtCenter engaged us to define a completely new model optimizing partnerships with business sponsors and ArtCenter students. We took an antiquated, hamstrung, offline learning model and developed a pedagogy that captured and incorporated a customized, repeatable protocol that spans from onboarding, through the learning process to final presentation and post mortem. In this new framework developed specifically for the program, learning is truly real-time and collaborative. Costs are controlled and sponsors’ expectations are met without compromising the ArtCenter’s or sponsor’s mission or quality.

My Role

ArtCenter is a large client and there are multiple projects happening in parallel. One of my primary roles on any ArtCenter project is to ensure the vision and design standards are aligned across all projects. Although this initiative was primarily a UX exercise, it was still mission critical as the final deliverable would fundamentally change (and improve) in how ArtCenter conducts their Sponsor Program Initiative. We proposed a new learning experience to change the dynamic between ArtCenter, their sponsors and the student teams. I led much of the process including product/experience definition meetings, bi-weekly collaborative standups, client presentations and feedback sessions, team capacity planning and resource allocation as well as ensuring all design standards are documented.

Sponsored Project Presentations