The Mentoring Effect: My Life as an EXPLORE Extern, Part 1

January 15, 2019

by Ashley Manalad, EXPLORE Extern

Going into high school, I was dead set on becoming an engineer. Although art was one of my passions, I never really realized what value my art skills held and what I could potentially use it for on a professional level. However, my perspective on creative careers and my future plans changed when I attended the Institute for Educational Advancement’s EXPLORE externship at ArtCenter, under the mentorship of Professor Stan Kong.

I applied for the product design site of this program. The funny thing is, though, was that I didn’t know what product design was at all – or the essence of design. I just knew that the program would teach basic sketching and rendering skills as the description mentioned, which was enough to pique my interest. Despite this, I ended up learning so much more.

In the first week at ArtCenter, I learned about the product design industry, the design process and business-oriented techniques and experiences. I was surprised to discover how diverse, versatile and vast product design is as a field, in addition to how the design process resembled the scientific method; it begins with a prompt, followed by research, reformulation of prompt or objective, and a cycling between ideation, development and testing until, finally, production.

One of the biggest things I took away from the first week was how to work and thrive in a company. Communication, collaboration, understanding – these are all important to obtaining success in the industry. And I know because we actually did a project that resembled the experience of working in a company in which we had to work with others to create a flashlight design that satisfied the needs of a particular consumer. In teams, we interviewed our client, researched materials and resources, elaborated on different ideas and pitched our design. Being familiar with your client, demographic, competitors and the market place was the key to success. For me it was challenging to manage so many ideas in a group, to eliminate what was impractical and to agree on a particular vision. It’s through this first-hand experience, though, that I learned how work with others better, whether it was in EXPLORE or outside of it.

the mentoring effect

In the following weeks, we worked on more collaborative projects, like designing lunchboxes and water bottles, and we all improved in communicating and understanding. We learned more about the industry, like branding and advertising. However, we also learned about ArtCenter itself by exploring all their offered majors and what it felt like to be a college student.

The whole experience was so fun, stimulating, and enriching in that I not only learned, but experienced the product design process, business and marketing and ArtCenter. And it was so much better that I experienced this with peers who were funny, talented, and ambitious; I’ll remember all the laughs and the trip on the ArtCenter shuttle where we played games the entire way back. I also had the pleasure of being taught skills and life lessons from Stan’s personal experiences that I’ll take with me in the future.

Because I joined the IEA EXPLORE Externship at ArtCenter, I’ve become a better collaborator, presenter, artist and life-long learner. I plan to study and pursue product, industrial or interactive design in the future. In fact, I hope to be admitted to one of the several colleges to which I applied to study both engineering and design, two passions I’ve learned were anything but exclusive. For now, I’ll be attending Ryman Arts, a program that EXPLORE introduced me to.

I hope that my experience encourages others to explore their interests or overlooked passions to discover what the world has to offer – and what they can offer to the world.

Want to experience a hands-on externship under the guidance of an experienced mentor this summer? Apply for EXPLORE today! Applications for the 2019 program are due April 9, 2019.

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