Ready to Work
New graduate Luke Gordon 16 ID—shown here at work in an Industrial Design studio—will join a team of consultants at SYPartners San Francisco.
Multidisciplinary designer Luke Gordon 16 ID sees the opportunity to work with SYPartners – a design consultancy “in the business of transformation” – as the perfect first step in his post-college career. The bicoastal firm, which takes prides in its creative work with teams, CEOs and businesses as diverse as AARP, Apple, Google, PBS and Planned Parenthood, among dozens of others, is very much in line with his sense of himself as a designer.
“One of the reasons I decided to major in Industrial Design,” says the new graduate, “is that I was trying to keep my options open. I’ve also taken a lot of Graphic Design classes, and my portfolio is really eclectic. I’m interested in design research, user empathy, computer interfaces, branding” – all aspects of the projects SYPartners takes on. “The work SY does is really sophisticated – visually striking and content driven,” Gordon adds. “They’re into starting conversations and solving problems at a larger scale.”
Gordon initially connected with SYPartners through recent alum Ryan Murphy 15 ID, who works in the firm’s NYC office. After a behind-the-scenes tour, he applied to the New York and San Francisco offices, met with representatives during RISD’s 2016 Design Portfolio Review, interviewed via Skype and was thrilled to land a six-month paid internship on the West Coast.
“I’m originally from Los Angeles,” Gordon notes, “so I’d much rather be on the West Coast. And the San Francisco job feels like it has the potential to be more long-term. It’s essentially a six-month trial period for both sides with the mutual hope that it’ll turn into a full-time commitment.”
As the only design intern joining the San Francisco team this year, Gordon will be collaborating with colleagues coming from different fields. He’s comfortable with that role, he explains, thanks to a Product Design and Development (PDD) studio he took this spring at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in which he collaborated with engineering and business students.
“That class really gave me a better understanding of how to work with people from different backgrounds,” Gordon says. “You have to hear what people are saying and turn it into a final product. You also have to be able to hold your own as the team’s designer.”
Gordon’s PDD team designed a sensor that attaches to sunglasses, monitors UV light and reminds the wearer via vibration when it’s time to reapply sunscreen. Though the end product was a success, the days leading up to final crits were incredibly stressful. “There was a lot of improvising and adapting on the fly,” he explains.
Generally speaking, however, Gordon believes the notorious RISD workload isn’t too much. “You have to find the balance between working and having a social life,” he says, “and working in the studio is actually part of the social scene here. Projects end up taking more time than you anticipate so you’re cramming for deadlines, but if you like what you’re doing, you enjoy the pace.”
Now that all the celebrations around Commencement are over, Gordon is already feeling a bit nostalgic about RISD and says he has “absolutely no regrets” about the choices he made during his years here. “RISD exposed me to a whole world of making,” he says. “I wouldn’t change a thing about the experience.”
After zipping into a stretchy jumpsuit, six-year-old Petra attaches “muscles” – made of magnets embedded in soft red pillows – to her small arms and legs.
Through long-term partnerships with MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Babson College, RISD students investigating product development have an opportunity to work closely with their business school counterparts– students majoring in marketing, manufacturing, engineering design, management and other disciplines.
Speakers at RISD’s 2016 Commencement ceremony urge this year’s graduating class to bring a sense of hope and possibility to a world in need of creative change.