Student work created in the ACX Teens Industrial Design Summer Intensive.
Student work created in the ACX Teens Industrial Design Summer Intensive.

feature / artcenter-extension / faculty / alumni / product-design / transportation-design
May 21, 2020
By Solvej Schou
Images courtesy of Mark Clarke


Wonder how an initial napkin sketch can become a smartphone, or how a concept car is designed? In ACX Teens’ four-week Industrial Design Summer Intensive, students explore the wide world of industrial design, a field in which form (shape), human factors (ergonomics) and an understanding of engineering and manufacturing come together. ACX Teens is ArtCenter’s program of art and design courses for high school students in grades 9 through 12.

Offered in two parts, Transportation Design and Product Design, the intensive is taught by alumni Mark D. Clarke (BS 83 Transportation Design) and Joel Bell (BS 01 Product Design). The first week focuses on basic skills such as 2D visual communication, design and research methodology, project structure, and presentation. “As the weeks progress, we refine skills and deep-dive into the history of ID,” says Clarke. “It’s an A-Z of industrial design.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ACX Teens decided that all of its courses would be taught remotely this summer, which meant that Clarke and Bell had to quickly adapt their syllabus. Their approach to online teaching includes dynamic sharing of visual information, from slides to videos, and more one-on-one online meetings to keep students at home energized and focused.

“Digital skills are much easier to teach in an online class format, so we’re introducing more of them than in past years,” says Clarke, an international automotive designer and consultant who has worked at Fisker, Porsche and BMW. “For reviewing and critiquing work online, we use Zoom’s built-in annotation tools . We’re also inviting more ArtCenter degree students, as well as product and automotive design industry professionals, to give speeches and demos.”

Industrial Design Summer Intensive students will be introduced to ArtCenter’s work ethic and tasked with producing high quality portfolio pieces, suitable for applying to the College’s degree programs. For their first project, they’ll design a personal and functional workspace. They’ll also use available household items for their 3D model-making assignments, Clarke says, and taught basic Photoshop digital sketching techniques in the last two weeks of the course.

“With advancements in online learning, the students have a unique opportunity to learn and develop important design skills in the comfort of their own space, while interacting with students from all over the world, and that’s exciting,” says Bell, who has designed products ranging from sports equipment to home furnishings and children’s products. His clients include Callaway Golf, Diamondback Fitness and Disney.

“Working and teaching remotely in previous jobs, for many years, has given me extensive experience with online platforms,” adds Clarke. “In the mid ‘90s, I was part of a pioneering project at BMW to develop remote design working techniques.”

Clarke himself took courses as a teenager through ACX Teens—then called Saturday High—before applying to and being accepted into ArtCenter as an undergraduate Transportation Design student. “As someone who started my design education through ArtCenter, this Summer Intensive has deep personal meaning to me,” says Clarke.

ACX Teens faculty member Joel Bell.
ACX Teens faculty member Joel Bell.
Student work created in ACX Teens.
Student work created in the ACX Teens Industrial Design Summer Intensive.
ACX Teens faculty member Mark Clarke.
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Student work created in the ACX Teens Industrial Design Summer Intensive.
Student work created in the ACX Teens Industrial Design Summer Intensive.