ArtCenter president Karen Hofmann in a classroom

feature / alumni / sponsored-projects
March 15, 2023

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Sponsored Projects Newsletter – March 2023

How It Started. How It's Going.

Recognize anyone? In this 2004 image (captured on film, of course) Karen Hofmann, future president of ArtCenter College of Design, sits at the center of a project sponsored by Johnson Controls. 

During this studio, students across disciplines examined the future of how passengers would interface with vehicles, in safe, comfortable and entertaining ways. At the time, "interactive experience" was still a novel term. 

ArtCenter president Karen Hofmann in an image from 2004.

Above, Karen is immersed in a much more recent endeavor, ArtCenter's Gravity Sketch + Stellantis Sponsored Studio. In this 14-week project, Gravity Sketch, a 3D design platform, and automotive manufacturer Stellantis teamed up with our students to create the next generation Jeep Wrangler for 2030, with the emphasis on electrification and autonomous driving.

In an ArtCenter first, the project was documented in real-time across social media, as students were encouraged to post regular updates of their design process using #GravitySketchJeep. This offered the community real-time access to the innovation and techniques used by the students to arrive at their final designs.

Throughout the study, Gravity Sketch was eager for students to test its VR platform to enhance the automotive design process, while Stellantis empowered students to push Jeep forward, using the VR tool to collaborate with the brand's professional designers. 

"VR has become the latest tool in an automotive designer’s toolkit," says Becca Miller, Education Program Manager, Gravity Sketch. "The opportunity for students and Stellantis designers to be together in VR, reviewing concepts, allows for unparalleled critique and learning."

Mark Moushegian, Design Manager, Stellantis, agrees that the collective aspect of VR allows for opportunities of advancement across the design world. "It's the next level of moving design forward into an exciting new frontier," he says. 

Partnerships between companies in different industries, like Gravity Sketch and Stellantis, are becoming more commonplace, in and outside the classroom. Advancements in collaborative tech, coupled with the pandemic, have pushed this trend forward, allowing creatives around the globe to work on the same project, at the same time. At ArtCenter, our students are pioneering this new "interactive experience." 

As Karen shared, "the resulting designs were stunning, but it’s the design process that is the true game-changing result of this incredible collaboration. This studio offered a very clear window into the future of automotive design and, let me tell you, it looked very bright, even through that VR headset!"

Student in VR headset

VR has become the latest tool in an automotive designer’s toolkit. 

Becca Miller, Education Program Manager, Gravity Sketch

Student Spotlight: Jonathan Kfouri

Jonathan Kfouri.

Gravity Sketch helped me immediately test 2D sketch ideas in 3D, to quickly see if they were worth pursuing. My project was inspired by the raw thrill of dune buggies and side-by-sides; I tried to refine the aspects that make these vehicles so exciting, while still fitting within the Wrangler’s DNA."

Jonathan Kfouri

See more of Jonathan's designs.

Faculty Spotlight: Studio Instructor Marek Djordjevic

ArtCenter instructor Marek Djordjevic teaches in a classroom

VR for design in the automotive industry is pretty revolutionary. Students had concept reviews in our classroom in California, with their instructor in Rome, and with sponsors in London and Detroit—all in the same virtual space interacting in real time."

Read full Q&A.


Video: Envisioning the Jeep Wranglers of the Future

ArtCenter students use VR tools in the classroom.

Come inside the classroom.

In Good Company 

Each year, ArtCenter hosts about 15 Sponsored Projects, bringing the world’s biggest brands into our classrooms. Sponsored Projects are open to undergraduate students 5th term + above and graduate students. For more information, email: