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Student Collaborations

Collaborative Design Career Exploration and Studio Crawl: A Reflection

Collaborative Design student Jordan Murphy reflects on the first ever Career Exploration and Studio Hop. Students were invited to take the Friday to listen, watch, and dance through different design ideas, careers, and projects. Below you can read Murphy’s thoughts and highlights from the event.



To kick off our Career Exploration day and Studio Crawl, Derek Call joined us at KCAD to give a keynote presentation about his creative career. Call began his career as a volunteer at Sundance Film Festival where he made a connection that tacked his name onto 13 years worth of experience in the entertainment and special event industry. Call’s official title with his work for the Super Bowl is a Cast Coordinator and has held that position for 14 Super Bowl halftime shows. Call is responsible for coordinating the cast, crew, and performers during the rehearsals. He works with many people who need to be trained and every last detail is planned and repeatedly rehearsed– performers, fans, and crew members who, without perfect timing, could make or break the show. Call walked us through his 2019 event which featured Maroon 5, pointing out that the lighting changed with their setlist– each time, to create a new “mood” for the audience. The details are the most important part of this production, and rehearsals are key to pulling it off– especially in the case of Lady Gaga, who’s 2017 Super Bowl performance had Call raving. Call shared that a retired football trainer was brought in to coach Lady Gaga into how to catch a football. But in classic Gaga fashion, she showed up to rehearsals one day with a 5 pound crystalized football. Details had to be reconsidered in order to pull it off, but Call’s production exceeded expectations as it all worked out. Despite the energetic and nature of his work in the entertainment and special event industry, it is evident that he makes it a priority to have fun while working. Locally, Call is known as the Director of Operations & Productions at ArtPrize. In the end, Call compared his experiences with the Super Bowl and ArtPrize in terms of participation, event size, and curation methods. After Call’s exciting keynote, we moved towards our first Studio Crawl spot, Reagan Marketing.



Our first stop on our Studio Crawl was at Reagan Marketing, a beautiful building that has been their home for 8 years sits at 912 Wealthy St. SE. The building’s history is known by their employees, celebrated, and showcased after renovation. With floor to ceiling windows and an open floor plan, the architecture is a reflection the past,and what once used to be a drive-thru window has been restored. The glazed brick and flooring featured in their business is original to the building, and thoughtfully memorialized in their common area. Our tour through Reagan Marketing’s space introduced us to the different environments that await us as we move into more professional career opportunities. The open concept office features desks that offer privacy without being isolating, with a detail of “peep holes” for easy access to conversation– though, it’s been said that it isn’t uncommon for questions to be shouted across the room to make things easier. The space is comfortable and welcoming, with a lush garden in the back of the building. The integration of architectural landscape and interior design makes the workspace more inviting and comfortable. Reagan Marketing offers services such as graphic design, content marketing, event planning, and advertising.


Our next Studio Crawl stop brought us to ThoughtFull, a design consulting agency at 975 Cherry St. SE. The workspace that Collaborative Design alumni Connor Irwin and Ian Culver (2017) share with Tom DeVries is clean and crisp. Aside from a cozy lounge and a couple of desks, the space is easy to move around in. The building lets in a lot of natural light, surely encouraging thinking and promoting inspiration, and the style in which they work is obvious from the layout. Their workspace is lined with boards housing research and plans for current clients, and highlights past projects like Product Innovation for PepsiCo and World Vision. Our experience at ThoughFull took us through their process of diving deep to find more information and solutions, often times, clients expect their solutions to arise from little to no information. ThoughtFull has a refreshing approach to their design process. They know that branching out, investigating competitors, accepting the idea that no idea is too crazy, and investigating trends is crucial to finding a design solution. Currently, ThoughtFull is in collaboration with Air New Zealand for a complete redesign– including Customer and Inflight Experience. ThoughtFull is working to design a row of seats that can transform into a couch– and be the first ones to do it.



The final stop on our Studio Crawl brought us to The Understanding Group, a business management consultant group in an office space at 822 Cherry St SE. The Understanding Group specializes in creating a better user experience through information architecture. T.U.G. brings order to complex digital places– ones that are useful, scalable, and delightful. We met with Dan Klyn, Travis LaFleur, and Grant Carmichael– who are three of a multidisciplinary team of highly skilled information architects, researchers, and strategists who are passionate about the power of information architecture as a lens for problem solving. At this visit, a lot of us learned about what information architecture means, how they work with their clients, and how it is important to the design world. The Understanding Group works with a range of clients. Herman Miller approached T.U.G. to improve navigation issues and user experience for their website expansion. Working in organizing information for clients in a way that users can understand, we were introduced to an aspect of design that can be overlooked by students when it comes to UX design. The atmosphere was fun and inviting, Grant, Dan, and Travis provided a fun and light visit that made a great end to our Studio Tour.



Our day wrapped up with Soul Club back at KCAD. Andrew Christopoulos, Mike Saunders, and Josh Breuer lead a conversation about their history as DJ’s– as well as provided information about the history of the Grand Rapids music scene. Soul Club takes classic tracks from the 70’s and 80’s and remixes them. The different generations that attended enjoyed the iconic music with current attributes.

After a long Studio Crawl, it was fun to end the day with dancing and delicious food! You can catch Soul Club at their events on every first Sunday of the month, find out more at

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