What’s the career pathway to becoming a graphic designer? Or an interior designer? Or a furniture designer? On Thursday, March 9, twelve Art Division students and staff members learned some answers to these questions and more when we walked three blocks down to visit Commune Design, a Los Angeles-based design studio with a reputation for holistic work across the fields of architecture, interior, graphic and product design.
Our group gathered in Commune’s conference room where, surrounded by images from one of the company’s current projects, we snacked on an exquisite chocolate-nut mixture designed just for Commune. There, the company’s founders, Roman Alonso and Steven Johanknecht, talked about their career pathways, both of which were surprisingly circuitous. Afterwards, several other Commune staff members talked about their career paths and answered student questions.
Students in the Art Division group were encouraged to learn that careers in design are often open to people with diverse professional backgrounds, and not exclusively those with degrees in design. “It was great to hear that real-world experience is really important on a career path,” Art Division student Leslie Martinez said. Art Division student Kristian Guerra, currently completing a degree in Graphic Design at Cal State Los Angeles, agreed. “It was really inspiring and nice to hear from designers and how they ended up where they are, as well as relieving and motivating to see them seek out local creatives from organizations and communities such as Art Division,” he said.
For Preston Alba, the staff member at Commune who coordinated our visit, that community outreach was important to their team. “We thoroughly enjoyed having Art Division visit our studio,” Preston said. “The students are curious and engaged and they have such an incredibly supportive faculty and alumni.”
After the meeting in the conference room, we took a guided tour of Commune’s studio, learning more about their unique, artisanal approach to design, which involves not only planning but actually creating and building furniture, fabric, door handles, dishware and more. Every aspect of a project is made with care, Roman Alonso told us, showing our group a set of plates whose color had been chosen after seven years of deliberation.
Our group was so delighted by the visit that nobody wanted to leave. Even after the tour, we stood outside on the doorstep, chatting excitedly about all that we’d learned. “Seeing their works, meeting their team, and seeing their office was really cool,” Kristian said. “Beyond professionally being interested in their internship opportunity for career development, I also felt welcomed. I would love to see and participate in other trips just like Commune.”
Preston Alba agreed. “Art Division has welcomed us into their community, and we can’t wait to find ways to work together,“ he said.
We are currently in conversation with Commune about creating a paid internship for an Art Division student at their studio.