Over the past several years, Adjunct Professor Amanda Robertson has brought on several College of Design students to work with her in her role as senior multimedia specialist/art director at DELTA, NC State’s distance education unit.
This spring semester she engaged the interns in a project larger than most: to design the interior of Underwriters Laboratories’ new 20,000 sq. ft. training facility in Research Triangle Park, NC.
The global company—which does product safety testing as well as safety certification in a number of industries—wanted something different from the norm, said Brad Smock, UL University’s General Manager. “These are longer-term classes. We want our students to be captivated not only by the content, but also the learning environment. So we decided to go for more of a youthful approach.”
In addition to coming up with original designs and installations, students had to work within the project’s budget and source out the work to vendors themselves.
Features included a 3D “book wall” at the ground-floor entrance, a history wall with photographs from archives at the company’s headquarters in Northbrook, IL, and lots of frosted glass to allow for student privacy while providing an open office feel.
One challenge: six weeks into the project, the company changed its brand identity, necessitating a re-working of all the graphics up to that point.
Students also struggled with how to mount products effectively in “exploded view” in clear plexiglass. “We tried everything—acrylic rods, fishing line, metal cables, binder clips, solder, silly putty,” said Industrial Design student Steven Valenziano. “Some solutions seemed great on paper but didn’t work in practice. The solution I finally arrived at was using a bike spoke to hold up the parts, and wrapping wire around a rubber gasket to hold the part up.”
Despite the pressure to be done in time for the July 15 ribbon-cutting, “everything turned out exactly how we envisioned it in our head,” said Art + Design student Melissa Church, who traveled to the company’s headquarters to gather information for the project’s history portion.
The company’s RTP training facility is meant as a proof of concept project. If the facility helps drive revenues in UL’s client training division, the company may expand it to several more of its 38 locations around the world, said Smock.
Said Robertson: “This shows other corporations and businesses what students can do, that they can really get wonderful design solutions by providing these collaborative experiences.”