How to Survive in School

When I was in design school, I had an instructor that seemingly hated me for whatever reason.  This class was a drawing class.  Until this point in my training, I had never had conflict with any instructor.

On the first day of this class, the instructor called up each student individually to view their previous work, and to ask them about their background and prior experience.  I told the instructor that I had experience in the same field that he worked in, which was the toy industry.  Maybe my confidence antagonized him.  I am still not sure to this day if I offended him or maybe he considered me a threat because I had achieved a similar recognition that he had, but that I was technically still a student.

The instructor viewed my work and severely criticized me.  He asked what I received in my last drawing class.  I replied, “ I got an A.”

He said, “Really?  I was going to suggest that you go back a grade!”

I was outraged!  I had never been so offended by a teacher.  From there things just got worse.  I felt like I was being picked on at every turn.  I had heard from previous students in his classes that he selected a student to torture every term.  Unfortunately, this time it was me.

During a timed drawing midterm, all the students were instructed to pick a slip of paper out of hat to determine what subject matter they drew.   Remember, this was a product related drawing class, and all subject matter were to be consumer product related such as toasters, alarm clocks, blenders, etc.  When it came my turn came to pick, I was told to put back the slip of paper that I drew, and he pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket and instructed me to draw that particular subject; to my dismay it was a sport utility vehicle.  I had not drawn cars for years, and I was sure I was pretty rusty at it.  I sweated profusely during that timed midterm.  We had to draw multiple views and render all of them.  While my classmates were enjoying their class break drinking sodas, I was dying just hoping to finish in time.  The midterm earned me a horrifying “D”.  I was extremely upset and angry.  I felt he intentionally singled me out, setting me up for failure.  I now only had 2 choices.  I could complain to the department chairman and cry injustice and drop the class or I could tough it out till the end.  If I dropped out now, I would have to face this same instructor again next term and start all over again.

This class and its instructor traumatized me.  I didn’t know what to do.  I had never been in this kind of situation before where I felt the teacher hated me.  So I sought advice from one of my mentors.  He told me, “Not everyone wants to be your friend.”

He advised me that the best thing I could do was to show up to class on time, finish your work, and don’t speak unless you are spoken to.  I took that advice and it got me through the rest of the term.  Ultimately I received a “B+” for the final grade.  He just wanted to show me who was boss and put me in my place.  When you are in a particular teacher’s class, do it their way.  Don’t make waves and ruffle feathers.  The lesson here was to “shut your mouth and know your role.”

Let us fast-forward 3 years. I had graduated and was a working professional.  When I had the opportunity to return to Art Center to become an instructor, I frequently saw the instructor that tortured me at the faculty meetings.  Being in the meetings and letting him know that we were now on equal ground gave me a sense of justification.  In spite of what he thought of my drawing ability, or me, it probably irritated him that I was able to become a fellow instructor and teach things my way.

The List of Design Stuff

We’re often asked by our students which sites we look at for research, inspiration, etc etc.  So I’m going to start keeping a master list of everything I can find on design “stuff”.  I also need to note that this is a WIP, so if you don’t see a site here and would like to recommend one, leave it in the comments below or leave one on our Facebook page.

Blogs, News, All Around

Gallery & Inspiration

  • Industrial Design Served – I thought our website name was long to spell.
  • Pinterest – Sign up and start pinning.
  • Site Inspire – Mainly for web design, but searches will lead to other sites for other fields.
  • Draw Crowd – Giant picture board for concept art.
  • Deviant Art – Huge. Will take time to sort through… beware of furries.
  • ConceptArt.Org – More of a community site, but has lots of art.
  • CGHub – A must for aspiring entertainment students.  Kind of like Facebook for concept artists. *UPDATE: Now defunct.


  • Font Squirrel – Commercial free fonts!
  • The Leagure of Moveable Type – Open Source fonts.  Just be sure to credit the creator if you decide to use it.
  • dafont – Huge repository of fonts, but be mindful of the ones you pick: not all fonts are created equal.
  • Type Connection – Take two fonts on a date and see if it works.



  • Kuler – A handy little tool useful for picking colors.  Plug in for Photoshop also available.
  • Color Scheme Picker – Like Kuler, but has more options including picking colorblind sets.
  • Tin Eye Labs – Search Flickr images by color.  Very handy.

Branding and Identity

3D Modeling

  • SolidSmack –  Not strictly 3D but it’s part of a network of CAD related sites.
  • CADJunkie – Part of said network.
  • GrabCAD – Tons of FREE 3D models for reference.
  • SketchUp – Free 3D modeling tool.  Takes less than an hour to learn and has a large repository of FREE downloadable models.


Recommended Reading (Some of these aren’t cheap; Art Center students should be able to find them in the library)

Cheer Up!

Cheer Up! is going to be a regular thing here as we post interesting, funny, and/or inspirational things as the term goes on.  It’ll mainly be design stuff (hopefully) but expect to see the occasional cat/dog/pet creep into these posts.  Tony has another posting idea he’s calling “It’s Only Funny if It Isn’t You” that will highlight blunders that we can all learn from.  Expect to see that series soon.

So for the first Cheer Up! I’m posting a link to a pretty old but still relevant article/FAQ by Raja Sandhu that discusses his processes and dealing with clients.  It’s all “tongue-in-cheek” of course but still a good read.  I especially like this passage:

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

Just because we’re “creative” people doesn’t make our line of work any less valuable.

Starter Set

Every student at Concept Cube will need a starter set.  We normally have a handful of sets in stock ready for sale in the studio, but this post is to show what you’re going to need if you decide to go out and get them on your own.

supplies_bluesCopic Markers – Blue Set

  • B32
  • B24
  • B26
  • B39

supplies_orangesCopic Markers – Orange Set

  • YR04
  • YR07
  • R08
  • R27

supplies_copics2Copic Markers – Yellow Set & Desert Set

  • Y21
  • Y17
  • Y38
  • E09
  • YR14

supplies_copicsCopic Markers – Other Tones

  • YR000
  • YR82
  • YR61

supplies_pensWhite gel pen and felt tip pens (0.5 and 0.7)

supplies_erasersClicky eraser, white block eraser, and kneaded eraser.

supplies_tapeknivesWhite 3M Scotch paper tape (3/4″ medium tackiness; has 256 on the inside yellow liner) and X-ACTO knive with #11 blades.

supplies_triangular30-60-90 triangle (large size; preferably see-thru)

supplies_circsCircle guides (various sizes)

supplies_padMarker pad, 14″ by 17″ size (we use Canson brand paper, but any brand name will do as long as it has been treated for marker use.  Get the correct size!)


Itoya portfolio folder, 14″ by 17″.  Keep your work nice and tidy!

You’ll also need an 18″ metal ruler (not pictured).





Behind The Scenes

Back in December of 2011 (!) Concept Cube made a little video.  I managed to find some pictures of that day.  I’ll post more as I find more time.  Fun times!