Karina Campos ’17 was “absolutely shocked” to be named a Be Original Americas Fellow for the summer of 2016. When she found out that she was chosen from countless applicants to be one of just two design students from across the country to take part in the program, Campos knew that she was about to embark on the experience of a lifetime.
“The experience was mind-blowing. In school, you theorize how the industry works and what it’s like to work outside the classroom setting—and this design fellowship had me up close and working alongside professionals across multiple design firms and companies,” says Campos, an industrial and interaction design major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts' School of Design. “I got to learn about the design process from concept development to manufacturing and sales and distribution and that’s pretty rare—I got to see where design intersects with other departments.”
Be Original Americas’ seven-week Summer Design Fellowship program introduces two college students to all facets of creating innovative, high-quality products, from research, design and manufacturing to marketing and distribution through hands-on, in-the-field learning.
Each section of the fellowship focuses on a different aspect of the process from the perspective of Be Original Americas member companies, supplemented by visits to their showrooms, headquarters and factories in New York City and throughout the United States.
Campos and Sarah Ahart of Virginia Tech were the first-ever fellows in the new fellowship program. They went behind the scenes at leading design companies and Be Original Americas members across the U.S., including Bernhardt Design, Carnegie, Chilewich, Design Within Reach, Emeco, Herman Miller, Ligne Roset and Vitra.
With hands-on experience at these top companies, the Be Original Americas Fellowship offers exposure to both iconic firms with global heritage and game-changing new brands. Throughout the program, discussion moves from how each area of concentration contributes to the integrity and the originality of designs that are intended to improve quality of life and foster creativity.
“It’s important to engage with professionals, be curious and absorb all the knowledge possible,” Campos says. “School teaches you the design principles and skills, but knowing how all those skills come together in a working environment is where the true learning begins.”
Campos says that while she is focused on “user experience design,” she isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do following graduation.
The senior enjoys lots of different aspects of design—from fashion to graphics to computer-aided drafting, which is the reason she choose the all-encompassing industrial and interaction design program in VPA. The design internship helped shape her thoughts about her future and, with help from some mentors she met through the program, she’s accepted that it’s OK to be uncertain about her future.
“This experience has introduced me to incredible people and showed me the value of talking to those who are more experienced and well-versed in the field than me,” Campos says. “Together with my degree, I feel ready to take on whatever lies ahead.”