Ryan Pietrowski
Ryan Pietrowski
June 9, 2020

Baltimore Office's Second Annual Designer for a Day Event Goes Virtual

Ryan Pietrowski
Ryan Pietrowski

Friday, March 13, 2020. For many of us, this was the last day in a physical office at CannonDesign. A historically superstitious day (if you believe in that) during an uncertain time that featured daily briefings from task forces and governors alike, overloaded with news projections and hoarding of food and essentials.

Friday the 13th was also scheduled to be the day that the Baltimore Office welcomed a dozen students from Baltimore Design School (BDS) for our 2nd annual Designer for a Day program. Our partnership with BDS was entering its second year and our office had been preparing diligently for the highly anticipated event. However, one day prior to the event, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland announced the closure of public schools effective at the end of the day on Friday. Many of us wondered about the safety of the students and CannonDesign employees alike. The night before the event, the difficult decision was made to postpone. The uncertainty of the outside world began to take hold in our design world bubble.

Fast-forward one month. We have all done our best to settle into the “new-normal.” Our contact at BDS, Chris Frederick, reached out to our team about how we could get students involved at home. Following a few conversations, the idea of Designer for a Day 2020: Virtual Sessions was born. The online version could utilize the framework established for our in-office program while reaching an even wider range of students than capable previously.

CannonDesign established four weekly online sessions with the students, each week providing a new perspective at the design profession and careers within. The sessions encouraged an open dialogue to create connections with the students including fielding questions during presentations, sharing our own career stories, creating virtual sketch sessions shared through webcams, etc. Our in-office program focused on forging these relationships with the students and our virtual sessions needed to achieve this as well.

Session 1: The Process of Design–Led by Kent Muirhead, Ryan Pietrowski, and Ricardo Orfila

Students learned about the design process on recent projects at CannonDesign, including a project in Los Angeles. Kent and Ryan shared how design projects begin with concept sketches and diagrams and transform through digital tools, renders and virtual reality. Ricardo shared many of these technologies with the students, including Rhino and Revit, introducing many of the students to the creative tools available to designers. Students participated in a timed sketching exercise to teach the importance of visualizing forms, shadows, textures and other details.

Session 2: Project Teams + Construction Sites–Led by Christina LoConte and John Roach

Session 2 began with sharing how designers work in complex teams and communicate ideas across multiple offices. John Roach, a structural engineer in our Buffalo office, joined our session to share how these integrated teams can bridge multiple offices and disciplines. John shared structural design basics, as well as recent structural engineering projects. Bridging from the previous session, Christina LoConte presented how concept designs become construction drawings and led the students through “a virtual construction site tour” – sharing photos and drone videos of the new Sheppard Pratt Behavioral Health Hospital in Elkridge, Maryland. Throughout the presentation, Christina led an activity with the students to draw a wall section for the project, explaining the building components with site photos.

Session 3: Color, Materials + Graphics–Led by Erin Crowley and Briana Jones

Students learned how designers use elements of design to enhance their process. Erin Crowley, an interior designer in our Baltimore office, explained how form, scale, color, texture, pattern, and light all come together to create holistic compositions. The presentation explored the color wheel and the main color schemes designers can use. Sharing images from two recent projects at Virginia Tech and Penn State Health, Briana and Erin discussed how design elements can be applied to achieve unique, holistic compositions.

Session 4: Design Field Careers, Pathways, Q+A session–Led by Daniel Beatty, Anthony Vischansky, Kellie Johnson, Monica Pascatore and Briana Blowe

Designers from the Baltimore office shared stories of how they became interested in the design fields, and how their journeys have led to where they are now. We discussed internships, the path to licensure as an architect and celebrities with ties to design. The presentation touched on the importance of design education, and the possible career paths branching from the 3 main pathways that BDS offers—Fashion Design, Graphic Design and Architecture.

Special thanks to Daniel Beatty, Karen Martin and Nidra Williams for being involved since the beginning, and helping to coordinate our sessions.

The program averaged over 10 students per session, ranging from sixth to twelfth grade, but its reach extended much further. The virtual sessions allowed additional exposure to siblings and other family members who were able to listen in as we presented aspects of the design field. Families were able to hear from industry professionals on the importance of design education, and the career paths possible within. The education of family members was a founding goal of the program, and the virtual sessions unexpectedly allowed this additional exposure.

Thank you to everyone who helped with the planning and behind-the-scenes work to make the virtual events run as smoothly as possible. Thank you for the teachers out there who have been adapting and doing this daily—CannonDesign is honored to build upon our partnership with BDS and hopes to continue with focused design workshops in the summer of 2020.

Designer for a Day was created in 2019 by Ryan Pietrowski and a team at CannonDesign Baltimore. Our mission is to encourage designers of the future to expand the diversity of the design professions, and to provide a glimpse into the day of a designer—engaging students with working design studios and providing continuous and open dialogue with design professionals. The program was a key component in the Baltimore Office winning the 2019 Baltimore Mayors Business Recognition Award for community involvement.