Last month CannonDesign’s Baltimore office opened its doors to students from the Baltimore Design School (BDS) for a new program aimed at providing a glimpse in a day of a designer. Where prior programs have focused mainly on visiting and teaching in already familiar school environments, the first-ever Designer for A Day brought students into a working design office to engage them in activities focused in the day-to-day work of CannonDesign.

The day began with a welcome and introduction to CannonDesign Baltimore, led by Mike Glaros, the Baltimore Office Practice Leader. Students reviewed the agenda for the day, went on a quick office tour, asked questions about the profession, and received a Designer for A Day lanyard to mimic actual CannonDesign business cards.

The day was filled with activities focused on giving students the experience of working with design professionals and showing how their current design school experiences are setting them up for future success in the design industry. The activities included:

  • The Impact of Design: Baltimore design leaders spoke to the students about the process of design, and current projects on the boards. Students received sketchbooks and were tasked with sketching vignettes of the city of Baltimore from our office. Led by Kent Muirhead and Ryan Pietrowski.
  • Working with Other Disciplines: Showcasing the complex teams designers work with, and the means of communicating ideas across a large design firm, students had a conference call with a structural engineer in Buffalo, NY. After learning the collaborative nature of design, the students formed groups for a spaghetti tower competition. Led by Ashley Roe, Christina LoConte and John Roach.
  • Utilizing Digital Tools: Digital Practice leaders in our office shared how we use exciting computational tools in the design process to bring our projects to life – including a Virtual Reality demonstration of a current project. Led by Adam Louie and Ricardo Orfila.
  • Using Color + Materials: Focused on an exercise of redesigning our current lobby space, students worked with interior designers on the planning process and selected finishes and furniture to create a finish board. Students had to present their final boards and design inspiration in mock client presentations. Led by Erin Crowley and Briana Blowe.
  • Graphics + Marketing: With our marketing group, students learned how graphic design impacts our marketing work, and how project proposals and interviews are put together. Students saw how design professionals utilize the same computer programs and techniques that they are learning at BDS. Led by Karen Martin, Caroline Smith and Kellie Johnson.

The day concluded with a lunch Q+A session between students and mentors from CannonDesign. It involved meaningful conversations with students about planning their futures and the importance of goal-setting and perseverance. Each future designer left with a personalized portfolio that included their own sketches from earlier in the day, photos and lessons from each activity, their new nametag, and advice on pathways to becoming a future design professional.

The concept for the program was formulated in mid-summer 2018 by Ryan Pietrowski, an emerging leader and designer in the Baltimore office, and member of the firm’s NEXT Council. Conceptualized as an outreach program that would build partnerships with local students interested in design pathways, the program’s mission quickly developed into expanding the diversity of future designers – influencing and encouraging future careers for students that may not have considered the design profession before.

Relying on nationwide connections within CannonDesign, as well as within the local Baltimore Architecture community, Ryan and several members of the Designer-for-a-Day team met with groups including the Baltimore AIA and the Baltimore AIA Future Architecture Resources (FAR) teams to discuss goals of the program, seek out lessons learned from similar events, and to gain insightful contacts to help create an impactful event. Through these meetings, the Baltimore Design School was suggested as a perfect partner for our pilot program. The mission of the Baltimore Design School, a public middle and high school in Baltimore City, states: “It all started with a desire to provide city students with an outlet for design.” The mission for the Designer-for-a-Day program matched perfectly with the mission of BDS.

“People don’t often realize that we are a 6-12 Baltimore City Public School. We experience the beautiful struggle of all that goes with an urban landscape and that’s part of why it’s all the more rewarding as we graduate each new class and come closer to fulfilling our mission of expanding the diversity of the design professions.” – Christine (Chris) Frederick, a parent of a BDS graduate and Director of Communications and Engagement for the school.

After months of planning, CannonDesign Baltimore’s first ever Designer-for-A-Day was a great success. The chance to provide students a glimpse to their design futures was rewarding for every member of the team. In the coming years, we hope to grow the program to influence more future designers with the same mission of expanding the diversity of the design professions. Thank you to everyone who helped with the planning and behind-the-scenes work to make the event special. We hope our new partnership with the Baltimore Design School continues to grow, spinning off into multiple events throughout the year, growing our professional engagement with these future designers.

“The impact of this professional engagement went far beyond the office. It offered another stepping stone on our path to Designing the Future.” – BDS Designer for a Day article