Designing the Future: See the Work of Our Top Design Students

Here is the work of one our top design students Kristen Ciandella, an industrial design major.

The College of Architecture and Design recently gave awards to graduating seniors who were outstanding designers and representatives of the School of Art + Design. What follows is a story about each student, with an illustration of his or her work. You can also watch a slideshow of their work.

Rachel Corres won the School of Art + Design Medal.  Each year, the School gives the medal to an outstanding graduating senior who combines academic achievement with design excellence. Rachel had many accomplishments at NJIT.  For two years in a row, she won the Design Award for Digital Design majors, an award that also recognizes design distinction.  She also won first place in a student design competition sponsored by the Virtual Academic Library Environment (VALE), in which she designed a cover for VALE’s online brochure.  She also was awarded the 2012 Art + Design Director's Scholarship.

She is the founding president of NJIT SIGGRAPH, a campus group that helps students learn about the computer graphics industry.  SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques) is a group that supports computer graphics interactive techniques. Her animations and still imagery can be found at

Talk about starting an NJIT chapter of SIGGRAPH?

A year ago, my fellow digital designer, Danielle Esmaya, and I founded NJIT (ACM) SIGGRAPH. Both Danielle and I believe that SIGGRAPH offers great opportunity to students in our field, so we created the NJIT chapter so that other students can learn and take advantage of SIGGRAPH. Our chapter has also worked hard to hold computer graphics software tutorials, organize workshops, and events where DDs can network and get to know each other outside their years.

How was your internship at Novartis?

Last summer, I did a summer internship with Novartis’ graphic design house, Creative Media and Print. The department is responsible for most if not all of the visual media and branding throughout the company.  I learned a lot about working in a professional environment and collaborated personally with clients on various projects as the main graphic designer.

Rachel CorresHow does Digital Design differ from graphic arts?

Digital Design is a broad spectrum of topics and skills, graphic design being only one aspect of it.  Digital Design includes graphic design, motion graphics, video and animation, aspects of game design, introduction to set design and motion pictures and physical computing. It’s a rich and broad curriculum and these past four years have given me a chance to explore the areas I want to pursue.  I am the type of person who likes to do everything, so I would like to do graphic design, but I also want to pursue motion design and 3D modeling, texturing, and lighting.

Would you recommend the digital design program to a high school student who is interested in design?

This definitely is a major that will challenge a student to grow in creativity and discipline. I would recommend digital design to a student who has a passion for the computer graphics industry and the willingness to work hard for it. If you love what you do, you won’t mind the hard work and the bumps that come along the way in your academic career.

You have participated three times in the Global Game Jam at NJIT.  Are you an avid gamer?

I've had the opportunity to participate in Global Game Jam for the past three years. Although I do not particularly love video games, I do appreciate the conceptual and 3D art behind them. I wouldn’t mind working for a game company, but film/TV/advertising companies are what I’m most interested in.

Where did you grow up and go and what is your background?

I was born in Saudi Arabia, moved to Australia, then to California, before settling here in New Jersey; the majority of my childhood was spent between Australia and New Jersey. I went to Union County College for a Graphic Design/Fine Arts associate’s degree before coming to NJIT to take Digital Design.

What are your plans for summer and afterwards?

This summer I plan to get a job in either in Graphic Design, Motion Design, or Film/TV/Advertising at a studio preferably in New York City. At the same time, I plan to improve and perhaps expand on past studio and school projects to better my portfolio. I also look forward to having more time for friends and family.

kristen ciandellaKristen Ciandella won two awards: Designer of Distinction Award for Industrial Design Academic Merit Award for Industrial Design. During her second year at NJIT, Kristen won the Design Award and also won the Cambridge Silversmiths Sponsored Studio Design Award. She already has a great job working as a designer for Hampton Forge in Eatontown, NJ. You can view her portfolio at

Can you talk about your job?

I just graduated on May 20th and I'm already working full time! I've joined the Product Development team at Hampton Forge in Eatontown, NJ. They are a company that mass produces cutlery and flatware, and I'm very excited about my new position.

Why or how did you get interested in Industrial Design?

I took art class all four years when I was in high school, but I didn’t know right away that I wanted to be a designer. After graduating, I spent two and a half years at Middlesex County College where I got my associate’s degree in fine art. Before I finished up there, I knew that I needed to change my major to something that was more structured but still allowed for creative expression. I first considered interior design, but after attending an open house at NJIT where I learned what industrial design was, I immediately knew that it was what I wanted to do.

How do you describe industrial design?

Industrial Design is product design! I’ve described it as a balance between art and engineering; you have to be able to make something that looks good and also functions. Otherwise, you’re just making sculptures. The name industrial design is totally misleading for people. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had to explain that an industrial designer does not design buildings. I’ve spent three and a half years at NJIT, and throughout my semesters of studio I have designed scorpion-inspired flatware, a desk light, paper-egg packaging, door handles, a folding bicycle, museum furniture, and various housewares and kitchen products. I’ve enjoyed the change in scale from small projects like flatware to a full-scale folding bike because we make physical prototypes of our designs and figuring out how to make those are sometimes a design challenge.

Did you like your classes?

My favorite class every semester has always been studio. It’s where I spend the most time, and studio projects seem to always take priority over the other classes. The design electives and ID requirements have been pretty fun, too.

breana mallamaciBreana Mallamaci also won two awards: Designer of Distinction for Digital Design and the Academic Achievement award for Digital Design. In the fall, she’ll attend the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she’ll pursue a master of fine arts in Computer Art. She plans to study either animation or motion graphics, or to combine the study of both.

Can you talk about your project called Sprout and Friends?

It was my final studio project. I collaborated with City-Hydroponics, a Newark-based company, to create an animation. The animation is aimed towards teaching children in Pre-K/K about plants (where they come from, what they need to grow, etc.) and hydroponics (how it works and why it is preferable to traditional farming). To achieve this, I created three characters: Sprout, who is an inquisitive young plant who wants to know where he came from and what he is going to be; and Broccoli and Tomato, two older plants who guide Sprout on his journey. Here’s a link to my website and portfolio:

What about your autobiographical image project?

I created my autobiographical image in my first Digital Design studio. We were tasked with creating a still image that contained different objects that somehow represented who you are. The objects I chose are: my laptop, because that is what I primarily use work on my various projects; my camera, because I like to take pictures that are visually striking; my Flip camera, because I also enjoy recording and editing video; a stack of DVDs featuring movies that inspire me, like Up and Toy Story; my collection of Harry Potter books, because they were a big part of my childhood growing up; and a pair of mouse ears from Disney, because Disney has and continues to inspire me. By putting these objects together in a scene, I can tell a story about my life, from the past to the future. The books, DVDs and mouse ears represent my childhood and inspirations, while the laptop and two cameras represent my present, working towards my goals and aspirations for the future.

What tools did you use for this work?

As a digital designer, I used a variety of different programs, both 2D and 3D. When working in 2D, I mostly use the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop and Illustrator). When working in 3D, like creating a model or an animation, I use Autodesk 3DS Max and Autodesk Maya. To edit videos and put animations together, I use Adobe After Effects.

Did you like the Digital Design program?

I loved being able to use different tools and programs and creating something visually stunning. The Digital Design program exposed me to many areas that the field has to offer. Over my four years at NJIT, I learned about color theory, 3D modeling, art history, video game coding and design, animation, video editing, physical computing and web design. I did not exactly enjoy working in every area, but I did appreciate and understand its value. Getting experience in all these areas helped me to decide what I was truly passionate about and what I wanted to focus on. I would recommend this program to anyone who has a broad interest in the field of Digital Design, because it will help you get a better understanding of what there is to offer while simultaneously helping you hone your craft. 

How did you get into digital design?

Since I was a kid, I always loved using my dad's computer to color or make birthday cards. As I grew up, my interest and fascination with computers grew and matured. In middle school, I joined video production clubs and experimented with stop-motion videos. In high school, I continued to experiment with videos and video editing. I also took a graphic design class and fell in love with Adobe Photoshop. At this point, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in design. I began to look for potential colleges to attend and visited several schools. When I visited an NJIT Open House, I knew right away that it was the school for me. I liked the fact that the Digital Design program would expose me to many different aspects of design. I also liked the fact that the program was called "Digital Design," since the name itself illustrates how vast and varied the field is.  Four years later, I am happy with my choice and everything I have been able to accomplish at NJIT.

peter fritzkyPeter Fritzky won two awards: Designer of Distinction for Interior Design and the Award for Academic Achievement for Interior Design. He worked on the interior of a house that a student team designed and built as part of the upcoming Solar Decathlon contest in China. He didn’t come directly to NJIT after high school. He worked for six years as a carpenter, where he found he liked interior design.

Talk about the job you had before coming to NJIT?

Before I came to NJIT, I worked for 6 years as a carpenter, installing mostly high-end kitchens and bathrooms along with all the finish work with the homes, such as moldings, cabinets, doors, etc.  I have always been interested in the design of furniture and layouts of interior spaces.  I had the opportunity to explore a little more about interior design at NJIT and found out that I really enjoyed it.

And talk about your current job?

I am working at a private company right now, working directly under the owners.  They own many apartments that they rent out.  I help the owner design and build baths and kitchens in the older apartments that need to be updated.  It is more on the construction side of work, but it is very important for me to understand the “guts” (the inner workings) of the building environment. 

Did you enjoy the Interior Design program?

I did enjoy the environment that NJIT offered; I believe that it is a great program for a student who is highly motivated and dedicated and who is looking to pursue a career in this field.  The classes at NJIT had a very personal feel to them; since our class only consisted of around 22 people, I found that I could get help with any questions that I had.  This also allowed for students in the class to develop relationships which led to a comfortable work environment.

How is an interior designer different from an interior decorator?

Interior Decoration is a lot different than Interior Design, which focuses on the layout and focus on space as much as the design portion. 

What was your favorite project?

My favorite project while attending NJIT would be my Office Space project.  I enjoyed incorporating multiple disciplines into one cohesive space. With the Solar Decathlon house, I helped the other interior designers with the layout and space while picking the furniture pieces; unfortunately, due to scheduling reasons, I am unable to attend the trip to China but I wish them all the luck and I hope that they win. My plans for the future are to move forward and to find my place in the design world.

Nora HamadeNora Hamade, an interior design major, won the School of Art + Design Award for Outstanding Service.  Nora was the second student chapter president of the American Society of Interior Designers at NJIT, and was the second interior design student from any college selected to participate in the Autodesk Student Expert Program. She twice (in 2012 and 2012) attended Autodesk training; she received a scholarship and attended Autodesk University in Las Vegas in 2012. As the School’s Autodesk student expert, she organized training sessions for students in both Interior Design and Architecture at NJIT.

She expanded the idea of service to go beyond NJIT and was the organizer of NJIT's participation in the Dream Room Makeover program that helps families with children who have life-challenging illnesses or disabilities. She also led the effort for NJIT students to design and participate in the 2012 Mansion in May Show house at Glynallyn, which benefitted the Women's Association of Morristown Medical Center.

Her work was exhibited in the curated Student Work Exhibit at SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles in 2012. Nora was twice selected as a design award winner for the School of Art + Design; during the 2012 and 2013 Design Showcases. She also worked an internship at Gensler, a global architecture and design firm in Morristown.You can visit her online portfolio at   

How did you like Interior Design as a major?

Each semester we had a focus, such as designing for residential and commercial. We also designed the interior of a pre-school. You learn all the areas; then, after you graduate, you can specialize. We also have many terrific professors, such as David Brothers.

Did you like the projects you worked on?

What I liked is that we worked on real sites in Newark. We’d visit a local building, take photos and measurements and study the floor plans. We’d then use forward-looking software such as Revit to develop our designs.  We also learned about a building’s structure and/or its interior architecture.   

You had two internships, right?

Yes, I had a first internship during the summer of 2011 at Hastings Tile and Bath, a manufacturer of tiles, fixtures, tubs and toilets. I learned a great deal about what specs to use for those products. And, last summer I worked at Gensler in Morristown.  I started off working in the materials library, where all the designers come in to select materials for projects: tile, glass, fabric, ceiling tile and furniture.   I stayed on in the fall and worked on Fridays. During winter break, I worked full time and in the spring I went back to Fridays and I still have a relationship with Gensler.

Talk about your work on the solar house that a team of students built?

I joined in the fall of 2001 as part of the interior design team. We worked on the interior of the solar house. We created custom furniture and we worked on interior finishes and helped select appliances and fixtures. We are collaborating with a team of Chinese students and our team has 16 NJIT students. I’m leaving for China soon; I can’t wait to see how our house does in the competition and it would be great if we win. 

What service did you do to win the award for Outstanding Service?

I was President of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) at NJIT last year. Through that group, I led a community service project called Dream Room Makeovers. We help children with physical disabilities by designing a dream bedroom for them. I also spearheaded the Mansion in May project, where ASID worked to restore an old mansion, work that helped to benefit the Morristown Women’s Hospital.  It was fun and meaningful work.

Tracy WuTracy Wu won the Award for Academic Achievement in Industrial Design (Kristen Ciandella also won that award).  She was also selected as a design award winner for the School of Art + Design during the 2013 Design Showcase. She worked on a number of interesting projects while a student here, some of which she discusses below.

Talk about the bicycle you made?

I made a folding bike for studio. We then raced them to see whose bike would fold the fastest. I think I placed somewhere in the high middle on time.

You also did a bit of fashion design?

I did a project where I designed a logo for a tote bag. We were exploring the fashion industry that semester and applying it to industrial design. Industrial design is essential product design, so anything can relate—we are kind of a broad major.

Did you like having Industrial Design as your major?

I liked industrial design because it really is hand-on and I got to make models. I think my major was fun because you get to design something and see it develop and have a finished prototype that you can hold—even if it is just a piece of foam or a 3D piece. You get to see it finished in a way, whereas in architecture all you really see are renderings or scaled models where you can only use your imagination.

Can you talk about a favorite project?

I have a hard time picking out projects as favorites. I liked my thesis project for sure because we got to choose pretty much whatever we wanted to do. I worked on a blanket kit for kids who are going away to summer camp for the first time. The blanket is a play area and comes with characters that are a “family.” And one of the characters is a bracelet that the child could wear in replace of carrying the blanket everywhere.

By Robert Florida