Ben Gross: a Digital Design Student with an Artist's Eye

Ben Gross, a digital design major, is already being noticed for his imaginative design work.

Ben Gross is a Digital Design major with an artist’s imagination.  For one class project, he was asked to illustrate a scene from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Inspired by surrealism, he created a landscape of orange mushrooms that reproduce by melting onto fertile ground.  Spiraling trees of orange and gray surround the mushrooms and stretch infinitely into the distance, creating a mood of magical nonsense -- a mood that befits the classic novel.

Ben is already being noticed for his designs. He recently won a Cover Design Competition sponsored by VALE, a consortium of college and university libraries. And he has won the Second Year Design Award for Digital Design as well as a Director’s Scholarship from the School of Art + Design. Socially, he's an active  fraternity member in Kappa Xi Kappa. In this interview, Ben, a senior, talks about design.

Is Digital Design a major that calls for a lot of hands-on projects?
This is one of the best parts about this major and one reason why it is so much fun. When I work on my own project and, for example, create water effects for a design, I care more about learning because it's my idea; it’s not just an assignment. We learn theory in other classes but our major classes are all hands on.

Design majors get their own studio space.  Is that helpful? 
Having your own work space as a student is great. The work that I do at my studio desk is exciting because as I learn more about modeling complex objects, creating realistic lighting or setting up an animation, my ideas are less limited by my knowledge of the software. As your knowledge grows and your library of techniques increases, you can expand your ideas and that is the best part for me.

What would your ideal job be?
My ideal job would be a creative director or lead designer in a video game or film production house. This major is teaching us how to think about the overall design project, to focus on the bigger picture; that’s what a creative director does and that's the job I’d like.   

What do you like to design and what tools do you use?
I focus on designing 3D environments, but I have studied animation, compositing, 2D graphic art, storyboarding, character rigging and particle effects. Digital design differs from graphic arts in that we focus on 3D software applications and animation. The tools I use are Autodesk Maya, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as After Effects and Rhinoceros. For conceptual work, I stick to a pencil and sketch pad.

The digital design major was first offered when you were a freshman, so you’ll be in the first graduating class.  Do you feel part of a new field?
Digital design is a new major in an emerging field. It’s difficult to define the field because digital techniques are used widely in many fields and are evolving. What this major does is to give students the experience necessary to understand the breadth of this enormous field and to find new opportunities within it. 

How did you first take an interest in design?
I decided in my senior year in high school to do something related to design because designing is your own creation, not something a teacher taught you. In architecture, Digital Design or any design field at NJIT, students are creating new designs in their first few weeks as freshmen. That’s amazing.

(By Robert Florida, Office of Strategic Communications)