Q&A: What is the Advanced Design Offsite Industrial Design Program and why should you apply?

Now that applications are open for Offsite’s second cohort of industrial design students, we’ve asked Advanced design‘s Hector Silva to explain the program, why they started it, what’s on offer and who should apply. (They also sent us samples of student work from the first cohort of students, which we sprinkle throughout the room.)

Core77: What is Offsite?

AD: Offsite is an intensive 12 week industrial design program focused on reframing what design education can be. The goal is to provide high quality design education, connections, and skills to get started and do it all in a way that is financially accessible. Offsite is everything your traditional college isn’t.

Josh hoffeld

Daval Thakkar

Taylor Mau

What motivated you to start it?

Hector was motivated to start Offsite with a group of other like-minded designers due to the gaps we saw between academia and industry. There are a lot of students who are not ready to make the full transition from an academic environment to a fast-paced competitive design environment, mainly because our industry is changing so fast that academia is too slow to adapt to. these changes, which leaves a lot of gaps.

Students are constantly frustrated with the quality of their education. The all too common story is that of professors who have not practiced in the industry for over a decade and, therefore, have no finger on the pulse of the industry. Then you mingle with the COVID-19 pandemic, and when forced into distance learning, students start to wonder why they’ve always paid tens of thousands of dollars.

Henri ripley

Henri ripley

Who is involved in teaching and why did you choose them?

We work with a diverse and very talented team of active designers: Michael DiTullo, Kat Reiser, Spencer Nugent, Kelly Custer, Tyler Anderson and Dominic Montante.

We know each of these instructors personally and are confident in their ability to deliver world-class design training. These designers have the pulse of the industry and know what it expects from students. Each instructor brings a unique talent to the table, but also a strong sense of versatility – they might as well be entrusted with each other’s lessons.

Fraser pyke

Becca Kay

Akshay Bhurke

Who should apply to Offsite?

We are looking for motivated and autonomous students. And we don’t mince words when we say that. We have removed mandatory grades, tests and homework because they do not measure a student’s success. Our indicator of success is whether a student can apply these relevant skills to their portfolio and get the job they want. That said, the only students who will be successful in this environment are those who will take charge of their careers.

For our Spring 2020 session, we will be focusing on honing the skills of active design students. We are looking for designers who already have a background in industrial design as we will work with the assumption that you know the basics. We will seek to offer both core courses for high school leavers and courses for more advanced professional designers in the future.

Zane Hoekstra

Brayan Stiven Pabón Gomez

What are the logistics of the courses?

Given the nature of the pandemic, the courses will remain online for the next session. Our school’s central hub is our Slack, which features all of our discussion boards and ancillary content. Classes are held on Zoom and are recorded for those who cannot attend in person. The overall course load would equate to approximately one semester of college / university study.

Olive kennington

Josh Delfin

What is the Offsite program for this year? What will be next year?

Our first run was our pilot. We learned a lot from this first session and are making adjustments in the next session. The curriculum will remain the same and we will cover practical skill sets that are often discussed lightly in school but learned on the job.

The design company, taught by Michael Ditullo, teaches how stakeholders outside the design studio affect design.

Design for manufacturing, taught by Dominic Montante, shows the real constraints of materials, processes and costs.

Design speech, taught by Spencer Nugent, helps students develop productive opinions when talking about design.

CAD for visualization, taught by Tyler Anderson, gives students up-to-date rendering skills to better display their work.

Real world sketch, taught by Kelly Custer, distinguishes between beautiful online sketches and real sketches that designers use as a vehicle for communication.

Professional self-presentation, taught by Kat Reiser, brings all these elements together to tell the story of a student’s work.

Ivan of Leon

Ivan of Leon

What is more difficult about teaching online or in person? And have you found any benefits?

Online education is easy. Creating a real sense of community is not. Our team strategically built Offsite from the ground up knowing that we would offer all courses online. Taking advantage of current student complaints in the online climate, we sought to recreate the same studio energy you find in a physical school through scheduled and impromptu studio meetings, game nights, and chats.

Even all of our planning between the instructors took place remotely – we didn’t meet physically once.

The most difficult aspect is to coordinate synchronous learning across 10 global time zones. All of our instructors are based in North America, so there is a bit of a bias towards those time zones. All lesson sessions are recorded for those who cannot attend the live sessions.

The real advantage is that we can have classes with students from all over the world. In physical school, it is impossible for a student to wake up in India, Italy or Argentina and then all join the same class together. It has been amazing to see the students sharing their international perspectives and experiences with one another and making friendships.


Ready to apply? Head to advdes.org/offsite for more information and registration.

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Abdul J. Gaspar

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