What started as a part-time job for Juan Andrés Rujana (BS ‘20, Product Design) turned into an opportunity to grow, experiment, and make an impact supporting refugees as Epimonía’s design director. Juan Rujana talks about his work with Epimonía, a refugee-founded fashion label, and how his experiences in the Product Design program have impacted his career thus far in our latest alumni spotlight.
For those who are unfamiliar with Epimonía and its work, how would you describe its mission and products?
Epimonía is a refugee-founded fashion label with a central mission of supporting refugees. We upcycle material from life jackets that were worn by refugees on the Mediterranean Sea. Our products feature this material in order to bring awareness to the refugee crisis. Our goal is to build communities for refugees all around the world.
What’s been your favorite part of working for Epimonía so far?
Leading the design development of collections that have an extensive reach. Whether it's designing a collection for New York Fashion Week or products for a collaboration with Minnesota United FC, it’s been surreal to see my work on such platforms.
How has your degree impacted your work at Epimonía?
My product design degree taught me how to apply and refine my design process when developing products. However, in a start-up environment, there are always new things to learn and help out with outside of my design role. Whether it's editing a video or leading client meetings, having that strong design foundation allows me to tackle tasks beyond design.
What is one lesson you have taken from your time at the College of Design that you have applied to your career?
The importance of collaboration, I wish I took more advantage of being in a building filled with creative people from different backgrounds. Once you get out there, you have to actively seek out collaboration and it’s easy to forget how important it is. All of my impactful work so far has been in collaboration with very talented individuals.
What advice would you give to current design students?
Explore classes that you might not think you’d be interested in, and allow yourself to keep an open mind. Once you graduate, you realize there is a lot of overlap between design fields, so having a broader perspective will only benefit your work.
Photo courtesy of Epimonía.
After two years of pursuing a degree in engineering, Ben Leibham (B.S. ’18, Product Design) knew that something was missing. In search of a field that would combine his interests in art, engineering, and business, Ben spoke with an industrial designer who encouraged him to pursue a degree in product design.
It’s one thing to design a product, it’s quite another to design an entire experience. Product design students were challenged to design an immersive, brand experience pop-up shop for one of two unfamiliar user groups: Baby Boomers and Generation X.
On Friday, May 11 the inaugural class of product design seniors will present their capstone projects. This first class of students is the result of seven years of hard work by College of Design faculty and staff, in particular, Associate Professor Barry Kudrowitz who is head of the Product Design program. Kudrowitz reflects on the journey the program has taken in this interview.