It takes a Bee: Five highlights from SCAD Commencement 2016


“We want to be part of your lives at every stage of your personal and professional success,” beamed SCAD President Paula Wallace at the bountiful, berobed students. The stage at the Savannah Civic Center was set – with a Lucite podium, and distinguished faculty and guests – for a classic commencement. SCAD families from as far away as Panama City, Hong Kong, and Granville, Ohio were there to celebrate their Bees buzzing forth into the world.


She's a new grad @lindsayjmeece #scadatlanta #scadgrad #grad #scadgrad2016

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Customized mortarboards exemplified the artistic wills of individual graduates, sometimes with collective messages: “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire,” proclaimed one. As the ceremony advanced through a scintillating sequence of speakers, notes of inspiration and contemplation gave way to a wow moment featuring copious glowsticks, aerial acrobatics and SCAD’s dynamite drumline. In celebration of the great day, here are five memorable remarks from the Savannah edition of SCAD commencement 2016:

1. SCAD alumna Michelle Poler (B.F.A. advertising), creator “100 Days Without Fear”:

“I’m here today to encourage you to say ‘yes’ more often, to visualize goals, and to be willing to get uncomfortable to make them happen. Because YOLO, seriously, you only live once. So go out into the world, never settle, find your own happiness, and paint a canvas that – whenever you envision it – always makes you smile.”

2. Valedictorian Jill DeBiase (B.F.A. advertising):

“I came to SCAD for advertising and discovered it was so much more than I had imagined. Advertising ‘copywriters’ were not, in fact, the guys running around putting little copyright c’s next to brand names. We are the writers. We are the people who come up with the big ideas and craft them with care and a love for language.”

3. Excelsus Laureate Mazyar Sharifian (M.A. visual effects):

“By the time I finished high school, I faced a great dilemma: at university, I would have to choose between art and science. At that time in Iran, living as an artist was really tough, so I decided to study engineering instead. But I began to think…was there a place that could prepare me for both of these roles? I was told there is such a place, and that place is called SCAD.”

4. Jeanne and Tom Townsend, parents of former SCAD Student Alexander Townsend, founders of Alex Townsend Memorial Foundation:

“We embraced Savannah and SCAD with our whole hearts, just as Alex had. I am so thankful that is the path we chose. In the last six years, Savannah has become a second home to us. The people of Savannah and SCAD have welcomed us with open arms. We are forever grateful to Alex for giving us the gift of this special place that has so profoundly changed and enriched our lives.”

5. Art Gensler, founder of Gensler, the world’s leading collaborative design firm, recipient SCAD Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters:

“Graduates – this is an exciting time to earn an art and design degree. The world, and especially the industry, recognizes the importance of art and design in today’s markets. You bring many skills and values they find attractive and necessary. You are graduating from the most comprehensive design school in the world. Gensler is proud to have over sixty graduates from SCAD as members of our team. But we need more, so come on down!”

The 'how' behind the 'wow moment' of Commencement 2015


It’s not easy to forget the finale to SCAD Commencement, Will Penny’s (B.F.A., painting, 2008; M.F.A., painting, 2013) goal exactly. With his spectacular interactive installation that seemed to envelope the graduates, the artist succeeded mightily at creating a memorable send off for the Class of 2015.

Here’s a glimpse of that moment from the graduates' perspective and Penny on creating this digital feast for the senses:

“The commencement backdrop was made primarily in Adobe After Effects using several different 3D content plugins. A lot of modeling was done in Rhinoceros as well.

Having witnessed commencement ceremonies in several capacities — as a guest in the stands, as a student on the floor and as a speaker on the stage — I tried to think about the space as a whole, which led us to creating the projection mapped content.

The commencement backdrop consisted of a series of computer-generated vignettes designed to create a heightened sensorial experience. The physical space of each ceremony — the Civic Center in Savannah and World Congress Center in Atlanta — was augmented with digitally constructed content predicated on the dichotomy of virtual and physical modes of perception. Form, color and sound were carefully choreographed to expand and unfold through the duration of the ceremony. As a whole, I intended for the content to indirectly symbolize the diffusion of unbound potential and possibility held within the graduating class of 2015.”

As of now, the work remains untitled. Known as “the Wow moment,” we think the nickname for the digital masterpiece sums up Penny's efforts perfectly.

3 emerging designers to watch in Asia


In celebration of Savannah College of Art and Design’s second graduating class in Hong Kong, we’re spotlighting three soon-to-be alumni in illustration, graphic design, and photography. These graduates are the honored salutatorian, valedictorian, and excelsus laureate of the SCAD Hong Kong Class of 2015. Their achievements, both academic and extracurricular, undoubtedly prove they will lead distinguished creative careers. Keep an eye on Bianca Lesaca, Adam Newbold, and Sandra Dans as they plant roots in Asia and cultivate their talents.

Bianca Lesaca
Manila, Philippines
B.F.A., illustration, 2015

People are hungry to absorb stories in Asia. They just don't know it yet because only one kind of creative food has been fed to them. They don't know there is a new, different palate. —Bianca Lesaca

Bianca Lesaca seeks to design imagined worlds that leave lasting impressions—and she’s off to a great start. In 2013, Lesaca was part of a winning team of SCAD students who designed and pitched a new attraction for Hong Kong Disneyland as part of the Disney ImagiNations competition. Their concepts, based on Peter Pan’s Neverland, won her a summer internship with Walt Disney Imagineering. A year later, Lesaca collaborated with sequential art classmates on the redesign of Ocean Park’s animal mascots, as well as story concepts and the proposal for a new character. But Lesaca dreams of one day telling her own iconic story and building a new imaginary universe, one that rivals J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. “Knowing what I can do with video game or animation concept art, I can create my own world,” said Lesaca. “It's very empowering.”

While completing a bachelor’s degree in multimedia arts, Lesaca came across The Fundamentals of Illustration by Lawrence Zeegen. At the same time, she was captivated by the illustrations of James Jean and Ayakato, struck by the endless applications of their artwork - from window displays to fashion runways. “With that inspiration and the impetus from the book I read, I wanted to explore it further,” rememebered Lesaca. Upon graduating, she enrolled in a summer residency for illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. It was her first visit to the U.S. where she experienced an invigoration of creative energy. Lesaca ultimately chose to pursue an illustration degree at SCAD Hong Kong rather than staying in the Big Apple. She explained, “Hong Kong is actually just as busy, bustling, and vibrant as New York. Because Asia is an emerging powerhouse for the creative industry, I wanted to be a part of it.”

Before attending SCAD, Lesaca wasn’t interested in designing characters or environments, and yet she was drawn to the multidisciplinary development process of concept art. “It’s world-building,” she said. “I definitely want to tap into the concept art industry and be an in-house studio artist. That's something I plan on doing when I go back to Manila.” Lesaca sees her visual narratives as a way to connect with like-minded creatives and art communities around the world. “There are stories and realities that are happening here on the other side of the world that go unheard. It’s worth telling them.”

Adam Newbold
Walla Walla, Washington, USA
B.F.A., graphic design, 2015

Graphic design is not just about making beautiful things you want to make; you’re making for what people need. —Adam Newbold

Adam Newbold has a less-is-more approach to graphic design, and is driven to connect with communities through design and social service. More importantly, positively impacting people’s lives and experiences is his deepest passion. For example, he found a YouTube video that features a low-cost design solution for schools in rural India that lack desks. “That’s what I would love to be a part of—making a real difference using design,” he said.

With a love for travel, Newbold came to Hong Kong by way of the U.S. In his opinion, “Going to Hong Kong or Savannah was in theory the same distance. If I’m on the other side of the United States or the other side of the world, it’s still the other side of somewhere,” he observed. What attracted him to Asia was the idea of being totally immersed in a major international city—not to mention the reputation and global reach of SCAD. This allowed Newbold to build relationships with a diverse set of contacts using the universal language of the arts.

Outside of SCAD, Newbold started coordinating community art projects for the Make It Better program as well as for The Sovereign Art Foundation, both arts charities focusing on disadvantaged children in Hong Kong's Sham Shui Po. He has also volunteered with Society for Community Organization and mentored two Cantonese boys. “We don’t even speak the same language, but we make it work,” said Newbold. In addition, he has gained valuable insights behind-the-scenes of higher education through assisting in the office of student success and serving as the president of the United Student Forum at SCAD.

All of these experiences have contributed to Newbold’s heightened interest in teaching. “I love helping other people, and being able to take my knowledge and experience and give it back to someone else,” he noted. Yet Newbold envisions merging his love for graphic design and education with his culinary hobby. “I would enjoy owning a place where I could do all of the above: teach kids how to bake and cook, and design the materials to promote it. That would merge all of my passions,” he said. The possibilities truly are endless given Newbold’s creative talents and positive attitude.

Sandra Dans
Manila, Philippines
M.F.A., photography, 2015
Excelsus Laureate

I've enjoyed delving into the fine art aspects of photography and using it not just for commerce, but also for its ability to transmit ideas and allow concepts to take form. —Sandra Dans

Sandra Dans is SCAD Hong Kong’s first excelsus laureate, the highest honor given to a SCAD student at commencement. Dans has practiced photography since she was 17-years-old and has worked professionally in the field for the last six years. She decided to pursue an M.F.A. not only to hone her craft but also to mentor young Asian artists through higher education. “I want to work with Filipino photographers and help them make informed art decisions,” she explained.

While studying at SCAD Hong Kong allowed Dans to develop “an international perspective,” it kept her connected to the Philippine art scene. “Whenever I'm back home, I partner with the photography organization at the University of the Philippines Diliman for workshops. I really enjoy the discourse,” she said.

Her visual conversations—the obscure stories in photographic imagery—share narratives of underrepresented voices and document issues of gender and identity. According to Dans, “It’s now suddenly very important that Asians, and especially Filipino artists, make themselves heard, and that we allow ourselves to have voices in a very western centric art scene.” She has also explored more commonplace concepts such as “selfie culture,” and created a series of saintly self-portraits for her thesis.

Besides teaching, Dans desires to establish an artist collective as well as a museum-quality printing business, thanks to an internship at Widerhall Fine Art Photographic. She sent her résumé to Widerhall on a whim and founder Jacqueline Furniss responded immediately. “I learned a lot about the technicalities of producing photographic work,” said Dans. This experience played a big role in shaping her personal art practice. “In the darkroom, print quality becomes very important. You learn to know all of these things about how prints are made and what they should look like,” she said. “My eyes are just a little more sensitive now.”

Commencement speaker John Lasseter’s advice to young artists


John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, isn’t a stranger to budding artists. His son graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture. A member of the class of 2015, Sam Lasseter was one of 2,100 graduates in Savannah and Atlanta whom Lasseter encouraged with his wisdom-packed commencement address on the power of creativity. After all, Lasseter was a young artist once, sitting where Sam and his classmates sat. He laid bare the journey that began his freshman year of high school and led to one of the most influential careers in entertainment.

With the zeal of his character “Sheriff Woody Pride” — whom Lasseter carried on stage as an emblem of his dream come true — and the authority of a master, Lasseter shared these insights on making a creative career:

On discovering what you want to do
What Lasseter told his five sons says it all: “Choose something that you love to do and you will never work a day in your life.” He shared with the graduates that the core of his success is a love for cartoons and a profound desire to make animation for everyone, not just children. 

On getting fired for what you want to do
Coexisting with Lasseter’s passion for cartoons was a strong conviction that the future of the industry was computer animation. But during his first stint with Disney, as a young animator, Lasseter’s enthusiasm for this new approach wasn’t reciprocated and it cost him his job. Seemingly a set back, this unanticipated development actually freed him to pursue his vision and led to the formation of Pixar.

To be fired from the place of your dreams was so painful and embarrassing for me that it took decades before I could even tell people about it. - John Lasseter

On finding partners to help you do what you want to do
Attracted to his ideas, pioneers Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs embraced Lasseter. His desire to innovate was a beacon for like-minded partners who encouraged and challenged him to achieve what audiences had never seen before, movies like Toy Story, the number one film at the box office upon its released in 1995.

On sacrificing for what you want to do
Lasseter drove home that making something new comes with sacrifice. Sleep was only one of the things that Lasseter gave up along the way. Another was ego and being right. Opening his work up for his peers to critique, even before it was polished, was uncomfortable but essential to his growth as an artist.

To really truly be creative you have to be willing to take risks. You have to put yourself out there. You have to be willing to fail. - John Lasseter

On the privilege of doing what you want to do
An artistic career is hard work, but it is one where the rewards are — in the words of another Pixar hit — incredible. Of all the awards he has won, Lassetter remarked that a well-loved “Woody” doll is by far the most important acknowledgement of his legacy because it means that he reached and made an emotional connection to someone by doing what he loves well.

In sharing the story of his career, and his most prized possession, Lasseter answered with a resounding “yes” the question that is on every graduate’s mind. “Can I make a difference?”

Congratulations, graduates! SCAD commencement in pictures


Here's to the 413 new alumni from Savannah College of Art and Design who graduated in the university's 35th commencement ceremonies. We agree with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher's characterization of you as individuals and as a class: you are brilliant 'containers of gifts that you will share with the world.' Please keep us posted on all that you do.


Landmark moment for SCAD graduates in Hong Kong


It was a milestone for Savannah College of Art and Design's 35-year history when its first graduating class from Hong Kong walked across the commencement stage.

More than 60 graduates gathered at the W Hong Kong Hotel, which overlooks the West Kowloon waterfront, to celebrate the beginning of a long journey of achievements ahead. Nearly 300 families, professors and supporters of SCAD attended the ceremony in Hong Kong's new art and cultural quarter.

Valedictorian Katrina Teh (B.F.A., illustration, 2014) left her hometown of Manila to study at SCAD in 2011. This is the second diploma that she's earned. Before SCAD, Katrina graduated with honors from the most prestigious university in Manila. Still, she felt there was more she could do to make her passion dovetail with her career. She came to SCAD with a very clear goal of realising her dream of drawing for a living.

“I consciously chose SCAD because I wanted to be technically better as an artist. I came here finding that I was growing up – learning how to be a better person. SCAD opened my life to a world of creative people and great opportunity for growth. ”

In her speech, Katrina also said that at SCAD she found “comrades in art,” like minded students with the same passion for creating things who would go through critiques together, sleepless from tirelessly perfecting key frames, value contrasts, kerning or line quality.

While at SCAD, Katrina exhibited her work widely, received coverage in the Philippine Star and The Hong Kong Economic Journal, and led a team from SCAD to win the 2012 Disney ImagiNations Hong Kong competition. Following her ImagiNations win, she was awarded a trip to Disney headquarters in Glendale, California and an internship at Hong Kong Disneyland. Recently, she accepted a position as a concept designer at Hong Kong Disneyland and will continue to work as an illustrator and painter, as well. Her advice for fellow graduates:

“There is no peak upon graduation, my friends, only an infinite sky of possibilities. Keep moving forward, and never give up.”

Presiding over the commencement ceremony, SCAD president and co-founder Paula Wallace conferred degrees to the graduates. The new SCAD alumni were also addressed in a speech by interior designer Ken Hu (M.A., interior design, 1995), a partner at Chen Chung Design. Ken shared his experiences as a creative professional and told the group what they can look forward to after studying at SCAD.

The first batch of graduates was also joined by Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, a cultural entrepreneur and advocate for art and education in Hong Kong and Asia, as well as co-founder and chairman of Arts in Heritage Research. SCAD awarded Adrian an honorary doctorate degree.

SCAD Board of Trustees chair Albie Whitaker III, board member Chan Lai Wa, Deputy Consul General of the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Tom Cooney, and Raymond Chan, a representative from Hong Kong's office of the Commissioner for Heritage, were among some of the distinguished guests at the ceremony.




插畫系學士課程學生Katrina Teh今年以優異成績畢業,並獲得代表畢業生在典禮上致告別辭的機會。Katrina熱愛創作和畫畫,於2011年由馬尼拉來港入讀SCAD。她先前在馬尼拉一所大學以優異成績畢業並取得第一個學士學位,但她仍感不足,希望進一步裝備自己,她入讀SCAD時懷著明確目標:將繪晝創作的興趣變成一生的事業。Katrina致辭時說:「我選擇入讀SCAD,因為我希望磨鍊技巧,成為一個更優秀的藝術家。在這裡我發現自己成長了,變成一個更優秀的人。SCAD創造了一個有利學習進步的空間,讓我可以與其他有創意的人連結交流。」

Katrina認識了不少志同道合、同樣熱衷創作的「戰友」同學,數年來一起捱夜、一起趕功課,奮力完善每個技術細節如動畫創作的關鍵幀 (key frame)、明度(value contracts) 、字距(kerning),甚至是線的質量。

在學期間,Katrina的作品有機會於Philippine Star及信報刊登,她並與三位同學組隊勇奪2012年迪士尼幻想工程香港挑戰賽冠軍。他們的奬品是免費參觀美國加州的迪士尼樂園,以及到香港迪士尼接受為期八周的實習生訓練。今年六月畢業後,Katrina將獲聘為香港迪士尼的概念設計師。


畢業典禮由SCAD校長Paula Wallace主持,她並向一眾畢業生頒贈學位和證書。


藝術及古蹟資料研究的創辦人及主席鄭志剛獲頒發榮譽博士學位,以表揚他對推動香港藝術和文化的貢獻。其他出席的嘉賓包括SCAD董事會主席Alan B. Whitaker III及董事會成員陳麗華、美國領事館及發展局的代表。

AD's Margaret Russell's 'simple truths' for graduates


A good commencement address is irresistible. Whether graduating or firmly planted in career or school, the distilled life experience and wisdom are too convenient and enlightening to pass up. And so, in case you missed Savannah College and Art and Design's 2014 commencement ceremonies, here's speaker Margaret Russell's 'simple truths', which she delivered to SCAD's 1,560 graduates in Atlanta and Savannah after tracing her rise to the helm of Elle Decor and now Architectural Digest.

I’m going to end with some simple truths, some things to keep in mind as you enter the workforce. These are more pragmatic than they are profound. Actually, they’re tips to help you do well at work and to keep you from annoying your future bosses.

Be early.
I remain challenged by this, but I’m usually still the first person at the AD offices each morning. It’s better to consistently arrive early at work than to have to consistently stay late.

Be a trouble shooter and problem solver.
These are key qualities that everyone in every industry looks for when hiring. Think ahead and always anticipate the unexpected.

Expect good and don’t gossip.
Don’t ever write emails that might land you in trouble if read in public. Email should communicate facts, not emotion.

Be aware of the power of social media and never post a photo when it’s clear that you’ve had far too much fun.
Your bosses are also on Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and they will find you. Try imagining that your social accounts have a pause button and take a breath before you hit send.

Embrace change as it’s the most constant aspect of your future.
The happiest people around you are those who are flexible and adapt well.

Don’t be afraid to ask; ask for everything. Just never have a sense of entitlement when you do.
Some of the best stories published in the magazines I’ve edited are there because I had the nerve to go after them.

Don’t be afraid, period.
Life’s too short. Conquer your fears today.

Pay attention.
Listen, stay focused, be ambitious, have common sense, show good judgment.

Do the right thing.
You’ll never go wrong by doing what you truly believe is right.

Give back.
I love AD, but the most rewarding work I do is philanthropic or political. Volunteer, develop your personal sense of social responsibility and integrate it into your daily life.

Think green.
Please think green because your forebears did not. Use your genius to save our planet.

Find your passion and your joy.
I hire people who are passionate about their work. I’ve always been told that there’s no place for emotion at work, and indeed that’s true. But I know for sure that being passionate about what you do will drive you to far greater success.

Feed your creativity. Get off your iPhone. Look up.
Don’t passively email someone sitting a few feet from you in the office. Talk to each other, write thank you notes, read books.

Don’t settle. Expect the best. Want to be the best.

You are so well prepared to make your way and to change the world and we can’t wait to see what you’ll do. Congratulations, class of 2014. We honor and admire you. Here’s to your brilliant future. Here’s to tomorrow.

Share your favorite or most memorable piece of commencement advice by posting it in the comments below.


Lee Daniels' commencement address at SCAD


Yesterday, Academy Award-winning director and producer Lee Daniels delivered the commencement address at SCAD's very first fall commencement ceremony in Savannah. Lee told graduates and their families, “I couldn’t afford to go to college and I was angry about that for a long time. This would have been the college that I went to because it’s pretty badass.” SCAD awarded Lee the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.