10/22/2012 08:52 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

NYC's Annual Teen Design Fair: A Melting Pot of Ideas and Opportunities


This column features stories from students exploring the intersection of creativity and technology through Hive Learning Network programs in NYC and Chicago.

"It serves to underscore that you never know where life's serendipitous path is going to take you," exclaimed fashion consultant and educational mentor Tim Gunn while sitting on the stage of New York City's Teen Design Fair hosted by the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. This event has been taking place annually in two locations, New York City and Washington, D.C. for the past six years. This year it took place at the Altman Building on 18th street between 6th and 7th Avenue. The space, lit with pink and purple lights, has two floors: the first with seating for the multiple designers that were invited to speak with the attendees, and the basement with a large selection of finger food. The basement level also housed numerous stations each with speakers from different design colleges.

Tim Gunn, most popularly for his presence on the reality series Project Runway, was one of the many important attendees. America's Next Top Model's judge and runway couch Jay Alexander, also known as "Miss J" sat at one of the designer's stations on the first floor. The fair contained an ideal variety of designers from different fields. Among these designers were architect Stephen Cassell, media/graphic designer Eric Mortensen from Hello Monday, founder of Biomimicry 3.8 Institute Janine Benyus and Facebook's communication designer Kate Aronowitz. Each designer was able to bring something new and unique to the table.

The fair was successfully able to bring over 100 aspiring designers together to explore and go in depth about the different fields of design, an opportunity many students going into the field of design are not able to experience. "It's really amazing. I never had anyone to go to who was an architect, to ask what it was like, and I think it's really important to talk to people and see what it's really like. Is that something you want to dedicate your life and move forward in? This is an amazing opportunity and there are some really great designers here. I would be happy to go from table to table and talk to them without a doubt," said Stephen Cassell of ARO.

One issue addressed at the fair was whether or not jobs were available currently in the field of design, a concern that many parents of the teens and young designers had. While Gunn highlighted that one needs to be prepared for and nurture the opportunities that present themselves in order to succeed, Aronowitz replied, "As far as interaction design goes, I don't have enough people to take the jobs I'm offering!" Either way, it was made clear that moving forward in any field of the practical art takes a lot of effort and determination. According to Gunn, another necessity is to pick a school that suits your needs. He stated, "You should visit the schools that you are really interested in attending and project yourself into the environment. See if you can see yourself being a successful student there."

From the amazing designers attending, to the overall professional environment of the event, this years' New York City Teen Design Fair was a major success.

angela jimenez photography © smithsonian institut