Ai Su (TRAN, 2007)
Ai Su, who hails from Taiwan, graduated from Art Center’s Transportation Design Department in 2007. She had already received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from National Taiwan Normal University, where she focused on oil painting, watercolor, figure sketching, printmaking and mixed media. Since completing her degree at Art Center, Su has worked as a freelance designer with Boombang Design Studio in Los Angeles and as a contract designer for Reload Design in Stockholm, Sweden. In September, she moved back to Taiwan to work as an exterior/interior designer for Yulon-Nissan Design Center.
What led you to a career in transportation design?
It was an accident, actually. I received a fine arts degree before going to Art Center. I wanted to do industrial design, and there was a class called Introduction to Transportation Design. I knew other people who had liked the Transportation Design class so I took it, and liked it, too.
What do you see as your most exciting career achievement?
Well, I graduated only recently but just finishing Art Center is an amazing achievement. It’s very competitive! I think I was one of the first international students to get a scholarship for the first year, and all of the scholarship students had to present their work at a College donation party, and I got a chance to talk to a lot of amazing alumni there. My next goal is to use what I achieved at Art Center in the industry.
Where do you see transportation design going in the near future? Long-term?
I graduated in a difficult year for transportation design. The oil situation was bad and gas prices were going higher and higher. A lot of companies were struggling and the hiring rate was low, so that was a shock at graduation. Some people believe transportation design is a dying industry, but people still need to move around, and companies are struggling to find the next solution. I think the industry will keep going even if the definition of transportation design changes.
Right now I’m interested in how I can help design more environmentally-friendly cars. At Art Center you can create whatever you think up, but in the industry it’s a question of how it works now or in ten or 15 years, and it also has to benefit the company. It’s a difficult but essential design challenge.
There are also some interesting ideas in transportation systems---how to move more than four people around. That’s very interesting and challenging for the design field.
Art Center’s Transportation Department turns 60 this year. What do you think has been the most significant development in the Transportation industry during the past 60 years?
Sixty years is a long time, but there were major changes while I was at Art Center. One was that they were trying to bring more women into the industry and make it more attractive to female designers. Of course, I’m a direct result of that change. Other people put a lot of emphasis on female designers but in my experience, first you’re a designer, then you’re male or female or American or Asian or European. Really we’re all just designers.
Another change I’ve noticed is that more students are going into entertainment. We receive a broad education so the movie industry is very attractive to a lot of transportation designers. At first I was interested and thought it would be cool to work in movies but after doing a six-month internship, I realized that what I really want to do is car design.
What kind of car do you drive?
I don’t have a car right now, since I just moved to Taiwan, but I’m going to buy one. I’m working for Nissan so maybe it will be a Nissan. My ultimate goal is to have two cars, a hybrid and an Alfa Romeo Stradale 33. That’s my dream car—I don’t even have to drive it, I can just look at it.