Coming Up: The 2017 Summer Design Fellowship

The 2017 Summer Design Fellowship is now open for applications. Fellows will visit pioneers and leaders in the design industry, including Bernhardt, Carnegie, Design Within Reach, Emeco, Flavor Paper, Rich Brilliant Willing, FLOS and Vitra. They’ll dive deep into all aspects of creating innovative, high-quality products: from research, design, and manufacturing to marketing, distribution, and promotion through hands-on, in-the-field learning.

Already sold? Apply here, and read on for some highlights from the 2016 fellowship:


The first Be Original Americas Design Fellows were impressive student leaders. Sarah Ahart is an accomplished, top-ranking student in Virginia Tech’s industrial design program, and Karina Campos is an award-winning industrial and interaction design student from Syracuse University. We asked them a few questions about their Fellowship experience:

What was it like to visit established iconic firms with global heritage and game-changing new brands?

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Karina Campos hands-on with the design process at Vitra.

Sarah: Visiting these firms was very eye- opening. I was able to gain insight on what was going on in the real world, outside of school, and learn about what innovative ideas are taking the forefront in industry. It gave me a better perspective on what I am working towards as a designer, and where I want to end up after graduation.

Karina: Absolutely surreal. As a student, you theorize how firms will be structured, the environment designers inhabit at work, the workplace relationships and how different departments work together. Seeing these firms I have read about in textbooks and seen throughout my time in college it was a surreal experience walking through the corridors and studio spaces where designers are engaging in the design process, making decisions and influencing the world.

How has school been different since and/or influenced by the fellowship?

Behind the scenes at Bernhardt Design.

Sarah: I have a much better design process than I did before the fellowship.  The fellowship opened my eyes to many different components in the design process from research all the way through manufacturing and distribution.  I have a better understanding of what steps a product will go through after the conceptualization phase and I now take all of these aspects in to consideration when working on projects.

Karina: The fellowship ignited this new interest in spatial design and understanding the relationship between people and the environments and how design fits into that realm.  This was a concept I carried through into my thesis this year. Additionally, all the knowledge that I learned during my seven weeks with Be Original Americas has shown through in how I now approach my projects with the information of how firms approach the design process.

What is your best piece of advice for someone looking to apply to this year’s fellowship?

2016 Fellow Sarah Ahart helping at Emeco.

Sarah: I would advise you to use the essay as a place to truly express your passion for good, authentic design.  Be honest and open about what piece of design inspires you and let your personality show through in your writing style.  This is your opportunity for the wonderful people at Be Original Americas to get to know you so make it count!

Karina: Be prepared to have your thought process turned on its side, come in with an open mind of design possibilities because the things you will experience during this fellowship are lasting impacts that change the way you will view design. This fellowship gets your creativity flowing all while teaching you (through experiences) what it means to be a designer and the impact we have on people.

Some of the Fellows’ takeaways from the summer program:

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Are you ready to apply, or know someone who should? Applications are open until February 28th. Don’t wait – apply today!

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