Introducing the 2018 Summer Design Fellows

The Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship begins on June 11th, and two students have been selected from an outstanding pool of over 75 qualified applicants. The 7-week immersive program provides hands-on experience in making, distributing, and selling authentic design. Here’s what the 2018 fellows Defne Kansu of Virginia Tech and Janell Leung of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are most excited about, what brought them to the fellowship, and what they are doing outside of design.

The Fellows:

Defne Kansu & Janell Leung

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Defne Kansu: I am Defne Kansu. Originally, I am from Turkey and have wanted to study Industrial Design in the U.S. since I was in middle school. I received a bilingual IB education in high school with a second language education in German. I have always been an artistic person, but I found design to be more suitable for my interests as I enjoy being well-rounded and find Industrial Design to be a field for jack-of-all-trades designers. I love how my degree allows me to have the flexibility to jump into other fields to explore myself as a designer.

Janell Leung: My name is Janell Leung and I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I am currently in my fourth year studying Architecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a minor in Sustainable Environments. Although I’m receiving a degree in architecture, my passion lies in smaller scale design and the potential for environmental applications. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with this through my study abroad program in Copenhagen, as well as through my travels around Europe in between learning.

What are you excited to learn from this experience?

DK: I am excited about the opportunity of the hands-on, in-the-field work that this fellowship will provide. I am a tactile learner and this fellowship offers something much more unique than what a classroom can offer. I also love the idea of being exposed to so many amazing companies and learning insights on how a company operates, what the real industry looks like, and what clients expect due to my entrepreneurial mindset.

JL: I am excited to understand the process and thinking behind successful designs. This fellowship will introduce components and factors often overlooked in an educational setting — it’ll be realistic. In particular, I have never had any experience with marketing and am eager to learn about the business side of design.

Why did you choose the Be Original Americas Fellowship?

DK: I truly feel aligned with Be Original Americas’ mission. With social media and the internet, it has become much easier to plagiarize or copy someone’s work. As a designer, I’m glad there is an organization out there that strives to protect my rights and my work. I admire how Be Original Americas educates people on all of the effort that goes into creating something original. As a Fellow, I feel proud to represent an organization that supports originality and authenticity and I think being a participant of Be Original Americas’ fellowship program will shape me greatly as a young designer.

JL: I chose the Be Original Americas Fellowship because of its all-encompassing program. With one year left of university, I am still unsure of which area of design I want to pursue or suits me best. Not only does this fellowship show every aspect of developing and producing an idea, but Be Original Americas also has connections to renowned designers who know the industry best. This hands-on approach to a wide range of industries will give me a lot of insight and a thorough understanding of the process respective to each field.

When you are not studying – or applying for fellowships – what do you do for fun?

DK: As an individual, I am a frequent traveler because I believe the best kind of learning can happen outside the classroom. Every country that I have been to has influenced me as a designer, as well as an individual. I spend my free time pursuing creative activities such as photography, screen printing, video editing, playing the piano, and poetry. I also enjoy scuba diving, skiing, and biking.

JL: As an architecture major, free time has been hard to come by — but if I get the chance, I love to draw and watercolor still life. I have also been challenging myself to illustrate my adventures while studying abroad to create a visual journal of my experience. I also love to hike, as my school is surrounded by rolling hills (that are not-so-green because of the drought) and a few peaks.


Stay tuned to the blog and @beoriginalusa on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram this summer to follow Defne and Janell during the 2018 Fellowship Program. They’ll share exclusive images from site visits to 2×4, Bernhardt Design, Carnegie, Council, Design Within Reach, Emeco, Flavor Paper, Herman Miller, Laura Guido-Clark Design, Michael Graves Architecture & Design, Niche Modern, Studio O+A, Pablo, Rich Brilliant Willing, Sarkos, and Skram, and update on all they’re learning along the way.


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