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Judy Ellis, Toy Design Faculty

We teach from a holistic standpoint. What I mean is that for someone to become a really powerful designer, they not only need a very strong foundation in design, safety, and ergonomics, they need to be centered in themselves. They need to be supported in a way that enables them to design products that carry their own integrity and strength. So we have what we call “enhancement components,” such as when I invited a nutritionist to come in for a semester. She would set one of our long work tables with a meal for our senior class. Our first intention was to make sure our students were healthy, so they could have the strength and stamina to design from their cores. Amazingly, they loved it and actually changed their diets and their bodies. That to me was an important part of their education.

Next semester we learned how to cook. I made friends with a natural food restaurant in the neighborhood and we would go there on Sundays when the place closed early. In one semester we learned how to cook! Everyone learned to work together, and that was another thing they enjoyed and benefited from. And then we had a yoga teacher give a 90-minute yoga class before we started designing. It was interesting to see how the energy settled and how much more powerful those designers were when they started their work.

From a holistic perspective, that’s how we operate. I want to say that our curriculum is so strenuous that people have compared it to medical school—but we keep it fun. The subject matter is very serious, but we laugh a lot.

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