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Boston organization introduces youth to design field

Kassmin Williams | 3/12/2014, 10:48 a.m.
Youth Design members, above, are high school students who get exposure to the design industry with workshops at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Members are also paired with mentor in different design field, including architecture, graphic design and fashion. The organization was launched by Denise Korn in 2003.

Korn Design owner Denise Korn has been working for more than a decade to provide Boston students a way to tap into their creativity and then transform that creativity into a career with her organization, Youth Design.

Youth Design exposes creative students to career possibilities they may not otherwise learn about, according to Korn.

“A lot of kids know that they might be really strong at science or math or they might self-identify as a really strong athlete,” Korn said. “These are kids who self-identify as artistic or are interested in the arts, but don’t really know what to do with that.”

Youth Design offers workshops in design at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and pairs high school students with mentors from about 18 different areas in the design field including architecture, book design, graphic design and fashion.

Throughout the years, the program has evolved from a seven-week summer program for juniors and seniors to a 14-month program including school year workshops, and has recently enrolled its first group of students who will go through a 27-month program starting the second half of sophomore year.

“Starting two years ago, we decided we didn’t have enough time to really have a long lasting impact with those kids the way we wanted because it was too late in their trajectory towards college,” Korn said. “Now our ideal time to engage students is in the spring of their sophomore year in high school.”

To complement the program expansion, Youth Design will also be testing the Youth Design Studio, a space manned by a professional design volunteer and a studio monitor where students can go after school to work on projects.

The space will be located at the United South End Settlements and will provide students a safe place to focus on academic work and an opportunity to test ideas and improve their technical skills, Korn said.

Youth Design sets out to address two issues: socioeconomic growth in urban communities and diversifying the design field as a whole.

Before launching Youth Design in 2003, Korn served as president of the board of the New England Creative Economy Council. With the council, she looked at ways to boost opportunity and economic development through the creative economy including advertising, architecture, design, fashion and television.

Through that work, Korn realized the lack of awareness and accessibility for young people in Boston neighborhoods and Boston Public Schools to learn about design as a career path.

“I think there are a lot of young people out there that know they’re creative and feel they can bring a lot of added value into the world of art and creative expression, but they don’t know they can direct that into a productive career path,” Korn said.

During the school year, the students receive technical training, complete assignments and projects around design at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and explore the city to learn how design “affects all aspects of life,” Korn said.

The internships serve as an extension to the classroom program, giving the students hands-on training. Students participate in meetings and presentations and hone the design skills learned in the technical training workshops.

The technical training takes place in the college’s computer lab where students learn Adobe Creative Suite, a series of computer software programs vital in the world of design, including: Photoshop, a photo-editing program; Illustrator, a graphics editor program; and InDesign, publishing software.

“These are vital for pretty much anyone working in any part of the design field to be familiar with and by the finish, these kids are really well versed in the Adobe Suite,” Korn said.

The classroom workshops prepare students for the seven-week summer immersion program during which students are paired with mentors for a full-time paid summer internship program in the mentor’s creative office such as Boston Ballet, Harvard University Press and City Year.

The 27-month program allows students to participate in the summer program for three summers.

To learn more about Youth Design, join the program or become a mentor, visit youthdesign.org.