Truman Pollard

Make yourself invaluable to your employer. Truman Pollard , Industrial Design Instructor
, The Art Institute of California—Orange County, a campus of Argosy University
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I’ve always been inquisitive, always taking things apart or putting them together. My first real spark, "I can make this better," was as a teenager working on a NASCAR race team my father and sponsored while he managed a Ford dealership. I learned the basics about tools, fabrication, and welding. In high school I enjoyed drafting, but especially an architecture course. My first life goal was to be an architect, building race cars between projects.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?


I run the class the same way I run a project. There are requirements and schedules to meet, along with the challenges of communicating a successful solution to management. Every project may also require developing new skills in drawing styles, 3D CAD, and digital presentations to adapt to a new solution. When students complain about having to narrow the almost endless design directions down to one solution, I simply say, “Yes, isn’t this fun!”

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?


I love the first brainstorming session. Industrial Design has taught me that all successful products have an exciting story to tell. Brainstorming gives us an outstanding opportunity to explore these stories and make new ones. It’s through these new discoveries, mixed with technology and culture, that students can make their own impression on the future.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

Companies are looking for people whose skills in listening, negotiating, and verbal communication are just as strong as their technical skills. So we’ve created an atmosphere where we team students up from other programs—like creating a full-size clay model motorcycle with Kawasaki that debuted at the Fashion department-sponsored Rock the Runway event. I’ve developed joint projects between Ai Industrial Design students and engineers at the University of California Irvine, including creating the body for UCI’s Formula 1 race car that was used in actual competition. Right now we’re testing electric technology.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

I always pass along to the best advice I ever got: “Make yourself invaluable to your employer.” As creative people, it’s easy to forget we get hired to make money for the company first, and for ourselves second. Working on improving your skills is the best long-term plan I know. It’ll always make you valuable to yourself and your employer.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m constantly challenging myself to make each course project stimulating and relevant—and always with an eye toward building future graduates’ portfolios.