While some art clubs across campus offer virtual programs mid-pandemic, for Boston University Design Club, this transition became more than a mere medium change.
Now called Forge Design Studios, the student-run organization, which launched last Fall, has brought learning resources and a cohesive design community to BU since its foundation.
But Vice President Jessica Man, a rising junior in the College of Engineering, said it was time to expand after a successful first year and a half.
“Forge is like the second phase of Design Club,” Man said. “All of the things that were in Design Club are being included in Forge. We just wanted to add on a few more things that would provide more opportunities for students.”
The group rebranded itself this Spring as Forge, a pre-professional organization aiming to help students of all backgrounds begin working with real clients and create substantial design work for their portfolios.
The inspiration for Forge ignited with President Emme Enojado in the Spring of 2019, when she began preparing to launch the club. By October of that year, she and a team of executive board members finalized BU Design Club: an educational resource for prospective designers not in the College of Fine Arts or without ready access to design experience in their fields of study.
Enojado, a rising senior studying neuroscience, did design work as part of her involvement in various campus organizations, but realized BU had no formal design club.
“I wanted to create a welcoming space for people of all different backgrounds, design experience or not, all different majors, all different years and skill levels, to come together and bond over their interest in design,” Enojado said, “whatever that may be: whether it be graphic design or [user experience] design, product design and more.”
Forge already consists of a host of students from across colleges, Man said. But by providing the structure that Enojado believes BU had previously lacked, the club hopes to continue recruiting members from diverse backgrounds in design.
“Our e-board is made up of people from almost every single college at BU, so we really wanted to keep that inclusive environment,” Man said. “It doesn’t really matter what your major is. If you want to learn about design, you definitely can with us. There’s more of a cross-college effort.”
In the 2019-2020 school year, BU Design Club held Adobe Suite workshops and resume workshops taught by Man, and Forge Studios is continuing these educational initiatives.
For member Amanda Le, a junior in the College of Communication, these workshops helped her expand her skills.
“We were doing a resume workshop and brushing up on how to set up a resume and how to make it look good, and they showed us some examples and some shortcuts in the software,” Le said. “I got to improve my resume a lot, and I’m really confident with my resume now.”
This professional outreach is one of three pillars that Forge will embody next year, the others being community and growth.
The organization has also created a new interactive outlet, Forge Labs, for students chosen out of a pool of applicants.
A seven-week program this summer, Forge Labs will connect interns with real clients, start-ups, small businesses and BU clubs. These interns will work under the mentorship of the executive board while continuing to develop their design skills.
“Our aim is to have a select design team that does commission work for student organizations, also startups and local and small businesses,” Enojado said. “We have different client projects that we’re going to take on every semester and there’s going to be a cohort of student interns working with these design projects for them.”
Enojado said she hopes this opportunity fills the space on resumes that many students have when applying for internships and jobs, especially this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many students without a formal major or minor, she said this is the best way to get real-world, hands-on experience.
Forge is also looking to participate in pro bono work for certain clients, especially Black-owned businesses.
“There hasn’t been one unifying factor for all of the designers to come together and grow together and learn together,” Enojado said. “I hope that Forge becomes a larger community that cultivates a space for growth and an inclusive community of designers.”