Posted on Thursday, March 27, 2014 by Laura Braun
Evan Litvak (Interaction Design 2014) is set to graduate from CCA this year, and the idea of delving into the workforce is far from the daunting task most people his age face.
As one of CCA’s inaugural IxD students, Litvak scored an internship with Facebook, which has since secured him a career with the social media giant.
From Fine Arts to Technology
“I came into CCA as a Ceramics major and had been doing fine arts all my life,” Litvak explained. “I had a little interest in computers and technology, but mostly recreationally -- I’d play videogames and surf the Web all the time.
“At the end of my first semester at CCA, I was in the dorms in Oakland and I saw a poster for the first Intro to IxD class ever. It had prompts all over it, with one of them saying, ‘Who’s going to create the future social network?’ and I thought, ‘Why not me?’”
The Missing IxD Piece
CCA’s Interaction Design Program launched in 2011 with the intent of addressing a missing piece that engineers and industrial designers never quite reach.
Litvak expands on this need: “Industrial designers think about physical products and how we interact with things like a backpack or a skateboard or a shoe. Interaction designers think about how we interact with and shape behaviors through digital experiences, such as websites, mobile apps, kiosks, and more.
“As these things become more pervasive, it’s more important to think about how they fit into our daily lives and can solve our problems, not create more.”
Trust Your Inspiration
Litvak, who was awarded both scholastic and merit-based scholarships at CCA, says he took his chances on the new program because he was still unsure of his long-term plans.
After one course with chair Kristian Simsarian, however, Litvak was sold.
“[Until then] I hadn’t really been exposed to the world of design. I didn’t know what it was. The breadth that the [Interaction] Design Program offers made me think, ‘I’m going to be good one way or another.’”
Right he was.
By the time junior reviews rolled around, Litvak already had an internship with venture design studio Greenstart under his belt and was quickly scouted by Facebook for yet another internship opportunity.
The possibility of working with Facebook hadn’t yet crossed his mind, but after a few phone calls and meetings, he was convinced:
“The more I talked to Facebook, the more I realized it was going to be a really unique internship opportunity and much more different than the internship experiences I’d previously had. I wanted to really explore my possibilities while I’m in school.”
For the duration of his 12-week internship at Facebook, Litvak worked on Facebook Home -- a product that customizes the lock screen on Android phones and allows it to stream content from the user's Facebook friends.
Media Attention Pays Off
One particular aspect that he worked on -- a more easily accessed music controller -- garnered the attention of TechCrunch, a popular news website focused on information technology companies, and this helped Litvak secure a future position with Facebook before he even collected his diploma.
Until he graduates and moves on to Facebook, Litvak remains focused on getting the most out of CCA.
“I think some of my future goals are to tread new ground. That’s always something that motivated me -- to feel like I’m blazing a new path. And CCA’s mantra -- make art that matters -- and the ideology behind the Interaction Design Program is really about creating new and meaningful things in the world. …
“I feel like CCA is the perfect place for me to be doing this. I’m in the perfect place to achieve my goals.”
Crediting IxD Faculty
Quick to give credit to much of the Interaction Design faculty for helping him find his calling, Litvak says that his Intro to Design course with Simsarian didn’t just motivate him to continue taking design courses, but also to declare his major and career path right then and there.
“All of our professors are real-world working interaction designers. They get off their job at frog or IDEO and they come to work at CCA and teach their students what they’re actually doing day to day.
“It’s really powerful and I think that’s why so many students have been so successful so far -- they’re learning real interaction design process and skills.”
One of those referenced interaction designers is instructor David Merkoski, who Litvak first met while interning at Greenstart. Litvak heavily credits Merkoski for his mentoring efforts.
“David Merkoski was our guru -- he was like Yoda. You always meet people in your field who are exceptional, and he was one of those first people who blew our minds.”
“It feels like he knows everything,” laughed Litvak.
That extra push from faculty and encouragement from established companies may have propelled Litvak forward, but the future Facebook employee also acknowledges the motivational skills of his fellow students.
Hard Work Pays Off
“There is a culture of hard work at CCA. … Everyone’s so motivated.”
Litvak’s robust college career seemingly makes him an ideal speaker for incoming first-year students. Having made the leap from uncertain ceramicist to confident interaction designer, he offers up a bit of advice for students considering furthering their education with CCA:
“There are a lot of educational opportunities in the world where you’ll sit in a classroom and read a textbook or paper and you’re not feeling that innovation run though you.
“CCA’s educational programs are the place to be if you want to feel empowered to do those kinds of things. I think that’s what the job market is starting to realize, too.”