Mar 282012
Authors: Taylor Pettaway

Jon Otis, known designer and director of Object Inc., got into his field of work when he couldn’t play guitar like Jimi Hentrix or sing like Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant.

“Actually, I started out as a radio journalist, and I also had a minor in art,” said Otis, who will make his way to CSU on Thursday. “So one day I took a class in architectural drafting, and I fell in love. Once you develop the passion for design or for anything, then nothing else matters –– it is like falling in love. The rest is history.”

He is traveling to universities sharing his experience with students in order to get them excited about going into a career involving design. Otis was chosen by the Department of Design and Merchandising as their Executive in Residence speaker.

“I hope (students) gain some inspiration, they ask questions of themselves and their instructors, and seek to learn and know more, and experience more so that they become better at what they choose to do,” Otis said. “Besides showing some projects from my studio, I plan to discuss some theoretical ideas about design. I’d like to propose some big rhetorical questions, and hopefully get people engaged to think and to raise questions about design, and the built world. Also, to question how they experience spaces and how they can engage the senses through objects and spaces they design. I hope that my presentation will be engaging, provocative and fun.”

Otis is giving a presentation in the Chemistry Building at 7 p.m. as well as teaching a series of lectures to students throughout the day about topics ranging from furniture design to client strategy. According to Otis, he enjoys getting to teach students about design because of the influence that teachers had in his life.

“The people who have influenced me the most in my life besides my parents were teachers,” Otis said. “Many of them opened themselves and reached out to me when I had doubts about myself. Teachers have inspired me to want to contribute to inspiring young people and to help them if I can. Teachers have the ability to change the world through their work with students.”

He created his agency, Object Agency, in 1999 which, according to the Object Agency homepage, produces solutions that integrate market research, brand strategy, eco-advanced practices, graphic design, corporate identity, experiential branding, advertising and multimedia components.
Because the department of design and merchandising is not able to bring many speakers to campus, having Otis teach students is remarkable for the department.

“He has teaching and professional work that (is) significant in the design world,” said event coordinator Katharine Leigh. “The quality and the uniqueness of his scope, it is very comprehensive. Each year (the Executive Resident) rotates from interior design to apparel merchandising so students gain a perspective of East and West coast culture, and Otis definitely has a broad perspective (of the design world).”

Collegian writer Taylor Pettaway can be reached at

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