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Entertainment industry pursues computer-canny design grads

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Technology-oriented graduates are being sought after in virtually every industry but some grads are finding themselves in careers they never planned on, according to a news release from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

When Ken Feldman graduated in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in environmental design from Mizzou and went to work at an architectural design firm in St. Louis, he never dreamed he would end up working on the West Coast at a cutting-edge computer gaming company.

In fact, he never dreamed that dreaming would be an important part of his career future.

As a lead artist for Electronic Arts in San Francisco, Feldman is one of a growing number of design graduates who, as they learn more about design in college, become attracted to the entertainment industry and choose an alternate career path, according to the news release from MU.

Three of the four students who have graduated from MU's relatively new program with a master's degree in design communication have chosen career paths in the entertainment industry.

Richard Helmick, MU professor of

environmental design, is studying the trend.

"What we found out is that people trained in architecture and interior design have a lot of skills that cross over into the entertainment industry," Helmick said in the release.

"We should have guessed the connection, considering the software that we are using in the program."

Both industries use the same software for three-dimensional animation. Designers and architects use it to create digital models of real architectural and interior spaces; animators use it to create imaginary environments and interior spaces for computer games, movies and commercials.

Feldman's credentials, including a master's degree in environmental design from MU in 1997 and a web site gallery of his creations, rose to the top of a stack of hundreds of candidates' resumes to win him a spot with a top company in the industry.

His current projects include "Tiger Woods," a computer golf game that

will be released in a few months for

which Feldman directed the look and feel of the game and created much of the artwork.

He also is creating a three-dimensional, immersive game that puts the player in situations such as running through

the Louvre, climbing the Eiffel Tower, protecting the White House or cros-

sing the Golden Gate Bridge, according to MU.

"Ken successfully integrated coursework at MU with his natural intelligence and creative talent. Students in the program gain an advanced knowledge of design and a beginning knowledge of animation and storytelling," Helmick said in the release. Feldman said his project-based education at MU shaped the process he uses to attack design problems on the job.

The reasons graduates are attracted to these alternate careers is a no-brainer. "Top on the list is that it's a cool thing to do for a living," Helmick said in the release.

"Secondly, you can be paid handsomely to do it."

"As a kid thinking about dream jobs fireman, doctor, making video games, astronaut it has always ranked at the top," Feldman stated. He describes his company as a fun workplace, and playing video games is not goofing off, it's research.

Helmick's research will be published in the next issue of Representation, the annual journal of the Design Communication Association, a professional association of architects and interior, graphic and industrial designers. He presented his research in January at the group's annual meeting.

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