We live in a challenging time with complex social issues on one hand and radical new tools for addressing them on the other. SVA alumni have the imagination, training and skills to develop products and businesses that confront these challenges and create real change in the world. At SVA GI, we help them get started. 

 

PROGRAM

The SVA GroundFloor Incubator at the School of Visual Arts in New York City provides mentoring, lectures, and office space and prototyping facilities to small groups of SVA alumni to help them launch new products and businesses. Fellowships are granted to highly driven alumni with exceptional products that have a strong chance of making positive social impact with the right support. 

Additionally, the GroundFloor has a founder-in-residence program that provides an existing business full access to our alumni fellowship program in order to help it grow. The founder-in-residence brings a perspective on start-up culture that deeply supports our fellows.  

The GroundFloor offers two terms every year, from January to June and July to December. 

Each term consists of eight two-week long learning modules in distinct design and business disciplines, followed by one six-week period for refining products, pitches and helping our fellows plan the next stage of our their new ventures.


CURRICULUM

 

The GroundFloor curriculum consists of eight learning modules:

1.    Product Viability & Market Validation What is the product and is there an audience?

2.    IP and Branding What are the innovation and identity and can they be protected?

3.    User experience and design refinement How can the product be optimized?

4.    Manufacturing/Software How will it get made?

5.    Business Model & Management How will the business operate and scale?

6.    Experiential Marketing How will the consumer get hooked?

7.    Capitalization How will it be funded?

8.    Pitching Sell it!


INSTRUCTORS

Sinclair Smith - Director Pitching, User Exp. & Design Refinement Sinclair is an industrial designer and a founding faculty member of SVA's MFA in Products of Design. His studio, Sinclair Smith & Co., has provided product and interior design services for clients including Disney, This American Life, DKNY, Staple Design, Amex, BMW and Samsung. He holds a BFA in film production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a masters of industrial design from Pratt Institute. Website: sinclairscottsmith.com Instagram: @sinclairscottsmith Twitter: @sinclairsmith

Sinclair Smith - Director
Pitching, User Exp. & Design Refinement

Sinclair is an industrial designer and a founding faculty member of SVA's MFA in Products of Design. His studio, Sinclair Smith & Co., has provided product and interior design services for clients including Disney, This American Life, DKNY, Staple Design, Amex, BMW and Samsung. He holds a BFA in film production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a masters of industrial design from Pratt Institute.

Website: sinclairscottsmith.com
Instagram: @sinclairscottsmith
Twitter: @sinclairsmith

Robert Blinn Market Validation & Capitalization Robert studied mathematics at Brown University and economics at LSE. After several years in finance on Wall Street he pursued a masters in Industrial Design at Pratt. He has worked as a design consultant in markets ranging from food technology to 3D printed jewelry. He currently works at Pura Vida Investments focusing on patent analysis for private equity while spending his evenings helping entrepreneurs turn their napkin sketches into scalable businesses.   

Robert Blinn
Market Validation & Capitalization

Robert studied mathematics at Brown University and economics at LSE. After several years in finance on Wall Street he pursued a masters in Industrial Design at Pratt. He has worked as a design consultant in markets ranging from food technology to 3D printed jewelry. He currently works at Pura Vida Investments focusing on patent analysis for private equity while spending his evenings helping entrepreneurs turn their napkin sketches into scalable businesses. 

 

Dino Sanchez Art Direction & Marketing Dino is a designer. He is currently Creative Director / Managing Director of the Brand Bureau at AvroKO, a brand agency working in strategy, graphic and interior design and hospitality development. Dino's career has spanned work in furniture, branding, experience, graphic, interior and industrial design.  His eponymous product and furniture line is designed and made in the USA. Website: dinosanchez.com             Instagram: @thisisdino Twitter: @dino_sanchez

Dino Sanchez
Art Direction & Marketing

Dino is a designer. He is currently Creative Director / Managing Director of the Brand Bureau at AvroKO, a brand agency working in strategy, graphic and interior design and hospitality development. Dino's career has spanned work in furniture, branding, experience, graphic, interior and industrial design.  His eponymous product and furniture line is designed and made in the USA.

Website: dinosanchez.com             Instagram: @thisisdino
Twitter: @dino_sanchez

 
Emilie Baltz Experiential Marketing Emilie is an experiential artist and food technologist. Her work includes commissions from New Museum, Yale University, Museum of Art and Design, Museum of Sex and RedBull Studios. She is a founding faculty member of SVA's MFA in Products of Design program as well as the founder of the Food Design Studio at Pratt Institute. From 2014-2016 she was a founding member of NEW INC. Emilie is currently based out of NEW LAB.  Website: emiliebaltz.com Instagram: @emiliebaltz Twitter: @emilie_baltz

Emilie Baltz
Experiential Marketing

Emilie is an experiential artist and food technologist. Her work includes commissions from New Museum, Yale University, Museum of Art and Design, Museum of Sex and RedBull Studios. She is a founding faculty member of SVA's MFA in Products of Design program as well as the founder of the Food Design Studio at Pratt Institute. From 2014-2016 she was a founding member of NEW INC. Emilie is currently based out of NEW LAB. 

Website: emiliebaltz.com
Instagram: @emiliebaltz
Twitter: @emilie_baltz

Frank Martinez Intellectual Property Frank has a BFA from Pratt and a JD from Hofstra University. He has worked in the arts and in graphic and package design. Frank was a design patent examiner at the Patent Office. His law practice is devoted to design and software issues at the nexus of design, technology and the law. Frank teaches Intellectual Property at SVA’s MFA Designer as Author & Entrepreneur program. Website: martinezgroup.com

Frank Martinez
Intellectual Property

Frank has a BFA from Pratt and a JD from Hofstra University. He has worked in the arts and in graphic and package design. Frank was a design patent examiner at the Patent Office. His law practice is devoted to design and software issues at the nexus of design, technology and the law. Frank teaches Intellectual Property at SVA’s MFA Designer as Author & Entrepreneur program.

Website: martinezgroup.com

Elan Cole Branding Elan has been a professional designer for over 20 years and has helped re-imagine global brands for Jet Blue, Johnson & Johnson and Infiniti Motors. He has designed Santeria candles for a Botanica in the South Bronx, collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art and PS1, and designed comic books for Marvel. He presently leads a packaging and brand design group for Comcast, and is building a leather goods and cast silver jewelry line. Website: thefutureisforever.net Twitter: @elancole

Elan Cole
Branding

Elan has been a professional designer for over 20 years and has helped re-imagine global brands for Jet Blue, Johnson & Johnson and Infiniti Motors. He has designed Santeria candles for a Botanica in the South Bronx, collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art and PS1, and designed comic books for Marvel. He presently leads a packaging and brand design group for Comcast, and is building a leather goods and cast silver jewelry line.

Website: thefutureisforever.net
Twitter: @elancole

 
Ted Ullrich & Pepin Gelardi Manufacturing & Software Ted and Pepin are Partners at Tomorrow Lab®, an internationally recognized product design and engineering studio based in NYC. Tomorrow Lab develops smart hardware products for their clients, and was recognized on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine in 2014 as a Top Tech Innovator. Website: tomorrow-lab.com Twitter: @tomorrowlabnyc

Ted Ullrich & Pepin Gelardi
Manufacturing & Software

Ted and Pepin are Partners at Tomorrow Lab®, an internationally recognized product design and engineering studio based in NYC. Tomorrow Lab develops smart hardware products for their clients, and was recognized on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine in 2014 as a Top Tech Innovator.

Website: tomorrow-lab.com
Twitter: @tomorrowlabnyc

Elizabeth Galbut Business Model & Management Elizabeth is the Founding Partner of two start-up venture capital firms, SoGal Ventures and A-Level Capital, which have collectively invested and advised over 25 startups in their first year. Elizabeth’s favorite investment area is the intersection of smart design and machine learning/AI fueling major health tech innovation. Standouts in her portfolio include digital pathology analytics pioneer Proscia, global health network MORE Health, and mental health app Docz. Website: sogalventures.com Twitter: @design4innov8

Elizabeth Galbut
Business Model & Management

Elizabeth is the Founding Partner of two start-up venture capital firms, SoGal Ventures and A-Level Capital, which have collectively invested and advised over 25 startups in their first year. Elizabeth’s favorite investment area is the intersection of smart design and machine learning/AI fueling major health tech innovation. Standouts in her portfolio include digital pathology analytics pioneer Proscia, global health network MORE Health, and mental health app Docz.

Website: sogalventures.com
Twitter: @design4innov8

 

Lecturers

Colin Miles Campbell Colin Miles Campbell is an artist, activist and entrepreneur. He co-founded Wikiburg, a digital platform that facilitates civic engagement. Previously, he organized Save Domino, the grassroots campaign that tried to save Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s iconic pre-war sugar refinery from luxury development. Colin has worked with brands like Chanel, David Copperfield, Jacobo Borges, Peter Brandt, TED, William Jefferson Clinton, and the Washington Ballet. Website: wikiburg.com

Colin Miles Campbell

Colin Miles Campbell is an artist, activist and entrepreneur. He co-founded Wikiburg, a digital platform that facilitates civic engagement. Previously, he organized Save Domino, the grassroots campaign that tried to save Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s iconic pre-war sugar refinery from luxury development. Colin has worked with brands like Chanel, David Copperfield, Jacobo Borges, Peter Brandt, TED, William Jefferson Clinton, and the Washington Ballet.

Website: wikiburg.com

Jeff Staple

Jeffrey NG, aka jeffstaple, is the Founder and Creative Director of Staple Design and Reed Space. A leader in sneaker culture and streetwear, he serves as the CCO of Intertrend & Imprint Lab, is a member of The #Hypebeast100, Anthos Capital Group, The AIGA, SneakerCon Legends Series, Remy Martin Circle of Centaurs and Google Explorer Team, and has lectured widely to audiences public and private including Apple, Facebook, Bose, Columbia Business School and The White House Summit.

Website: stapledesign.com
Twitter: @jeffstaple
Instagram: @jeffstaple

Dino Sanchez Dino Sanchez is an artist and industrial designer, and is the Creative Director of Brand Bureau. His expertise is in furniture, branding, customer experience, graphic, interior and industrial design. Dino’s design thinking has been executed by brands such as Herman Miller, HP, Renault, Toyota, Comcast, ABInBev, Verizon, GE, FEMA and Equinox. His eponymous product and furniture line is designed and made in the USA. Website: dinosanchez.com Twitter: @dino_sanchez Instagram: @thisisdino

Dino Sanchez

Dino Sanchez is an artist and industrial designer, and is the Creative Director of Brand Bureau. His expertise is in furniture, branding, customer experience, graphic, interior and industrial design. Dino’s design thinking has been executed by brands such as Herman Miller, HP, Renault, Toyota, Comcast, ABInBev, Verizon, GE, FEMA and Equinox. His eponymous product and furniture line is designed and made in the USA.

Website: dinosanchez.com
Twitter: @dino_sanchez
Instagram: @thisisdino

 
Deborah Adler Deborah Adler is an SVA alumnus who specializes in packaging, labeling, identity and information systems. For her SVA MFAD thesis, she redesigned the prescription pill bottle. A creative director at Target saw her work, secured the patent, and rolled out the product. “ClearRx” has since garnered great customer loyalty and been exhibited at MoMA. Her firm, Adler Designs, has worked with clients such as Dignity Health, First Aid Beauty, Lauren Merkin, Medline and Stony Brook University. Website: adlerdesign.com Twitter: @da_studio Instagram: @adlerdeb

Deborah Adler

Deborah Adler is an SVA alumnus who specializes in packaging, labeling, identity and information systems. For her SVA MFAD thesis, she redesigned the prescription pill bottle. A creative director at Target saw her work, secured the patent, and rolled out the product. “ClearRx” has since garnered great customer loyalty and been exhibited at MoMA. Her firm, Adler Designs, has worked with clients such as Dignity Health, First Aid Beauty, Lauren Merkin, Medline and Stony Brook University.

Website: adlerdesign.com
Twitter: @da_studio
Instagram: @adlerdeb

Noel Wiggins Noel Wiggins is a painter, designer and entrepreneur who created, founded and is President of Areaware. Areaware is a design brand that promotes emerging artists’ work that is beautiful, functional and useful. Areaware frequently collaborates with design schools and Noel has worked in diverse capacities to foster education generally. Website: areaware.com Twitter: @noelwiggins 

Noel Wiggins

Noel Wiggins is a painter, designer and entrepreneur who created, founded and is President of Areaware. Areaware is a design brand that promotes emerging artists’ work that is beautiful, functional and useful. Areaware frequently collaborates with design schools and Noel has worked in diverse capacities to foster education generally.

Website: areaware.com
Twitter: @noelwiggins 

Alicia Hallett-Chan Alicia is an Emmy Award winning Creative Director. She heads up the design team at T Brand Studio at The New York Times telling brand stories that connect readers to advertisers natively on nytimes.com. She has worked with clients like IBM, Netflix, Tiffany & Co., Ford, Pfizer and Guinness. Prior to the NYT Alicia worked digitally at Sports Illustrated, The Foundry, Team USA, The Daily and with Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser at WBMG. Website: hallettdesign.com Twitter: @aliciakate11 Instagram: @aliciakate11  

Alicia Hallett-Chan

Alicia is an Emmy Award winning Creative Director. She heads up the design team at T Brand Studio at The New York Times telling brand stories that connect readers to advertisers natively on nytimes.com. She has worked with clients like IBM, Netflix, Tiffany & Co., Ford, Pfizer and Guinness. Prior to the NYT Alicia worked digitally at Sports Illustrated, The Foundry, Team USA, The Daily and with Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser at WBMG.

Website: hallettdesign.com
Twitter: @aliciakate11
Instagram: @aliciakate11

 

 
Dmitri Siegel Dmitri Siegel is Vice President of Global Brand for Sonos, where he oversees global marketing, advertising, strategy, brand design & experience, and partnership marketing. He is an author whose writing on the topics of design, technology and digital culture has been published by Design Observer, Dot Dot Dot, Émigré, and Creative Review, among others. Dmitri has held senior branding and marketing positions at Patagonia and Urban Outfitters. Website: http://www.dmitrisiegel.com/ Twitter: @dddmitri Instagram: @dddmitri  

Dmitri Siegel

Dmitri Siegel is Vice President of Global Brand for Sonos, where he oversees global marketing, advertising, strategy, brand design & experience, and partnership marketing. He is an author whose writing on the topics of design, technology and digital culture has been published by Design Observer, Dot Dot Dot, Émigré, and Creative Review, among others. Dmitri has held senior branding and marketing positions at Patagonia and Urban Outfitters.

Website: http://www.dmitrisiegel.com/
Twitter: @dddmitri
Instagram: @dddmitri

 

 

 

FELLOWS

Andrea Cameron Andrea is a recent graduate of SVA’s MFA in Products of Design and holds a BS in Engineering from Cornell University. Her thesis explored how to design opportunities for students to play a more active role in sculpting their educations. She is currently working with an education startup on a platform connecting students to transnational mentors. Her passion for connecting and empowering people figures strongly in her venture dedicated toward improving the lives of domestic animals. Website: andrea-cameron.com

Andrea Cameron

Andrea is a recent graduate of SVA’s MFA in Products of Design and holds a BS in Engineering from Cornell University. Her thesis explored how to design opportunities for students to play a more active role in sculpting their educations. She is currently working with an education startup on a platform connecting students to transnational mentors. Her passion for connecting and empowering people figures strongly in her venture dedicated toward improving the lives of domestic animals.

Website: andrea-cameron.com

Yujia Liu Yujia is a recent graduate of SVA's BFA in Animation & Interactive Technologies. Her thesis work explored how the narrative, immersive and interactive qualities of Mixed Reality can work as a learning and research tool to benefit young people and educational institutions. She leads a team consisting of an animator, interior designer, UX designer and programmer to define the new role of Virtual and Augmented Reality in the educational and medical spaces. Website: gamabay.com Instagram: @gamabay

Yujia Liu

Yujia is a recent graduate of SVA's BFA in Animation & Interactive Technologies. Her thesis work explored how the narrative, immersive and interactive qualities of Mixed Reality can work as a learning and research tool to benefit young people and educational institutions. She leads a team consisting of an animator, interior designer, UX designer and programmer to define the new role of Virtual and Augmented Reality in the educational and medical spaces.

Website: gamabay.com
Instagram: @gamabay

Carmen Lopez Carmen is a recent graduate of of SVA’s MFA in Design for Social Innovation and holds a bachelor’s in fine art from Art Center College of Design. Born and raised in Ecuador, with years of experience as a graphic designer and an English language student, she dedicated her thesis project to designing a system for immigrants to learn English. Her venture is dedicated toward making the rigors of learning a second language more accessible and more fun. Website: cargocollective.com/carmenrosadesign  

Carmen Lopez

Carmen is a recent graduate of of SVA’s MFA in Design for Social Innovation and holds a bachelor’s in fine art from Art Center College of Design. Born and raised in Ecuador, with years of experience as a graphic designer and an English language student, she dedicated her thesis project to designing a system for immigrants to learn English. Her venture is dedicated toward making the rigors of learning a second language more accessible and more fun.

Website: cargocollective.com/carmenrosadesign

 

 
Team ATTA Tanvi Kareer, Pragya Mahendru, and Eda Tankal (left to right) are recent graduates of SVA’s MFA in Design for Social Innovation with backgrounds in textile design, art and communication design, respectively. Their shared love of nature and passion to create sustainable products that challenge systemic social problems drives their team. Their venture aims to significantly reduce the resource input and waste output of disposable tableware. Website: pragyamahendru.com

Team ATTA

Tanvi Kareer, Pragya Mahendru, and Eda Tankal (left to right) are recent graduates of SVA’s MFA in Design for Social Innovation with backgrounds in textile design, art and communication design, respectively. Their shared love of nature and passion to create sustainable products that challenge systemic social problems drives their team. Their venture aims to significantly reduce the resource input and waste output of disposable tableware.

Website: pragyamahendru.com

Ziyun Qi Qi graduated from SVA's MFA in Products of Design in 2016 and holds an MS in industrial design from Beijing Institute of Technology. She spent one year at Ziba Design as a product and communication designer and is now working in New York as a UI/UX designer. Qi believes that a designer’s role is to imagine and connect the world through products. She aims to use her design power to bring charm and magic to everyday life. Website: qiziyun.com

Ziyun Qi

Qi graduated from SVA's MFA in Products of Design in 2016 and holds an MS in industrial design from Beijing Institute of Technology. She spent one year at Ziba Design as a product and communication designer and is now working in New York as a UI/UX designer. Qi believes that a designer’s role is to imagine and connect the world through products. She aims to use her design power to bring charm and magic to everyday life.

Website: qiziyun.com

Michael Raineri Michael is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Interaction Design and holds a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. In the years between degrees he worked as a designer and fabricator within the entertainment industry where he uncovered his passion for sustainable practices and materials. His masters thesis explored ways of empowering local businesses and communities to reclaim and reuse waste materials.  Website: thecommunitygroundsproject.com

Michael Raineri

Michael is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Interaction Design and holds a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. In the years between degrees he worked as a designer and fabricator within the entertainment industry where he uncovered his passion for sustainable practices and materials. His masters thesis explored ways of empowering local businesses and communities to reclaim and reuse waste materials. 

Website: thecommunitygroundsproject.com

 
Keith Tseng Keith is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Interaction Design. He was born in Taiwan, educated in Singapore and New York and holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. For his master’s thesis he developed minimal and sustainable furniture for micro-living spaces and a service to reclaim and recycle the products. Keith is passionate about the importance of design thinking and user experience in business, and he aims to prioritize both with his venture. Website: keithtseng.com Instagram: @kei_tseng

Keith Tseng

Keith is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Interaction Design. He was born in Taiwan, educated in Singapore and New York and holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. For his master’s thesis he developed minimal and sustainable furniture for micro-living spaces and a service to reclaim and recycle the products. Keith is passionate about the importance of design thinking and user experience in business, and he aims to prioritize both with his venture.

Website: keithtseng.com
Instagram: @kei_tseng

 

FAQ

Can anyone apply?

Fellowships at the SVA GroundFloor Incubator are available only to alumni of the School of Visual Arts. Graduates of any SVA program, grad or undergrad, may apply. 


How do I apply?

Scroll down to the GET INVOLVED section of this site and click BECOME A FELLOW. Fill out the email form and we will send you a preliminary application.


How much does SVA GI cost?

There is no tuition or service charge for a fellowship at the GroundFloor. However, participation comes at the cost of time and dedication. Interested alumni should be prepared to invest everything they can into their success. 

 


Can I receive benefits or a stipend so I don’t have to work? 

At this time, there is no stipend to be offered. Financial aid packages cannot be extended to cover living expenses during fellowships.


Can I receive the same health insurance coverage I received as a student?

No. Student health insurance cannot be extended to fellowships.


Does SVA own a Percentage of my venture? 

No. SVA takes no stake in the intellectual property or business transactions that occur during or after a fellow's participation at the GroundFloor.


Can I use the SVA shops?

Yes. Fellows will have all the access to SVA shops and facilities that they did as students.


Will my SVA ID card still get me into the library and museums?

Yes. Fellows will be issued new ID cards that offer the same benefits as their previous student ID cards.


How do I get involved if I am not an SVA alumnus?

Fellowships at the GroundFloor are only available to SVA alumni. However, non-alumni partner with our fellows as project and business collaborators, and many of our mentors and lecturers are graduates of other institutions. If you are not an SVA alumni, but think there's a role for you here, get in touch and let's find one for you!

FELLOW

Fellowships at the SVA GroundFloor Incubator are available to recent graduates and alumni of the School of Visual Arts from any department in the school, graduate or undergraduate. If you believe that a project you created during or as a result of your studies at SVA has the potential to become a marketable product with positive social impact, we want to hear about it!


MENTOR

Each of the modules in the GroundFloor curriculum is lead by an instructor with expertise in the area of study. But some fellows and their ventures require more specific mentoring. The GroundFloor is always exploring opportunities to grow and improve the curriculum and the support network of instructors and mentors. If you are interested in conducting master classes, workshops, providing one-on-one consultation to fellows or playing any other role in the culture and output of the GroundFloor, let us know! 


LECTURER

Our fellows succeed with the widest access to voices in design and business possible. The lecture series at the GroundFloor adds critical variety and counterpoint to the perspectives provided by our instructors. If you want to contribute your expertise and influence but have limited time, consider contributing an evening as a lecturer.


CORPORATE PARTNER

The GroundFloor depends upon generous support and partnerships across all operations. From the practical furniture and tool needs of our office to the prototyping, legal and financing needs of our fellows, we grow through our partnerships and in turn provide clear evidence of the power of our partners' products and services. Additionally, our partners get a first look at the innovative products and investment opportunities coming from our fellows. If your company would like to join the network of strategic partners contributing to new ventures in New York City, we are always open to exploring new relationships.


CHARITABLE DONOR

The SVA GroundFloor Incubator is an internally funded fellowship program at the School of Visual Arts. Your donation to SVA's Visual Arts Foundation can be ear marked for the GroundFloor and will contribute to instructor compensation, facilities, prototyping and could even endow fellows with stipends that significantly offset the cost of living, allowing them to maximize their time and dedication to their ventures and to create positive social change. Please consider a donation— any amount will make a difference.