Olivia Privitera Sparks the Way for DDF Students

It might seem like a nightmare to some students to think about what they are going to do after their college days are over. This is especially true for students in new, constantly developing and expanding fields such as digital design and fabrication (DDF).

 While this field offers many options and useful applications for these skills, it isn’t hard to see how deciding which path to take could overwhelm graduates. Luckily for the students and faculty who attended her lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 5, SUNY New Paltz’s very own Olivia Privitera (‘16) offered insight into planning for a future in the DDF industry.

In her first year of graduate school here at SUNY New Paltz, while earning her MFA in Painting-Drawing, Privitera sparked an interest in the world of DDF. Through the Digital Fabrication Lab and the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center (HVAMC), Privitera utilized the technology and resources at her disposal to push her studies in light and drawing even further. 

Her work began with the exploration of 3D printed objects and their relations to light within still life setups, reflected in her MFA thesis project that was displayed at the Samuel Dorsky Museum in 2016. 

Titled “Concave Framework: To Make a Grey Corner Luminous,” Privitera made a structure to support hanging transparent tiles so light could freely interact with the corner from which it hung.  Next to this intricate structure were technical drawings she had done of her 3D printed objects. Though its relationship with light and overall appearance alone are impressive, there’s one aspect of her project that can’t be seen— the problem solving that made the piece possible. 

An important part of all design work is designing around obstacles and problem-solving strategies. For Privitera’s thesis she needed a unique way to display her structure, as she didn’t want it to stand on the floor and take away from the aesthetics of the piece. Instead, she decided to design the piece to hang from the ceiling so it sits tangential to the corner in just the right manner.

After her time at New Paltz, Privitera found new opportunities to use her DDF knowledge (at Sage College of Albany as Coordinator of the Technology Center) and soon after at the Light Research Center (LRC) as a Research Assistant. Again, expressing the importance of creative problem solving within design, Privitera helped design alternative heatsinks for LED lighting fixtures, using 3D printed components that would both cost less to produce than their aluminum counter parts and diffuse heat more effectively. Currently, Privitera works as a 3D Designer for Creatcor making conceptual design which she then translates to final detailed drawings and plans for exhibits and events.  

Assistant Professor of digital design and fabrication, Aaron Nelson, believed hearing Privitera tell her own story might help students in this field stay focused on learning the skills they need, rather than worry about their uncertain futures.

“I think the important points to take away are that career paths are often not straight lines, and having the ability to be intuitive and reactive, while at the same time maintaining an inquisitive nature and a great work ethic can lead you to some amazing places,” Nelson said. “Olivia’s journey is a great example of how skills learned in the DDF program can be applied to a wide variety of industries and can lead to pathways of discovery outside the traditional boundaries of discipline.”

As new methods of production based off digital design become available, the possibilities for real world application, both industrially and artistically, grow with them. 

This constant and unpredictable expansion of science and art mean it is more likely that the two disciplines become studied in conjunction more closely. The art world has already begun embracing DDF methods such as 3D printing, laser cutting and computer numerical controlled routing while engineers and digital designers have begun adopting more creative approaches to problem solving thanks to the expanded affordances of new technology.

Katherine (Kat) Wilson, Assistant Director of the HVAMC, understands the importance of this relationship and believes hearing Privitera’s story is a great way for people to see how seamlessly the two fields can work together to create new opportunities and ideas. 

 “I hope that people who came to the lecture got an appreciation for how the arts and sciences can support each other. There is inherently science in art and an art to science, by acknowledging their relationship as Olivia has done, far greater concepts, designs and objects can be created,” Wilson said. “Artists need to talk to engineers and vice versa, communication has become key and 3D and 2D design, specifically digital design, is a language both fields can use to better communicate with one another.”

On top of all the field specific points Privitera addressed, her lecture had one other message she wanted not just students, but anyone listening, to take away from it. From her time in undergrad through her masters, and even as she moves from job to job in the design industry, she wants everyone to understand that you can’t know what opportunities are going to present themselves to you next. 

The only thing you can do to prepare yourself is learn and practice for when the right chances arrive. As a college student studying drawing and painting, she never expected to one day reinvent the light bulb or even help design and construct an almost nine foot tall Thanos made of legos for Comic-Con (which, yes, she did).