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Professor Greg Andrade unfolds his story after a decade at Disney

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Written by TJ Laggis, Photos by Nick Thomsen

Greg Andrade poses for a portrait in his classroom in Crites Hall Thursday morning. [Nick Thomsen/scaddistrict.com]

In September of 2018, Greg Andrade joined SCAD’s staff of creatives. As a naturally inventive designer, Andrade came in with the goal of redefining the identity of Themed Entertainment Design as something so much more eclectic and progressive in the contemporary world than many have recognized it to be.

Andrade’s resume is teeming with experience from some of the most prestigious names in the industry, including but not limited to: The Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. His career began to flourish in 1991, working as a licensed architect for Walt Disney’s Imagineering Department. He spent over a decade with Disney, helping design and construct some of the most beloved attractions in theme parks across the globe. Now if you begin your career with some of the most desired positions contemporary designers could hope to have, where do you go from there? Well, in 2015, Andrade went on to begin his own company, Andrade Studio, bringing narrative design projects to life in the US, Europe and Asia.

He went on to explain the secrets to his fruitful career. “You can’t learn to design if you don’t screw up. You have to explore unknown territory, and you have to fail or you’ll never discover something new,” said Andrade. It was this fearlessness that drove Andrade to remain on the cutting edge of the industry and find such fulfilling success. As his career progressed, he began to encounter more and more young creatives with big ideas, yet they lacked the ability to flush out their concepts and bring them to fruition. In light of this, he decided to return to school for his master’s degree and enter the world of teaching, first at the Art Center College of Design in California and now here at SCAD.

Renderings on numerous walls indicate that Theme Entertainment Design is much more than just Disney. Retail, Shopping and Dining are becoming more and more a focus in the industry. [Nick Thomsen/scaddistrict.com]

“SCAD has so much potential,” said Andrade. “I’ve had my time in the field but now it’s time I train the troops.” This is a season of life Andrade is spirited about, passing the torch to the next generation but also making sure this new generation is capable of keeping it aflame. Part of his approach to seeing his students flourish is breaking the cookie-cutter mold that exists in the contemporary art world and evoking this sense of individuality and discovering the distinct passion that fuels each of his students. “Life is based on perspective,” said Andrade. “If you only live your life in your perspective, you limit your potential to experience and create. Go out and live your life. Explore the world. Drive out to Joshua Tree National Park and watch the stars. Then come ask me what architecture is about.”

He touched on the topic of the ever-evolving modern world as well. “You [as creatives] gotta float above it all, take a look at everything and ask, how do I fit in here?” Andrade said. He then left the interview with a simple conclusion. “Be thankful that you’re here, count your blessings. You have to be the one to get what you want out of this experience,” Andrade said.

This is the mantra that Andrade lives by and has also fueled his career. He believes in the idea that Themed Entertainment Design is more than just building beloved attractions but telling a story through your creation. He wants this concept of Narrative Design to gain traction in the contemporary art community. “We need to disarm the concept of designing strictly for a grade, in a class. Instead, we need to figure out what you’re truly passionate about and pursue it,” Andrade said.

Many of the professors at SCAD, such as Greg Andrade, aren’t simply people to impress and get a passing grade from; they are artists, with knowledge and insight that stems from years in their fields. Let’s seek to re-define the student/teacher dynamic, just as Andrade seeks to re-define Themed Entertainment Design, starting with an emphasis on real human connection and sharing in the passions of artistry.

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