Two years after graduating from CCS’s Industrial Design program, Teckla Rhoads joined the General Motors design team as a lettering specialist. Today, as the Director of Industrial Design and North American Design Operations, she oversees the GM Design Center business operations in Warren, Michigan; the California Advanced Design Studio and the United Kingdom Advanced Design Studio, as well as the Global Industrial Design studio.
“My role is diverse, but that’s what I love about it!” exclaimed Rhoads. “Since I started at General Motors, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a variety of different areas in design as well as build a business background in the industry. My assignments vary—one minute I’m interacting with car designers and the next I’m working on video or a press kit for the Auto Show. It’s a unique career direction, but one I enjoy.”
Rhoads’ position is two-fold. As part of the business operations aspect, she makes sure the studios are running smoothly. This involves overseeing the management, budget and security for each studio. Then, there’s the design side of things. She provides direction for support staff working on exhibit design, environmental design, corporate identity and product and merchandising design.
“Any type of design can be challenging,” said Rhoads. “There’s always so much to learn. The industry is constantly evolving as is the economic climate. General Motors is distinguishing itself as a company through design and it’s my job to make sure this is consistent not only among our products but also in every visual representation of the corporation—architecture, the interior of our lobbies, and all of our brands. All of these elements work together to differentiate GM from its competitors.”
Ensuring that GM presents a consistent identity to the world often requires Rhoads to interact with leaders at the 11 other design centers. She has traveled to China, South Korea, Australia and Germany to collaborate on marketing initiatives and participate in auto shows.
“One thing I enjoy the most is developing relationships with my colleagues,” Rhoads said. “Since there are so many key players globally, we have to rely on a lot of conference calls and emails. Our visualization centers allow us to do reviews in real time, which has helped us cut down on travel…
“Over the years, I’ve actually ended up interacting with people I met while I was a student at CCS. Of course, back then, I didn’t expect to cross paths with so many of them again. Fortunately, the Industrial Design program was small enough that I got the opportunity to know my peers early on. I still maintain valuable professional relationships with many of them today.”
Outside of her career, Rhoads is active in the community. She is a member of the board of directors at Historic Trinity in downtown Detroit and chairman of the national board of representatives for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“My involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society sort of takes the place of a hobby,” said Rhoads. “I started doing pro bono graphic design work for them 20 years ago and have enjoyed being part of such an amazing organization. It allows me to contribute creatively, which is important to me. I believe you should give back to the world in any way you can."
- Graduation Year: 1981
- Major: Product Design
- Employer: General Motors Design Center
- Title: Executive Director, Global Industrial Design
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