College for Creative Studies: Product Design
“Diverse.” This is the word that Teckla Rhoads uses to describe her career—both in terms of her daily activities as well as the people she connects with as the executive director of Global Industrial Design at General Motors.
“My role is diverse, but that’s what I love about it!” exclaimed Rhoads. “Since I started as a lettering specialist at General Motors, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a variety of different areas in design as well as build a strong network internationally in the industry. My job has taken me to amazing locations around the world to collaborate on design and marketing initiatives and participate in auto shows.
“What I’ve enjoyed most about my career is the opportunity to develop relationships with my colleagues at the other nine design centers. In addition to frequent travel to interact in person, I am connecting with these key players almost daily through conference calls, emails and real time reviews through our visualization centers.”
In her position, Rhoads oversees the visual expression of General Motors and its global brands. This includes brand identity and graphic standards, auto shows and events, environments and architectural design, dealerships, and product and merchandise development. Her department also maintains the Design Archives and Special Collection as a way of preserving the company’s rich design heritage.
“The transportation industry is constantly evolving as is the economic climate,” said Rhoads. “General Motors distinguishes 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 company—architecture, the interior of our lobbies, and all of our brands. All of these elements work together to differentiate GM from its competitors.”
In her professional life, Rhoads has applied many of the lessons she learned as an industrial design student at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. But one of the aspects she found most beneficial was the ready-made network of professional contacts she started establishing while she was still a student.
“Throughout my career, I’ve ended up interacting with several people I met as a student.”
“Back then, I didn’t expect to cross paths with so many of them again. Fortunately, my department was small enough that I got to know my peers early on. These connections evolved into valuable professional relationships, many that I continue to maintain today.”
Outside of her career, Rhoads is active in the Greater Detroit community. She is a member of the board of directors at Historic Trinity, Inc in downtown Detroit and former chairman of the national board of representatives for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She also serves on the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and is involved with local schools and the Michigan Art Educators Association.
“I consider it a privilege to be able to give back to the community that has given me so much,” said Rhoads. “In particular, I believe it is extremely important to build awareness among teachers and parents about the great opportunities for careers in the creative arts. The future of our industry depends on it.”