College for Creative Studies: Transportation Design

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Justin Morelock

NXT Design

Owner/Design Consultant

One of the best pieces of advice Justin Morelock ever received was to find someone who was doing exactly what he wanted to do and follow in their footsteps. And while the road hasn’t been easy, he couldn’t be happier.

“After high school, I spent several years in Iowa doing skilled trade work (manufacturing, fabrication, welding, as well as running a landscaping company); I loved working with my hands,” he said. After years of working in the skilled trades industry, he decided that he would rather be “designing things than building them.”

“I wanted to open my own custom car shop but wasn’t sure how to break into the industry,” he said. “I started learning more about custom car designers and discovered that well known hot rod designer Chip Foose had studied transportation design at the Art Center College of Design in California. I moved out to California for a year and studied for a couple of semesters before submitting my portfolio to both Art Center and College for Creative Studies (CCS); ultimately I decided on CCS due to its reputation.”

Throughout his time in school, Morelock worked for a cable company disconnecting cable, an experience that left an impression on him due to the long hours and communication skills necessary for the position. He had been awarded scholarships but still needed to work part time to cover the cost of his tuition. Although balancing his job and education was a struggle, he persisted—determined to earn his degree. He landed an internship during his junior year at Dupont Performance Polymers in Troy, MI.

“The first project I tackled was a redesign of Dupont’s office in Troy, which involved a complete redesign of a 4000 sq. ft. space to include developing the architecture, graphics, custom furniture, and interactive kiosks,” said Morelock. “This challenged several of my skill sets: interior, product, graphic, and transportation design. I showed them a few drawings, and they handed the project over to me. It was a $750,000 renovation that had to be completed in less than three months! They must have been impressed with the turn out. They kept me on after the internship ended for another two years until graduation.”

Morelock considered several opportunities after earning his degree (clay modeling for General Motors, yacht design at Palmer Johnson in Florida, among others) before deciding to finally do what he had set out to accomplish—start his own design firm. He founded NXT Design in 2013. The firm provides commercial interior design, product design and graphic design services.

“Our product design clients include entrepreneurs, inventors, and corporations who come to us with an idea,” Morelock explained. “We take their concept and help bring it to fruition. This usually involves design, developing a working prototype and following through to help them take their product to manufacturing and eventually to market. It is challenging but rewarding as it puts all of my skills to the test.”

Some of NXT Design’s clients include Bamboo Detroit, The Grosse Point Academy, Amanda Products (USA), Axalta Coating Systems, Bosal International, Corporate Production Services, M3D experiences and Basco of Michigan among others.

“CCS is different from other colleges and universities. It is much more hands on. Our instructors didn’t just focus on designing things that looked good; they wanted us to become creative problem solvers."

They taught us never to settle. There were always more solutions—endless solutions. You would come up with a bunch of sketches and think you were finished only to find yourself creating five more. Then it would be in those last few that your best idea would emerge. I still find this to be true in my work today…”

When asked what advice he would give to students at CCS, Morelock responded, “I got to where I am through discipline and not making excuses. The advice I’d like to pass on to aspiring artists and designers is to discover what you are truly passionate about and go for it. For me entrepreneurship was the only path, it is not for everybody and can be a struggle, but if your willing to do what you need to do today, you will be able to do what you want to do tomorrow.”

To check out more of Morelock’s work, visit http://nxtdesign.com