"The things I've gotten to do in my career have been beyond my wildest imagination.” Those are the words UC students yearn to hear from an alumnus. And in April 2008, interior designer Kevin Roche, DAAP '75, filled the bill, serving as an inspirational role model.
Having grown up in Westwood, Ohio, the internationally respected designer was humble about his beginnings. “I was just an interior design guy in Cincinnati in 1969," he said. Today, he is a world-renowned innovator in marketing, branding and design, and works with clients from Germany to South Korea.
Making the transition from hometown designer at a startup firm to his first corporate job, working with luxury retail clients such as Sephora, "was the most humbling experience of my life," but one that prepped Roche for his current position as consultant for Arcandor, the largest department store corporation in Germany.
Roche spent April 15 and 16 on UC's Uptown campus imparting real-world wisdom to students in the colleges of business and design, art, architecture and planning. His visit was part of the Kautz Alumni Masters Forum, a program conducted by the UC Foundation that connects alumni who are leaders in their fields with current students.
He stressed that design students today need to have "hybrid degrees" — a multi-disciplinary education combining knowledge of business and creative design. This leads to strategic branding that places emphasis on the "experience" of consumers.
The physical transformation the University of Cincinnati has undergone in recent years is a prime example of the influence that design can have on a brand's identity, Roche said. "UC is a better place today because it is a better experience. Consumers no longer buy brands; they join them."
Roche is dedicated to fighting for designers a place at the table for board of directors, and he advised students to stay inspired throughout their careers.
"The act of designing is an inherently powerful act. Don't stand still and become predictable. Read everything, look at everything, go everywhere." Advice this alumnus has certainly followed.