Tyler Stefanich
BFA in Web and Multimedia Environments
Manager at UCLA Game Lab/System Administrator for Northern Lights.mn

Where do you work and what do you do?

I’m the manager at the UCLA Game Lab, which is a creative research center that tries to expand the culture of games. I also work as the System Administrator and Web Developer at Northern Lights.mn, a public art organization in the Twin Cities best known for its annual all-night festival Northern Spark, although they do many other projects.

What was your path to your current position?

Right after graduating I worked part-time at MCAD’s inhouse studio DesignWorks and hopped around doing graphic design and web development work for various small design studios, marketing companies, a data visualization start-up and a dozen nonprofits.

While at DesignWorks I worked on a handful of smaller projects but primarily focused on four websites for John Hopkins, including their Berman Bioethics Institute website, Bioethics Bulletin, a site that showcases bioethics issues in the news, Bioethics in Television Entertainment, a site dedicated to showing bioethics issues from television, and Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program, a site dedicated to an international research ethics training program. Working at DesignWorks showed me the value of working for culture institutes.

Soon after finishing these websites, I started a design collective called Work-Room with seven other MCAD alumni. We focused primarily on projects with local arts organizations and artists. We were active for four years and worked on a wide range of projects for various artists, the Walker Art Center, neighborhood ping pong parties, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

In 2014, I left Minnesota for graduate school at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where I worked closely with Eddo Stern, a professor at the Design Media Arts Department and founder/director of the UCLA Game Lab. My experience working with arts organizations and my artistic interest in play and participation serendipitously aligned with an open position at the UCLA Game Lab halfway through my graduate program.

What is the most interesting thing about your field?

Games are in a particularly interesting state where the ubiquity of free and open source  tools has brought more people into the practice of game making. Because of this, you can feel the edges of different, and sometimes contested, territories such as the mainstream industry, indie games, games for social good, and educational games.

The UCLA Game Lab provides a unique alternative to serious and rigorous game making and education from a fine art/media arts perspective. The lab internally supports undergraduates and graduate students through mentoring, technical and conceptual support, and by providing a broad set of material and intellectual resources.

My job is different everyday; I build and design websites, put on exhibitions, apply for grants, help students with their projects, organize and run our High School Summer Institute, coordinate guest lectures, talks, and workshops. Each day is a new and interesting challenge.

Biggest takeaways from MCAD?

Firstly, I would say the biggest takeaway will be community and friendships you build during your time at MCAD. The bonds you build with your peers will be lifelong. I still collaborate frequently with people I met at MCAD.

Second is the process and methodology MCAD teaches. You will leave MCAD with a strong toolkit of methods for approaching problems, whether they be artistic, organizational, institutional, political, or conceptual.

Any advice for prospective art/design/web students?

MCAD provides tremendous number of opportunities - when they come up, take them. It is often easy to talk yourself out of attending events because you are working on something. Never be too busy to take an hour or two hour long break for a workshop, performance, or guest speaker, because you never know what will come out it.