Otis College Students Design Merchandise for The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

News, Announcements, Students | July 28, 2023 | BY Anna Raya
Huntington Library gift shop with Otis College designed merchandise

Design Lab created special cups, totes, and shirts for the beloved research and educational institution.

By Anna Raya

This summer, a visit to the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino will not only afford a chance to view one of 12 surviving copies of the Gutenberg Bible, the famous Blue Boy painting, and the 15-acre Garden of Flowing Fragrance—one of the largest classical-style Chinese gardens in the world—but also a new collection of Huntington merchandise that was designed by Otis College students through Otis Design Lab. This new project is the second collaboration between Design Lab and The Huntington, after students last year designed patterns inspired by the Huntington’s gardens and collections that were then wrapped around electric shuttles used to transport guests.

This time, the creative brief was to design sustainably-produced, branded items that reflect the entirety of The Huntington experience—the gardens, the collections, and the architecture. The new merchandise, which is now available in The Huntington Store, includes tote bags, drinking glasses, t-shirts, and water bottles featuring custom illustrations of The Huntington’s Chinese, Rose, and Japanese Gardens designed by Charlie Utter, who just graduated from Otis with a BFA in Graphic Design with a minor in Product Design.

Otis Design Lab

Operating within the Communications and Marketing Department at Otis College, Design Lab is the only studio in Los Angeles that functions through a collaboration between students, staff, faculty, and external client partners. All projects are overseen by Creative Director Emily Carlson and executed by a team of Otis students from diverse fields of study.

The bigger challenge for Design Lab with this project, beyond simply designing beautiful objects that reflect The Huntington, was researching and understanding sustainable manufacturing and the multitude of trade offs this entails. They had to consider local versus overseas production; the impact of different types of materials, dyes, and printing processes; and the overall carbon footprint of an item. The Design Lab students will take this invaluable knowledge with them into their future careers.

“The students felt really connected to this project—The Huntington is this iconic Los Angeles institution—and the fact that they not only hired us, but hired us again, gave the students such encouragement,” says Carlson. “Opportunities like this project are incredibly impactful. It gives students a chance to wrestle with challenging issues like sustainability while learning to create and effectively sell their design work to a client. It’s a preview of what their careers could be, and it gives them a tremendous boost of confidence when they interview for jobs and enter the workforce. My hope is that our projects are just as impactful for the organizations we partner with.”

A Contented Client

“There is an awe-inspiring amount of student work on display throughout the Otis campus, so we knew early on in a student-led tour of the College that a collaboration with students would be fruitful,” says Mark Millmore, Director of Retail at The Huntington Store. “The talent, training, and creative approach these students possess delivered memory-sealing, quality products for the Huntington visitor. It was a joyful collaboration that my team and I valued. We plan to collaborate again soon!”

“It’s so exciting to see students’ work hit the shelves at The Huntington Store, which is so widely known as a place to shop for unique and high-quality gifts,” says Carlson. “One part of being a designer that never gets old is that moment when the thing that existed only on a computer screen for months and months is suddenly transformed into a real object, and it’s on a shelf in a prestigious store. It’s the coolest feeling.”

The Design Lab-designed merchandise can be purchased at The Huntington Store online or in-person at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road in San Marino, California.

Below are some product images of the collection, as well as early renderings and ideas by Charlie Utter (’23 BFA Graphic Design with a minor in Product Design).

Huntington Library T-Shirt
Huntington Library water bottles
Woman reaching for a Huntington Library tote bag
Otis College tag on Huntington Library merchandise
Huntington Library tote bag sitting in a garden
Huntington Library tote bag
Huntington Library logo
Illustration of Huntington Library Japanese Garden
Huntington Library playing cards
Huntington Library logo on an abstract swirl of colors

Main and product images: Photographed by Danielle Vega/Otis College of Art and Design; product sketches and renderings: courtesy of Otis Design Lab/Charlie Utter (’23 BFA Graphic Design with a minor in Product Design).

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