DEBUT Countdown 2013: FIDM Graphic Design Students Team up with Signal Snowboards to Create Custom Boards for the Runway

The bold wooden sign hanging six feet high on the wall of Signal Snowboards’ factory in Huntington Beach lovingly expresses what makes the mountain accessories brand so unique, “Proudly Made in California.”

FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising is thrilled to be one of many to collaborate with Signal Snowboards whose online series Every Third Thursday has helped the organically-grown, boutique company gain traction in an industry of giants.

FIDM Graphic Design Students Angelica Villegas (left) and Patrick Lee holding the snowboards they designed, custom built by Signal Snowboards for FIDM DEBUT 2013.

FIDM Graphic Design Students Angelica Villegas (left) and Patrick Lee holding the snowboards they designed, custom built by Signal Snowboards for FIDM DEBUT 2013.

Boasting 15,786 YouTube subscribers and more than 2 million views over the past two and a half years, Signal is celebrating its 10th year of business and has gained notoriety through ETT through which the company shows off its manufacturing process and transforms unusual materials (xylophone keys, Italian glass and Legos, for example) into one-off custom snowboards.

Through ETT, which is in its third season,  Signal has developed a bulletproof board, a board equipped with solar panels to charge electronic devices, and even a board-bicycle hybrid that allowed paralyzed former pro snowboarder Tim Ostler to get back on the slopes

Made possible by Signal’s unique domestic manufacturing facility– a rare if not nonexistent practice in the industry– the show has served as a marketing tool that demonstrates the company’s commitment to innovation, which reflects the rebellious nature of the action sports industry they serve.

Fashion will be the focus of an upcoming episode of ETT, details of which will be revealed in April. In the meantime, 11 excited FIDM Graphic Design Students are thrilled to have been involved in a special industry collaboration with Signal who manufactured custom boards that will be unveiled to 10,000 people over three days at FIDM’s DEBUT Runway Show next week.

“Collaborating with FIDM has been a lot of fun. We’re breaking new ground by colliding two worlds together in such a unique way,” says Signal’s CEO Dave Lee. “Through ETT, we are going from concept to design and onto the runway! A fun project for all involved.”

Models donning winter action sports attire designed by FIDM Advanced Fashion Design Student, Kelly Knagg, will carry the 11 boards at FIDM DEBUT, along with a special concept board that will be featured in the April episode of Signal’s ETT series. The DEBUT models will include Signal’s own team manager, Joey Yorba and pro boarder Pat Garvin.

Last week, five of the 11 graphic design students ventured to Signal Snowboards’ headquarters, located in the heart of the surf/skate/action sports apparel industry (down the street from Quiksilver/Roxy, Vans, and DC for example) to get a first-hand look at how Signal builds their boards from start to finish.

FIDM Students Visit Signal Snowboards

Click on the thumbnails below to expand the image:

Yorba guided students through several rooms and workstations within the cozy two-story factory, shouting over the whirring, clanking and buzzing noises of boards in development. The tour covered everything from graphic design and printing processes, to die cutting and shaping, through lumber sawing and contouring, to final assembly and finishing.

“I loved the tour, it was crazy. I’ve never seen a snowboard made from start to finish, so for me, my mind was blown,” says seventh-quarter FIDM Graphic Design Student, Jon Ezell. “There are so many intricate details that go into everything, it makes me want to work here.”

Yorba also pointed out several custom tools that are exclusive to Signal, including a giant horizontal fan rigged to serve as a spin-art station, and a custom table engineered to bend steel frames into a perfect contour to fit various snowboard sizes.

Signal Snowboards' custom spin-art machine and custom table engineered to bend steel frames into a perfect contour to fit various snowboard sizes.

Signal Snowboards’ custom spin-art machine and custom table engineered to bend steel frames into a perfect contour to fit various snowboard sizes.

During the tour, Lee explained the influence that ETT has had on their manufacturing processes. Serving as a platform for exploration, ETT has pushed Signal’s research and development team to try new processes and materials, including fiberglass weaves, core profiles, shapes and production processes.

“There have been a lot of advancements in unorthodox materials that we’ve discovered through ETT and we are hoping to implement them into production over the next few seasons,” adds Lee.

Utilizing digital media and social media to their full advantage, Lee calls them “the most important tools we have as a small brand.”

“We are able to engage with our customers, create new content and test out ideas from the factory floor to the retail floor and this is all made possible through our social platforms,” he says.

Congratulations to the innovative FIDM Graphic Design Students Kelsi Calhoun, Jon Ezell, Henson Garcia, Regina Gomez, Patrick Lee, Joe Macri, Jade Mc Lain, Quinn Palmer, Krislyn Perez, Anthony Rodriguez and Angelica Villegas whose designs were selected by the Signal team.

Make sure to check back for more behind-the-scenes details about FIDM DEBUT 2013, which will be held March 21, 22 and 23 in Santa Monica, CA.

FIDM Graphic Design Students visit Signal Snowboards headquarters in Huntington Beach as part of an industry collaboration between FIDM and Signal for FIDM DEBUT 2013.

FIDM Graphic Design Students visit Signal Snowboards headquarters in Huntington Beach as part of an industry collaboration between FIDM and Signal for FIDM DEBUT 2013.

Questions/comments? Email the editor, Mani O’Brien at mo’brien@fidm.edu

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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