Chris Chien on Theme Park Design and Getting a Job in the Art Industry

Maria Lauro

Chris Chien (ID ’10), a concept illustrator who works at Rhetroactive, a global leader in theme parks, museums, retail, food & beverage, hospitality and other location-based entertainment experiences located in California, recently returned to Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design to give a talk for students, sharing with them how he used the methodology he learned at CMU to break into the field. 

“The themed entertainment industry is very broad, covering not just amusement parks, but any themed space -- retail, trade shows, hotels, museums and even religious spaces,” said Chien. “There is currently a lot of work, but a lack of awareness of this field.”

Chien broke into the business by conducting in-depth research on the theme park companies he was interested in, as well as their employees. “The important thing is to understand what their ideal job candidate looks like to them,” he said. “Then it's just hard work - becoming that ideal candidate.

“When we did Design Methods Research class at CMU - we would get really personal with our subjects,” he continued. “We would interview them, find out which TV shows they like, how often they walked the dog, we would follow them around, video-record them, have them write in journals, do a bunch of surveys. That's how our professors trained us to do product design research. Understand the customer. Understand their unmet needs. Design a good product.

“The job search equivalent is: Understand the employer,” he added. “Understand their unmet needs. Design yourself to be ideal employee. “ 

Chien’s thoughts and tips on how to get a job in the art industry are also available on YouTube

He credits his CMU experience with influencing him “to see how I could make the world a better place.”

“One of my visions is to use my skills in theme park design to better the world,” Chien added. “If I can build a theme park (which is basically a small city), I can also build villages in Africa.

“I think if you are at CMU hard work is actually the easy part,” Chien continued. “Everyone here knows how to work hard. I feel like the really hard part is just thinking critically, understanding what you want to do, and having the faith to just do it even if you don't know if you will succeed.”

While at CMU, Chien did an independent study with faculty member Kristen Hughes focusing on educating inner-city youth about healthy eating habits. “The project itself was a lot of fun and pretty cool because it was really meaningful and influenced me to go beyond what design meant to me,” he said.  

Chien recently completed a mural at an orphanage in Guatemala and currently does volunteer art projects with local underprivileged kids. “CMU taught me to use my talents to better the world in some way,” he added.

Chien also encouraged students to seek out all the opportunities CMU offers to have fun during their college years.

“I had a blast at CMU doing all the extra-curriculars,” Chien said.  “I had such a great time hanging out with friends and meeting friends of all difficult social, racial, economic backgrounds.” His favorite CMU memories are of participating in the Asian Students Association’s Spring Carnival Booth, which brought him into contact with students who were studying other disciplines including engineering, science and business.  

“When people of different backgrounds come together and work together, I think that’s so fulfilling.” 

Visit Chris Chien's Website >>

Date Published: 
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
  • .