The History of Confluence

Vinita Israni

Confluence is known as Carnegie Mellon’s annual primary recruiting forum for designers. Started in 1995, the event invites companies from all over the world to tour our studios and view students’ work across the undergraduate and graduate programs. In conjunction with the CAOC (Creative Arts Opportunity Conference) sponsored by the university, Confluence provides a rare opportunity for students to showcase their work to potential employers and conduct formal interviews for internships and full-time positions.

Since it’s inception, Confluence has grown enormously, starting from the 12 companies that were invited to come to the campus to conduct portfolio reviews to the 80+ companies that came in last year to recruit. The idea to start Confluence originally came from one of the Nierenberg chairs, Tony Golsby-Smith, founder and CEO of Second Road in Australia, suggesting that students might benefit from getting feedback from practitioners. What originally started as “Portfolio Days” transitioned into “Design Career Days” in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, the department transitioned to Confluence by co-branding Design Career Days 2006: Confluence. The name was created because at that time the School of Design ran an annual conference called Emergence. So the vision was having two major School events as Emergence (bringing forth) and Confluence (bringing together).

In recent years, Mark Baskinger (2004 to 2008) , Dylan Vitone (2008 to present), and Wayne Chung (2008) have taken on the responsibility for organizing the fair, doing tremendous amounts of behind-the-scenes work to make everything come alive alongside Sonjala Williams, the College of Fine Arts liaison from the CMU Professional Career Development Center. The pairing was initiated in 2005 and has helped Confluence come a long way from a symposium-esque event to a professional recruiting occasion. The Confluence website idea was created in 2004 when Mark Baskinger took over the administrative role. Through the years, each Confluence has had an entire branding campaign centered around the Design school with shirts and mugs printed for employers as well as students.

With the growth of the industry and portfolios going from being print-based to digitally-based, the process for setting up the fair has also changed. Originally, binding portfolios (with over-the-top production costs) were the standard. However, with the emergence of the internet, online portfolios have become the preferred choice for obvious financial, environmental, and adaptable reasons. There have also been ebbs and flows of the companies in attendance with the dot com boom and the increasing emergence of digital media. “Design wasn’t in the national conversation ten years ago, and now it’s the center of every conversation” said Dylan Vitone. "Even companies that traditionally haven’t hired designers are hiring designers that can understand design thinking and process well, which is what we do here at Carnegie Mellon."

As Confluence is coming up for this year (February 26-27, 2015), Mark Basinger’s advice for students preparing for the event was to “not put all of your focus on job finding at the event. It should be a learning experience where you hear as much about the companies as they do about your work. The point of Confluence is to make introductions, see if there might be potential interest, and to start a conversation."

Date Published: 
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
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