Arts & Culture

How Can Houston Stop Losing Creative Talent To Other Cities?

A program at the University of Houston aims to keep its industrial design students in the area after graduation.

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Carlyle Yarbough and Brian Chiu with Spur 5
UH grads Carlyle Yarbough and Brian Chiu with Spur 5

When the Houston Arts Alliance's Creative Economy of Houston 2 report was released in September, one fact was a cause for concern. Within three years, the city went from importing nearly $10 billion of creative services to over $15 billion.

Even though we've seen an uptick in the number of creative occupations, there's been a decrease in the amount of creative goods and services produced and sold locally. In other words, we've been hiring less from within.

It comes at a time when creatives – in industries ranging from advertising to architecture — are being forced to look for work elsewhere.

Just ask Carlyle Yarbough, a recent graduate from the University of Houston's College of Architecture and Design.

"I think most of the graduates that we have here that are actually working in the field of design are actually working outside of Houston," Yarbough says. "So it's almost a norm in that sense."

But Yarbough is one of the exceptions. After graduation, he was hired by the university to take part in a brand new program called ID+, launched as a think-tank incubator for students studying industrial design. It gives them a chance to partner with local companies in designing new products.

"If we were able to sort of create a community here with the talent that's coming out of the school in itself, we'd really be able to have something here," says Brian Chiu, another UH industrial design graduate involved. "Unfortunately, I don't feel that there's been enough emphasis on creating a sort of hub here."

Chiu and Yarbough are the developers of Spur 5, a bicycle designed especially for riding in Houston. They're hoping that the project will get its own legs and be produced commercially.

"We're actually trying to show that this ID Plus thing works," Chiu says.

Dylan Bailey with his project, Pixel.
Dylan Bailey with his project, Pixel, an interactive LED system created in partnership with Houston’s Xtra Light.

Dylan Bailey is working with Houston-based Xtra Light to create tiles with motion sensors that light up when stepped on. In the exhibit, it shows examples of how they could be used on running trails, crosswalks, and even outdoor parks.

"I think for all of us, it was exciting to essentially be a part of something that's brand new for the program and is intended to really expand our influence and grow the opportunities," Bailey says.

And as those opportunities increase, the hope is that the area has a better chance of developing — and retaining its local talent.

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