Transportation Design Alum Gives Back To CCS Students

August 5, 2021
a painting of a fair skinned man with no shirt on covering his face

Transportation Design alum discusses philanthropy work through a recent project and scholarship. 

The “To Shine Through” project features a series of portraits shot to raise awareness about domestic violence within the LGBTQ community. The photos illuminate those who have emerged from the darkness of an abusive relationship, who can now SHINE their light from within–brighter and stronger than before.

“The portraits showcase the light that lives inside all of us—it can be dimmed by a violent loved one, but it can not be extinguished,” said Bryan Thompson, founder of SHINE and Transportation Design ‘00 alum. “It showcases the moment the light comes back on, the strength, emergence and beauty that everyone loses sight of when someone you really love and admire has taken a hand to domestic violence.” 

a black and white image of a brown skinned woman with a quote overtop of her head

Thompson created the project to express what he was feeling after experiencing domestic violence himself.

“[The relationship] ended abruptly one night when I was hit in the face again and again by my ex-partner,” he said. “When I came out of that, I felt my light go dim — I didn’t feel like myself — I felt it was my fault and that I was responsible for the violence.” 

Two emotions were clawing at Thompson: deciding to hide his story and protect his partner, or scream his story.

He decided to go with the latter by partnering with photographer Ben Fink. Fink took Thompson’s portrait titled ‘The Gentle Giant.’

“The scariest thing is the fear of telling your story,” he said. 

Thompson realized after releasing the portrait that it cracked the door to a wider, often not discussed issue —domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships. In turn, the project started growing and people began to ask if their portrait could be taken. 

Domestic violence can be an unspoken truth in the LGBTQ community, says Terra Russell-Slavin, director of policy and community at the LA LGBT Center in an interview with KCRW.

Russell-Slavin estimates that between one-in-three to one in four LGBTQ individuals will experience intimate partner violence over the course of their lifetime. Up to 60% of bisexual women might be subject to similar violence.

The project is partnered with the LGBT Center of Los Angeles, a provider of programs and services like health, social services, housing and leadership, and advocacy, with the intention for the portraits to be auctioned or sold in an effort to raise money and awareness for domestic violence recovery programs the center offers. 

Interested in how students would take on a project, like the SHINE Project, Thompson collaborated with the College—utilizing the students in the Photography department and connecting the students with professionals. Thompson ensured the students got as much interaction with the professionals through weekly Zoom meetings where students could receive feedback.

“It was amazing to see what the students came up with because I’m locally based in Los Angeles, and I noticed that when another generation and CCS got involved there was a lot of diversity and breadth,” Thompson said. “To see these young talents come into the project—and not think about this issue the same way my generation does and the way they express themselves is really amazing.”

Portraits can be viewed on the Project’s Instagram and website

Thompson also gives back to the CCS and LGBTQ students in the form of a scholarship—The Bryan Thompson Transportation Design Scholarship—which awards talented students of the LGBTQ community, or those who have shown support to the community.

He started fundraising for the scholarship by Go-go dancing in Eagle Bar in Los Angeles, because he wanted to break down the barriers between heteronormative culture and gay culture. Thompson raised the first five thousand dollars dancing in the bar that night.

Thompson explains he loved those moments because students would bring their portfolios to the bar, and he’d sit at the edge of the stage and have a design review.

The fund has grown to an endowment of over $50,000 and is entering its third year of awards. Donations can be made to the fund on CCS’ website under the scholarship’s tab.

His scholarship is also funded by another project of his called “Do You Remember Flying Cars?”—a series of illustrations that explores an alternative 1970s where flying cars exist. He donates $1000 from each sale to the scholarship fund.

“I decided I wanted to start giving back and breaking down the barriers and fictional ceilings that gay people have in the car industry and the best way that I knew how to do that was to give,” he said. “My goal is to have the scholarship break down enough barriers for LGBTQ people, so that the scholarship isn’t LGBTQ specific anymore—it can just be a scholarship because I always say, ‘talent first’.” 

Thompson expresses his motive for giving back to CCS is due to his love for the school.

“As I grow older, I feel proud of the fact that I’m a graduate of CCS,” he says. “I love the school because I’ve always been a very open, out and comfortable LGBTQ member—it just made sense to begin fostering a relationship with the College for projects that I think can give back to the LGBTQ, design and artistic communities.”

Thompson’s overall aspiration for the project is to help as many people as possible. 

“We don’t often have the words to say what we need to say—and sometimes—words are the most difficult thing to come up with,” Thompson said. “People often see themselves in the portraits, and because of the diversity, each portrait speaks to a different kind of person, even though I always include a bit of the person’s story, it’s the picture that communicates for someone who sees it they’ll go, ‘This is my story. It’s not scary to tell this story.”

A gallery showcasing the portraits is expected to open in October in Los Angeles, California.

Thompson has designed for companies like Nissan, Peugeot and Volvo, he has also designed in studios all over the world from France to Japan, and Austria to Brazil. After a decade of designing in-house at Nissan, he created his own design consultancy, Bryan Thompson Design—which he’s been running for the past twelve years, designing in various industries from Automotive to Executive Jet interiors for Embraer, to Airstream Camping trailers, to Entertainment Production Design for Katy Perry.

Most recently, he led design for Amazon’s Zoox Autonomous Taxi and Nuro’s self-driving delivery vehicle.