Sascha Mombartz, A ‘09
Written by Claudia Giordano Lasky, A ’76, July 2015
I enjoyed a lively and engaging conversation with the young, creative designer and entrepreneur. Sascha Mombartz, Cooper Union Art School 2009 graduate, is already living in the World of Tomorrow and expects to further shape that world. I met with Sascha for this interview at the clean and modern space on lower Broadway in Soho, where he “rents a desk.” His office moves with him — quite literally. He was wearing some impressive technology.
He wore a Pebble watch and used the iPhone app, KISI, to summon the elevator. He is an earlier adopter of several new technologies and a proponent of smart user interface design. The desire to harness technology in a way that is easy to use, is what drew Sascha to webs and product design.
Born in Malta, and the only child of a German dad and Maltese mother, Sascha can boast of being a truly “global” individual. Sascha’s father worked in the German Foreign Service so the family traveled to many countries while Sascha was growing up. Sascha Landed in Texas, after a childhood spent in Ethiopia, Thailand, Germany and Egypt. Sascha’s first encounter with The Cooper Union came at the suggestion of a “free art school” by a curator at an exhibition whom he met while he was a student at a Texas state college studying design. in what he referred to as a “formalized” program.
Sascha applied to The Cooper Union Art School, after meeting Prof. Day Gleeson at a portfolio review held in Texas. Fully expecting rejection, he was delighted to learn of his admittance to Cooper, and as many of us can attest to, experienced both the joy and the terror of the unknown journey ahead.
As a Cooper student, Sascha served on the Student Council, and cites Professors Dennis Sanders, Mike Essl, Norman Sanders, and Lorenzo and Dennis Adams as major influences, as well as Cooper’s own, unique, and very different studio art practice – what he describes as a “loose” framework – allowing for an open, expansive, and endlessly challenging approach.
When asked what art he enjoys making, Sascha indicated that he is interested in signage and diagrams and how people interact and interpret them. Below is a photo of his installation on the Williamsburg Bridge from 2012.
Example of his “Pseudo Scientific Diagrams”
Today, Sascha is a Creative Director who runs a multidisciplinary design studio in SoHo. This studio is called, The Office for Visual Affairs. He previously worked at the New York Times and at Google’s Creative Lab in New York as web and interaction designer.
Sascha recently developed and application for smart phones and watches called ArtWalk , which is an easy to use app that provides stories on New York’s art, architecture and history. It supplies location specific information tailored to the user as the user moves around the city. ArtWalk is available free from iTunes at the Apple store. It currently boasts 300 stories of NYC’s “unknown” art, cultural, and historical caches.
His journey from design student to app developer has taken Sascha from a web designer at the NY Times online edition, to a stint at Google’s creative lab, to becoming his own boss. The need for the work visa as a non-native compelled our young designer to find his way in the start up field, via what he calls “side projects” – from designing customized laptop sleeves, to developing Urtak (Icelandic for “Statistical Sample”) – which raised $500k – giving him the multi-disciplinary experience and know-how – in design, art, marketing, and product production – to create what he now plans to grow and expand, with the ArtWalk app.
With his own company – called The Office for Visual Affairs – a nod to his father’s Foreign Service career – and the launch of the ArtWalk app – Sascha hopes to create a new generation of guidebooks that provide essentially a “Plaque in Your Pocket” for tourists and residents alike of major cities in the U.S. and around the world, bringing the human element to the places we walk past daily in our environment. His future plans are to raise funds and create a sustainable model, building a small team – a community of paid contributors – to write the stories as his project grows bigger.
We look forward to someday strolling the streets of Athens and Chicago, Boston and Bangkok with an app developed by the creative mind of designer Sascha Mombartz.
Learn More about ArtWalk
Download Sascha’s App for the iPhone ArtWalk App
The CUAA will be hosting an Alumni event in conjunction with the exhibition and silent auction of the original art work – by Dionisio Cortes, also a Cooper art grad – from the ArtWalk NYC app on July 30 , 2015, at FRONT Art Space, 118 Chambers Street, starting at 7:30 pm, with the silent and live auction at 8:30 pm.