While many Stamps students spend time job hunting during their senior year, others dedicate themselves to growing their own ventures. Such is the case with Gus Schissler (BFA ‘18), Art and User Experience Director at Gwydion.
Founded in 2016 by U-M students Paul Stefanski (LSA ‘17) and Duncan Abbot (Engineering ‘17), Gwydion is an Augmented Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR) company for advanced education and research technology. Put simply, the tech company specializes in building digital modules that help teams collaborate around big ideas in real time. According to Schissler, there are many VR platforms on the market, but Gwydion has addressed the finer points of annotation and manipulation, making it a perfect tool for education and research markets. “With our product Arthea, we can make a tiny crystal structure huge,” said Schissler. “We can rotate that structure for a class, circle a specific area, and describe the specifics. There’s a lot of interest in using our platform as a tool to teach more effectively, or convey research or prototype concepts to others.”
Schissler was the first hire at Gwydion, starting just four months after the company’s founding as an “art generalist” intern. He was kept on and promoted to Art Director once his internship came to a close. Schissler led a complete rebrand of the company, including a fresh company name and logo. Recently, he received his second title change: Art and User Experience Director at Gwydion.
On a day-to-day basis, Schissler handles brand design, UX, and web design. He’s developed all the visual aspects that you see in the application. “The team is full of engineers — and they make things work. I cultivate the look, feel, and how we present to the public. I also make sure our product is easy-to-use and as intuitive as possible.”
Gwydion has come a long way from its start in the co-founder’s living-room. Initially funded through an Optimize Social Innovation Challenge and a Kickstarter campaign, in October 2017 the company successfully completed a $250K seed funding round. The company has also utilized U-M entrepreneurial supports to get and and running, including TechArb, the startup incubator at U-M’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Desai Accelerator program. Gwydion’s home-base is now an office space on Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor, where they’re building client relationships in higher education, the pharmaceutical industry (for drug discovery and research), architecture, and other fields relevant to science and engineering.
According to Schissler, his 3D modeling and animation course taught by Stamps lecturer Stephanie O’Malley helped him find his home at Gwydion. “I was creating a VR environment for sophomore review at Stamps when animator Raj Bruggerman (BFA ‘16) saw my work and introduced me to the Gwydion team,” said Schissler.
Schissler also cites Sile Omodrain’s Performing Arts Technology (PAT) course entitled “Dialogue of the Senses” as a helpful course on his path to Art Direction. Omodrain’s collaboration-based course invites students from across the university — including Engineering, School of Information, and Stamps — to investigate sensory modalities and how they come together to create interpretations of the world. “I found this course incredibly useful when thinking about what makes a satisfying user experience. When we click something, we want to hear a ‘click.’ There are so many elements that come together to make a digital environment intuitive for a user.”
“Collaboration is one of the things I like most about being at this university,” said Schissler. “There are so many different perspectives out there, so many different expertise. You just have to take the initiative and make those connections.”