CCAD Stories: Mariah Zambuto

portrait mariah zambuto

Mariah Zambuto (Industrial Design, 2019) appreciates a good challenge.

When she was 16, the Omaha, Nebraska, native went on a month-long volunteer trip to Ghana. She and other teens helped construct a women’s empowerment center and also taught fourth-grade students. “It completely changed my view. When I came back, I thought, ‘I have to do something with my art that’s going to do something.’ Not just, like, hang and make a statement, but create change in action,” Zambuto said.

In her final two years of high school, Zambuto enrolled in the academically rigorous International Baccalaureate program and participated in the Joslyn Art Museum’s Kent Bellows Mentoring Program, which matches teens with professional artist mentors.

“I loved critical thinking and thinking about art and how it relates to culture,” she said.

Zambuto, the eldest of three, chose to attend Columbus College of Art & Design with the full support of her family, including her mother who said, “You’re going to waste your life if you don’t go to art school,” Zambuto remembered.

At CCAD, she’s worked for two years as a dormitory Resident Assistant and earned an honorable mention at the Morton Kesten Universal Design Competition for her concept of providing nutrition assistance to people with memory challenges. Zambuto’s interest in healthful enterprises is deep and lasting. She’s a dedicated, enthusiastic member and part-time employee at TITLE Boxing Club Grandview, where she’s also taken on creative duties, such as creating the club’s signature chalkboard signs, designing T-shirts, and providing content for its social media channels.

mariah zambuto wrapping hands
mariah zambuto boxing
mariah zambuto working

What do you love about Industrial Design?

I’m interested in culture, cultural systems, societal norms. The service industries are interesting to me just because of the behavioral structures that need to be present for services to exist.

I'm into design research. Don't get me wrong, I love the whole process—to research, then brainstorm, then ideate solutions, and sketch and create a design, and make prototypes to test, and then create the final design. But I'm most interested in system design. Creating businesses and how they run is interesting to me. Thinking about problems in human behavior, rather than just products, is super fascinating.

Design with a social change mindset has always been at the forefront for me. It’s changing culture. This is what I want to do.

Can you talk about the role physical fitness plays in your life?

After my freshman year, I realized I needed to take better care of myself, and I started doing streaming fitness programs. It made me feel more centered, more myself. I started this journey of loving my body, which has been a struggle my entire life.

The summer after sophomore year, I found a permaculture internship on a farm in Omaha. I loved the manual labor and the idea of changing food culture, changing the ways people eat and think about eating. I was also getting fit and strong and thought, “I’ve got to maintain this.”

Someone recommended that I try boxing. I found TITLE Boxing Club in Grandview, tried it on a Monday night, and then waited for my next paycheck and bought four months—just like that. I completely fell in love with it and I am still completely in love with it. Boxing helped me grow from, “Wow, I feel fat today, I need to work out,” to “I'm a badass. I'm going to go work out because I feel like a badass and I love my body because I am able to put it through so much and it responds.”

I started personal training one month in because I wanted to get really good. For once in my life I was not good at something. I've always excelled in school—it's just been easy in a way. And, with boxing, I didn't know what I was doing. I wasn't good at it—and I loved that. I loved that I could see progress. It was super motivating. I get bored if I'm not accomplishing something.

mariah working
mariah working
mariah boxing

What do you envision the future holds for you?

I’ve been super inspired by previous CCAD grads and how they used their theses as the platform to make products for their eventual businesses. I would love to have my own fitness brand, to start my own studio and create a more well-rounded boxing experience.

I’ve also always been interested in opening a benefit corporation. It’s got me thinking, “What if working out meant giving back?”

Other businesses, such as Orangetheory Fitness, have heart rate monitors; they have specific wearables for their workouts. Boxing has punch counters that are fantastic, but they don't track fitness. I’m hoping, for my thesis, to create a boxing wearable that tracks your goals, your accomplishments, and be able to take those and, through my business, give back to organizations and charities just by someone working out. That's what I'm working on right now.

For me, thinking creatively has no bounds. I have worked really, really hard to not intentionally limit my potential or just work in one specific industry. I’ve never labeled myself, which I think allows me to reach farther and explore more.

Find more of Mariah Zambuto and her work on Behance and Instagram.

Learn more about Industrial Design at CCAD or apply here.