Plenty of summer interns go the extra mile. Steve Ounanian is going the extra 1,400 miles.
Ounanian, a 21-year-old UCLA design student, spent the summer at 86 the onions in Venice, Calif. He credits that experience—in particular, his exposure to people's daily rituals—for inspiring him and a friend to make a 25-day bike ride, starting this week, from Los Angeles to Seattle.
At the shop, Ounanian noticed "design rituals" that creatives like Chad Rea and Nico Ammann relied on to craft "emotional connections between brands and consumers," as well as other rituals, from his own constant e-mail checking and water-glass filling to a colleague's habit of disappearing for 20 minutes—verified by egg timer—every day at 4:30 p.m. It got Ounanian thinking. "Ritual equals comfort," he says. "When everything is uncertain, stressful or even wonderful, you can have control over it by just executing your daily ritual."
Upon leaving the shop, Ounanian wanted to do explore the idea further. The bike ride, he says, ties into the theme in several ways. The riding itself will be a daily ritual; heading to Seattle (the final destination is Starbucks HQ) represents an exaggerated version of the intern's ritual of getting coffee; and doing interviews with people along the way (from Santa Barbara to Monterrey to San Francisco to Portland, Ore.) will provide him with insights into other people's rituals.
Ounanian plans to document it all on film and at RitualRide.com. Upon his return to L.A., aside from being "pretty smelly" and heading back to UCLA, he plans to produce a short movie and book. "Maybe it'll even have an application in advertising," he says. "We'll see."