Design Thinking: In The Classroom

design thinkingWhich colleges are integrating Design Thinking into their undergraduate Industrial Design (ID) programs?

Here’s one: The Methods of Design Research at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) was offered this past fall semester for ID sophomores. Paired with a spring semester studio class, the two courses combine to help students grasp the strategic rationale behind the design of a product and the process required to get to that rationale, in order to design a more successful product. “The goal is to simulate a real-world project scenario that incorporates insights, strategy, and then design,” explained John Youger, Director of Insights and Strategy at WD Partners and CCAD Adjunct Professor. 

Last semester’s project: design a future gas station, something that will exist 5 – 10 years from now. The process includes understanding and defining the challenge, generating ideas, and conducting research, followed by prototyping and testing. The night I sat in on the class had students flushing through their methods for gathering their primary and secondary research.

As if responding to a real-world RFP, students considered myriad details including vehicles of the future, fuel types, technology, and spatial layout of a gas station. They also dialogued over how to conduct their primary research (teams of 2 – 3 were formed), and discussed the market groups that will feel the impact of a design change; consumers, employees, and stakeholders. Finally, they planned for the presentations of their findings.

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova's research presentation

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova’s research presentation

End of semester results and presentations for this collaborative group were impressive. Now, engaged in their studio courses, the same students are focusing on the impact their research has made on their design choices, and will have on the look and feel of their future fuel stations.

Their research and the process they utilized to obtain it have provided them with the tools to create good future design decisions, in class and throughout their careers. The process can be repeated and utilized to solve project after project. If ID is on your radar, inquire at other colleges. Ask how they integrate design thinking into their processes. For me, I can’t wait to see what the end of this semester brings.

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Design Thinking: Thinking Design

head of ideas - my colors

Art and design require strategy. Consider Industrial Design (ID); in order to successfully design and create a new product, or redesign an existing one, it’s necessary to understand the environment in which the product will exist. Studying that environment and incorporating what’s learned into the design of the product is commonly known as design research, strategic design, or design thinking. Put another way; take a look at a seat belt, a flash drive, a video game, or a recumbent bicycle. The marketplace in which each of these products exists had to be considered when it was designed. That’s obvious, but not necessarily simple.

 

If you’re considering studying ID in college, you know that it’s more than just drawing cool cars and contemporary coffee dispensers. How those products will be used is critical to their design and construction. Comfort, dexterity, scale, lightness or heaviness of materials used, and the ability to withstand high or low temperatures are just some of the considerations that go into their respective designs. Cultural norms need to be considered, as do the type and size of marketplace they’ll be sold in, material costs, distribution, and competition. And, once a product is created, it needs to be market-tested.

 

I’m guessing these aren’t the first things you’d consider relevant to creating good design. And they might not cross your mind when choosing ID college courses. But they are extremely relevant. Today, design thinking has become part of the vernacular in contemporary architecture, design and engineering practices, and is gaining recognition in the business community. It’s a way of understanding the context of a problem and designing a more innovative solution. design thinking

 

Professors and administrators at colleges across the country are incorporating design thinking into their curricula as well. By doing so, they’re providing students with a real-world view of the industrial design process, and setting them up for career success.

 

My suggestion: inquire about design thinking when you tour college campuses. It’ll show the ID professors that you know what you’re getting into, and that you’re serious about it. You’ll probably learn more about it along the way. I’ll share more of what I’ve learned on the subject next week.

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What Makes A College Unique?

Class critiques

Class critiques

One of my main objectives with Art.College.Life. is to try to identify the nuances that differentiate one college art program from another. It’s not always easy. Variables such as size, location and specialty are the obvious standouts, but delving deeper and learning more about each program brings out the true distinctions.

The Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning Department (DAAP) at the University of Cincinnati (UC) has found its place. The department participates in the university’s cooperative program (Co-op) offering students a real glimpse into potential careers while they’re still students. In existence since 1906, Co-op has become a mandatory part of the design curriculum. Beginning sophomore year DAAP’s fashion design, graphic design, industrial design, and interior design students alternate between semesters spent attending classes and working full-time in a professional area of interest. Integrating the two gives students the opportunity to apply classroom lessons to real-world situations, and bring on-the-job issues and concerns back into the classroom for further analysis and discussion.

Workplace assignments take place throughout the U.S. and across the globe. The list of companies and organizations in which DAAP students have engaged is impressive, including Abercrombie and Fitch, Fisher-Price, the Smithsonian Institute, and Warner Brothers Pictures. And, the benefits are fantastic; theory and practice live side by side as students gain first-hand experience, develop broad networks, and gain confidence in their chosen fields. The added time spent away from school means students take five years to complete their degrees, including summers. If cost is a concern, consider that Co-op students earn a salary during their working semesters.

Classrooms

Classrooms

Fine Arts and Art History majors aren’t left behind. Students here don’t have a cooperative requirement; however they are highly encouraged to intern or study abroad.

So how does DAAP fit into the big University of Cincinnati picture? UC is a public, land-grant research university located on 473 acres in Cincinnati, just north of the Ohio River. Its 42,000+ students divide themselvesinto more than 300 programs across campus. DAAP provides an intimate, liberal arts education inside the larger university context. Roughly 2,000 students study 10 undergraduate majors in four aptly named schools; Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning. The Design school engages about half the department with majors in Fashion Design, Graphic Communication Design, and Industrial Design. Art is comprised of Fine Arts and Art History; Architecture includes its namesake and Interior Design. Design majors graduate with a Bachelor of Science. Fine Arts graduates receive a BFA after four years; Art History majors receive a B.A.

UC_logoAccolades for the university are numerous. “Among the top tier of the Best National Universities,” claimed U.S. News and World Report in September, 2012. And Travel & Leisure magazine listed it as “one of the world’s most beautiful campuses” in 2011. Hitting even closer to home, the 2013 Design Intelligence survey ranked DAAP’s Industrial Design best in the nation, and Interior Design second best.

The news gets better once you’re actually on campus. According to Amberly Maryo, Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, 93.3% of DAAP students entering as freshmen in 2012 returned to the university in 2013. That’s the highest retention rate on campus. Clearly they’re doing something right!

As a parent of two college students myself, I understand the anxiety that accompanies the transition from college to the “real world.” Any help bridging that looming gap will be readily appreciated and welcomed with open arms.

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New Design School Rankings

DesignIntelligence 2013 News

DesignIntelligence has come out with their newest list of the top design schools across the country, ranked by those they say know the most; design firms. Just released today, you’ll find a comprehensive list for undergraduate and graduate programs in Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture and Industrial Design. You can purchase the entire report, but the top five undergraduate programs in each area are listed here. 

If you’re wondering where to start your exploration for art programs, or just looking to expand your search, this is a great place to begin. Enjoy the journey.

Architecture

1. Cornell University

2. Southern California Institute of Architecture

3. Rice University

4. Syracuse University

5. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Interior Design

1. Savannah College of Art and Design

2. University of Cincinnati

2. Rhode Island School of Design (tie)

4. Pratt Institute

5. Auburn University

5. University of Texas at Austin (tie)

5. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (tie)

Landscape Architecture

1. Louisiana State University

2. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

3. Pennsylvania State University

4. Kansas State University

5. Texas A&M University

Industrial Design

1. Art Center College of Design

1. University of Cincinnati (tie)

3. Pratt Institute

3. Rhode Island School of Design (tie)

3. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (tie)


I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what research you’ve found, and whether or not you agree with these rankings.    

Function, Meet Design

Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman's concept for an everyday city bike of the future

Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman’s concept for an everyday city bike of the future

I’ve been intrigued by Industrial Design for a long time.  In college, the ID students worked directly below those of us in the textile studio, so I caught numerous peeks into their world.  Very cool: applying your passion for design to everyday products – whether they’re kitchen gadgets, office supplies or automobiles – and making life a bit better in the process.  This is not just art for art’s sake; it’s logical, practical, tangible, and fun!  Integrating art into the creation of a product.

Today, the terms industrial design and product design are often used interchangeably.  Either way, study of the subject provides the opportunity to integrate mechanical and technological interests with art and design to solve real-world problems.

Top notch industrial and product design programs exist at many colleges across the country including Carnegie Melon University, Cleveland Institute of Art, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and College for Creative Studies.  Each focuses on teaching critical thinking skills and learning to solve complex problems through collaboration and the application of interdisciplinary methodologies.   Cultural and economic impacts are included as well, as are the study of ergonomics, marketing and manufacturing.  Through lectures and hands-on projects you’ll learn how things are built, and incorporate functional design into the building process.

You won’t find yourself lacking for career options if ID is in your future. Stetson Hats, Slinky, or Weber Grills are one route, all designed and made in the United States. They’re also all highlighted in the April 22nd cover story article of Time magazine, which claims “Made in the USA is making a comeback.”  The impact that has on product and industrial designers is exponential, growing the marketplace for intelligent, well-designed products.  For other career routes consider furniture design, medical equipment design, shoe design, materials and color consulting, or industrial design education.

A multitude of resources exist for burgeoning and current ID’ers.  My favorite is Core77.  Spend some time there, then pick a school and you may be on your way to creating or improving some cool gadgets for mankind.

And by the way, thanks!

 

I hope that after reading my blog you’ll leave a comment by letting me know what you’re interested in, and what programs you’ve found.

Photo credit: Industrialdesignserved.com