contributed by Exenia R. [freelance writer / singer & dancer / design enthusiast]
EDITOR’S NOTE: Haven’t read Part 1 of this in-depth interview with Scott Pobiner” Then do so here because we’re going to jump right in…
Switching gears to talk about Parsons – what is the goal of the Design & Management program”
The goal of the Design & Management program is to train students to walk the fine line between different fields of design and business. Rather than simply a "design-business" program, I think that D&M strives to train people who are interested in helping to formulate issues that lead to great design. This should include [not only] business issues, but also the process of design itself.
As I mentioned before, there is so much cross-over today that I think its critical to train people to think about issues that run across fields, and how to effectively bring specialists in different fields together. Sustainability, technology, policy, and society are all important realms that definitely impact design, but they are all huge in their own right. I hope we are training the kind of leaders who will help to make these and other critical issues accessible to designers.
Students in the DM program can choose to focus their study in certain forms of design (graphic, fashion, interior, etc.). But, what design skills to all students learn in the curriculum”
The program has a requisite design sequence that students take. This focuses primarily on graphic skills and what is commonly called "information visualization." Much of what D&M student do during their time here has to do with researching, planning, and communicating design issues, so being able to graphically portray an idea is very important.
Beyond the formal design sequence, though, you will find that almost every course has a component that expects students to use both an analytical and creative approach. Even courses such as Strategic Management, and Business Models and Planning, expect students to consider how a given topic will impact the design process and its outcome.
Tell me more about the internship opportunities in the program.
They are vast. Each student must take a 1-credit internship that is coordinated within the program, but many enter more during their time here. We are unique in that each student is placed in an internship for credit with a select group of firms that understand the pedagogical value of an internship.
Our internship coordinator, Steve Lindner, is also a long-time faculty member who meets with each student to really understand what their motivation is. Then he works with an extensive list of our partners that include traditional design firms as well as publishing, television, film, consumer goods, fashion & luxury houses such as Fendi, Chanel and Marc Jacobs, and great retail brands such as Barney’s and Saks 5th Avenue. It is New York after all, and there are many opportunities for those willing to learn. Still, the breadth amazes me.
What kinds of students does the program produce” What do they go on to do”
I’m really amazed by the variety. Many students go on to work for firms that they have interned at as buyers, art directors, marketing specialists, and designers. Some graduates have become entrepreneurs, starting everything from chic cafés in New York to renowned floral design companies. Still others have chosen to pursue advanced degrees such as Law. I would like to see graduates entering some more civic fields such as Urban Design and Urban Policy, because I think that strategic and design thinking is something that we really try to engage them in.
What do students gain from the strong liberal arts curriculum offered via the partnership between Parsons and Eugene Lang/The New School“
Design and Management students are some of the most broadly engaged students in courses across the university, taking courses in every division and almost every program. I think that students gain quite a lot by having access to programs devoted to teaching the liberal arts.
With access to Lang and the rest of the programs at the New School, students find faculty devoted to a much wider array of topics that you might find in a school that is only focused on design. Because each of the divisions of The New School are focused on topics outside the traditional focus of Design Pedagogy, students are challenged to think of their design education as part of a larger objective of personal growth, and participation in a society where design is an integrated part, rather than an external exception.
I think that this grounds students and makes them more well-prepared to work in a global society with local values. Depending on where in the world our students find themselves, design and creativity might be valued differently. Success, therefore, will hinge on understanding the social, cultural, fiscal, and even political contexts as they relate to design.
Why should design students and professional designers understand business well” What are the benefits to understanding the combined use of design and business planning” How can a business-oriented design education help one gain a professional edge”
Business, and more importantly management, are the keys to success in today’s integrated and global economy. This is not just a platitude – It is naïve to expect that you can be successful in this day and age if you don’t understand how to see a good design opportunity, assess whether there is a market for it, design it, source and produce it, and sell it. The expertise of others can only take you so far, and if you look at any leader, regardless of industry, you will find someone who can see well beyond their own field and understand how the decisions of others impacts their own. To my mind that’s a real designer.
And lastly: The DM program shows students how to use design thinking and business strategy to take ideas to fruition. From a forward-thinking, sustainability perspective, good design not only has positive effects on an individual level – it also positively affects people, companies, and environments on a local, national, even global level. How does the Parsons DM curriculum relate design, business, ethics, and social responsibility to teach students how to turn ideas into business endeavors that have a domino effect of positivity, from source to market and beyond”
Design and management tries to focus on critical issues, and understanding complexity in such a way that enables them to break it down strategically. Each course challenges students to think about the impact of their decisions beyond immediate stakeholders. Sometimes this means understanding the impact that choosing a certain kind of material might have on people well beyond the immediate market/customer base. It is my sincere hope that we are training people who think about the complex world that we live in and how design can improve that world immediately, without adding to its troubles in the long term.
Anything else we should know” Courses you teach” Upcoming projects”
There are so many. Parsons is a real hotbed of ideas and there are so many diverse programs that it would be hard to point to one. I am very excited about a course I teach each Fall on the topic of Innovation. I love to help students understand the ways in which the process of design helps to solve problems and how the concepts of innovation and diffusion make good ideas successful products.
The course I am currently teaching is also very exciting. It’s called the Urban Play and Recreation Studio. We are working with the Capital Projects Division of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and community groups in the city of New York to develop a sense of what recreation in the 20th century will be like. Its really one of those classes that let you see how a broad array of interest groups impact the design process in a city, and it’s challenging us to think about a much bigger idea of ‘design’.
Next term I will be teaching a slightly different course in another part of Parsons that focuses on how the collection of media via communities like YouTube can give us incredible material for building narrative stories about the state of the world. The result will be a series of interactive installations, and it will bring me back to making things again, so I am very excited.
© 2009 Exenia R. is a freelance writer, singer, dancer, and a soon-to-be-active student of the Design & Management program. Thanks to “digitality,” or her regular interaction with computer technology, she was able to meet her deadline with this piece.