In the professional realm, competitive designers are attentive designers - individuals who conduct solid product research, communicate effectively, and receive feedback with openness and ease.
Technical expertise and creative execution can be taught in the classroom; client work must be experienced first-hand. The Stamps School of Art & Design embraces this “first-hand” approach wholeheartedly in our undergraduate curriculum.
According to Charlie Frank, Founder and Managing Partner of the Zingerman's Candy Manufactory, the class really helped the company get their packaging project off the ground. “The students came to the Zingerman's meeting space, and really spent time with us,” he said. “They got to know our values, motivations, and goals prior to delving into the actual designs and prototypes. As for the outcome, the amount of creativity and quality that emerged from the class is astounding.”
Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman's Co-Owner and Founding Partner, said the collaboration with Stamps students really was a “win-win.” He continued:
“The better the students do, the better the university does, and the better the community does as a whole. We are all part of a larger ecosystem. I hope this coursework is just the starting point in our relationship with the students and with the school.”
When reflecting on the Stamps-made Ann Arbor Farmers Market posters, Sarah DeWitt, Market Manager, seconded Ari's community-focused sentiment: “I was very humbled by the student's interpretation of the market as a diverse, variety-rich place. It is exactly how we see ourselves in the community - and exactly how we'd like to be viewed.”
Stamps students also worked with the American Water Works Association, creating posters for the organization's “Just One Drop” campaign. For Kanika Anand, a Stamps exchange student from the Srishti School of Art & Design in Bangalore, the experience reinforced the importance of audience research.
“In India, water conservation is a very serious issue,” Kanika said. “We go without water for many days. In America, water shortage isn't something most people experience. In order for me to encourage American audiences to imagine the seriousness of the issue, I had to understand the viewer, their experiences with conservation, and design with that perspective in mind.”
According to Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo, there is an additional benefit from real-world coursework: community building.
“When our students get out of the classroom and into the world-at-large, we see ourselves as a true design community. We see the role we play in creating that community.”
Born out of deep collaborations in the Stamps School's Detroit Connections program, the Maker Space is a place for students at Detroit Community High School and residents of the Brightmoor neighborhood to develop maker skills, creative thinking, and serve as an incubator for enterprise.
“Working with the Brightmoor Maker Space as a client was a rewarding experience for students on several levels,” said professor Hannah Smotrich. “First, it was a challenging and multi-faceted visual identity project. It also allowed my students the opportunity to get to know and appreciate a new community. From visits to the site, conversations with the project's founders, and in-process critiques with two Brightmoor Maker Space alums and mentors, Stamps students were able to develop a fuller understanding of the goals for the Maker Space and a connection to Detroit Community High School students and their creative work. They were very inspired by the group and that really motivated them to produce strong work for them.”
“As a designer, working with the Brightmoor Maker Space has helped shape my future career goals,” said Sarah Wolf (BFA '17). “I feel blessed to have gotten to work with real, honest, down-to-earth clients who have a clear passion for serving their community.” The project forced me to think about the ethics behind working for a client and the importance of finding a design firm whose values match my own.”