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Design Insights: KCAD Students Aim to Impact Eyewear with Support from Local Eyewear Retailer

Posted February 12, 2015 in StudentIndustrial Design

When it comes to teaching students how to design for a rapidly evolving world, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) Industrial Design professor Tom Edwards believes in taking a direct approach.

As in all of KCAD’s programs, that means providing students with opportunities to explore their discipline outside of the classroom, where industry interactions, real-world experiences, and opportunities for collaboration await to help them gain a deeper understanding of their profession. Edwards leverages the strong professional network he’s built over 25 years as a designer, consultant, and educator to introduce projects that challenge his students to design real products with the real needs of companies like Wolverine, DuPont, Bissell, and Whirlpool in mind.

For his latest project, Edwards is entering an entire class of students into the 2015 International Eyewear Design Competition, hosted by international optical company OWP Brillen. To ensure that his students can design effectively in what is, for many of them an unfamiliar medium, he’s enlisted the help of Bob Schulze, a 30-plus year veteran of the optical industry and co-owner of Holland-based GLOBE Design & Vision.

Prior to setting up his own shop, Schulze worked primarily in international sales and marketing, including positions with the upscale eyewear boutique chain Optica, French designer Alain Mikli, and BADA USA designers Sheila and Alex Vance. In 2002, he opened GLOBE to provide West Michigan with a complete customer experience and an unmatched selection of world-class eyewear designs. Now, he’ll put his expansive knowledge of the industry - from design and production to marketing and distribution - to work helping KCAD students rise to the top of the competition’s international playing field.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for these students to see what the entire eyewear design process looks like from start to finish, and to put their talents on display for an industry heavyweight like OWP,” said Schulze. “I’m looking forward to working with them, and to seeing what their creativity can bring to the table. Having worked with Tom’s students on a similar project four years ago, I’m confident that some strong, out-of-the box ideas will emerge.”

Each student will create an original optical frame design, which can be a digital rendering, a physical prototype, or a combination of the two. Entries, due March 31, 2015, will be evaluated on the following criteria: ideation/conceptualization; preliminary analytical work; creativity and design quality; and visualization and/or technical execution. The winning designer will receive either 2,000 euros or a four-week internship in OWP’s design department, while second and third-place winners will receive prizes of 1,000 euros and 500 euros, respectively.

Schulze has already sat in on one of Edwards’ classes, bringing the latest in cutting-edge eyewear design for the students to explore, and walking them through all of the factors an eyewear designer must consider to produce a product that’s not only functional and marketable, but forward-thinking as well. He plans to return for another visit in the next month so that he can give students direct feedback on their designs in-progress.

“Eyeglasses are very much a niche product, which makes designing them an incredibly valuable experience for our students because the limitations force them to consider how they can do more with less,” said Edwards. “Throw in the fact that they’re essentially designing for a high profile client, and that they’ll be guided along the way by Bob, who’s been immersed in this world for decades, and suddenly you’ve got students thinking outside of their own perspective and technique to consider all of these other real-world factors.”

Ultimately, the hope is that the KCAD students will find success in the competition. However, Schulze says he plans to evaluate the designs himself, and plans to use his resources to offer assistance to any student who displays the skill and drive necessary to refine their design and take it into production. Additionally, he and Edwards are working to organize a public reception at KCAD this April wherein all of the students’ designs will be put on display.

“There’s so much talent and creativity in this program, and I’m thrilled to be able to bring my business together in collaboration with that,” said Schulze. “There’s so much that we can learn from each other.”

For complete details on the 2015 International Eyewear Design Competition, click here.

For more information on GLOBE Vision & Design, visit globe-vision.com.