Kendall College of Art and Design Enters Into Alliance With Design West Michigan

Posted July 27, 2009

Creativity, imagination, and innovation are the fundamental drivers of today's economy and society. To that end, Kendall College of Ar t and Design has allied with Design West Michigan, joining its existing partners, economic development organizations Lakeshore Advantage and The RightPlace, Inc.

The mission of Design West Michigan is to generate opportunities for the creative community to interact, pursue how design can become a stronger regional economic building block, and build the branding of West Michigan as "Design Centric." Design West Michigan evolved from the WI RED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) initiative, a federal program designed to encourage regional collaboration among public and private entities with the goal of developing a more highly skilled workforce and thereby attracting economic development and jobs to the region.

Design West Michigan is led by John R. Berry, who serves as the director of the organization and has assembled and directs an advisory group of over 50 leading regional and national designers of all disciplines.

Prior to founding Design West Michigan, Berry founded the Society of Environmental Graphic Designers (SEGD). Based in Washington, D.C., SEGD recently commemorated its 30th anniversary and continues to be the voice of signage, graphics, and color in the built environment. Berry has been involved with numerous facets of professional design for more than 35 years, including association with global manufacturers, international architectural and design firms, foundations, and board positions with art and design schools and professional organizations. As an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University, Berry taught "Design for Non-Designers" and is a guest lecturer for the design and innovation MBA program at Kendall. He holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art, and a Bachelor of Arts in Design and Spanish from Indiana University, with related studies at DePauw University and La Universidad de Nacionalde Mexico.

Berry says, "Design is an economic building block for West Michigan, but it can be much more effective with combined energies. This collaborative initiative, unique in the U.S., can help our region grow its reputation and visibility and truly validate that West Michigan is 'Design Centric.'" Kendall President Dr. Oliver Evans explains one of the reasons that Kendall has entered into the alliance. "John Berry and the Design West Michigan organization are connected to so many people in myriad facets of design that this alliance helps bring their network to the college for the benefit of our students. But collaboratively, the alliance allows Kendall to develop and present programs that are inherently significant and that reach a wide audience."

Another reason for the alliance is the future of design education. Evans adds, "The partnership allows us to explore the issue of design education with working professionals from all facets of design, who can bring good thinking to the issue, and who can address the issue without the formalityof establishing an advisory board."

Dr. Evans has high hopes for the future of the alliance, and looks forward to forming other partnerships. "For example, Kendall is a sponsor of the Grand Rapids Area Council for the Humanities, which was founded in 1976 as part of Grand Rapids' bicentennial celebrations. Since then, the Council has presented hundreds of public humanities programs, including author visits, writing programs, and many more. It has been suggested that Kendall become a more active participant with the Humanities Council in order to address a larger audience. The Chicago Humanities Festival is such a success, in part, because every area university participates."

One such example was Design West Michigan's second regional designers meeting, held in December, which addressed media coverage of design and economic evaluation. Panel members Julie Lasky, editor-in-chief of I.D. Magazine; Nancy Miller, senior editor of WI RED magazine; and Peter Lawrence, chairman of the Corporate Design Foundation and editor of @issue magazine, were guests at a luncheon hosted by Dr. Evans. Graphic design students, who also attended the luncheon, had the opportunity to ask design questions. Later that evening, nearly 300 people attended the regional designer meeting, including Kendall students, faculty, and staff. Last July, Design West Michigan created a successful two-day Business Academy for non-designers, managers at middle/upper levels of organizations, entrepreneurs, company owners, and those who hire designers ?? anyone with an interest to more fully understand the design process. Leaders of two economic development organizations had high praise for the Kendall/Design West Michigan alliance. Randy Thelen, President of Lakeshore Advantage, which was the first organization to assist Berry in developing the Design West Michigan concept, stated, "Extending 'design thinking' throughout the region is critical to our economic well-being. Kendall's involvement in this alliance will help accelerate the continued growth of Design West Michigan, which forecasts good things for the region."

"Through new initiatives like InnovationWorks and Design West Michigan, the economic development partners of West Michigan are working to reinvigorate our economic landscape," said Birgit Klohs, President of The Right Place, Inc. "Kendall plays a key role in developing our region's 'creative class.'"

Dr. Evans stated, "What is unique and especially powerful in the West Michigan area is the linkage that is being established between economic development, the professional world of design, and design education. Working with Design West Michigan will allow us to capture the depth and breadth of design, and all the ways that design thinking betters our world, from clothing to health issues. Kendall is delighted to be a part of this significant linkage."