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Product Design

Furniture Design, Industrial Design, and Metals and Jewelry Design—three KCAD programs with a shared history of leading graduates to professional success—have merged into Product Design, a forward-thinking BFA program driven by where design is now and where it’s headed next.

Industries around the globe are looking for individuals with a broad understanding of design and how to apply it in the world. So, we took the natural step of converging three programs with a common foundation of skills and processes and evolved them into a learning environment that prepares graduates to be big picture thinkers and makers, while still enabling them to specialize in a single discipline. The result for our students: stronger, broader portfolios of work and a highly marketable set of skills and experiences.


 

About

Industrial designers, furniture designers, and jewelry designers all create objects that respond to human need, challenge convention, and elevate the lived experience. In the Product Design program, the distinct perspectives and skill sets of these three disciplines converge to build on one another, growing designers who have a uniquely broad understanding of the design process coupled with deep expertise in the concentration of their choosing.

From a solid foundation of critical research, ideation, making, and experimentation, you’ll advance to solving real-world design problems in a collaborative and interdisciplinary learning environment that reflects the working reality of 21st-century creative professionals.

You’ll spend your first two years in the Product Design program building the core technical skills of design while also deepening your understanding of the human-centered design process. Through hands-on experiences, you’ll actively learn how to understand the problem or people you’re designing for, identify solutions or opportunities that have the greatest potential for real-world success, and transform your ideas into tangible, feasible, and marketable objects.

Your final two years will be focused on deepening your expertise in—and real-world exposure to—one of three possible disciplines:

  • In the Industrial Design concentration, you’ll learn how to use the latest research and idea development strategies to craft commercially viable objects that are functionally and aesthetically innovative.
  • In the Furniture Design concentration, you’ll build on the field’s rich history by learning how to blend form and function to create objects that unlock new possibilities for how people can interact with the spaces in which they live and work.
  • In the Metals and Jewelry Design concentration, you’ll concentrate on more intimate problems, learning how to thoughtfully design and craft wearable and functional objects that can communicate individual and group identity to the world.

You’ll also round your education out with a wide range of general education and art/design history courses that will stimulate your curiosity, broaden your perspective, and inspire new creative expressions. KCAD’s flexible General Education Pathways model empowers you to direct your learning by exploring subjects you find most engaging and relevant.

In the Product Design program, you’ll develop a versatile set of creative skills—including research methods, design sketching, color theory, visual communication, CAD modeling, digital rendering, digital fabrication, and physical model making—that will ultimately enable you to build expertise in:

Human-Centered Design

  • Using qualitative research methods to identify problems and empathize with the behaviors and experiences of others
  • Considering sustainability, social impact, and ethics in your design decisions
  • Understanding and designing for how the human body interacts with physical objects


Ideation and Experimentation

  • Exploring through making, testing, and iterating
  • Visually and verbally communicating your ideas
  • Growing shared understanding through critique and peer review


Aesthetic Sensibility

  • Drawing inspiration from historical and contemporary sources
  • Connecting form and function and powerful ways
  • Uncovering possibility through color and material choices


Technical Precision, Feasibility, and Craftsmanship

  • Leveraging classic and emerging fabrication techniques
  • Integrating innovative technology into functional designs
  • Designing for manufacturing with both boutique and mass markets in mind

The Product Design program is powered by a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and outward-facing studio culture that will expand your perspective and enlarge your sense of possibility. You and your fellow students will support each other’s growth through peer review, while experiences outside of the classroom will connect you to West Michigan’s booming design industry.

Throughout your time in the program, you’ll get up close and personal with industry professionals and subject matter experts, making invaluable networking connections and building a strong, career-focused portfolio through sponsored projects, professional critiques, and internship experiences.

The Product Design program evolves three KCAD programs—each with a strong track record of leading graduates to professional success—into a forward-thinking learning experience driven by where design is now and where it’s headed next. Thanks to a unique blend of classic industry training and an interdisciplinary approach to design, you’ll emerge from the program prepared to adapt to and thrive within a wide variety of professional settings.

Whether you’re looking to make your mark in an organization or make your own way as an entrepreneur, you’ll become a leader who can grow in step with a rapidly-changing world and use your creativity to bring lasting value to individuals, companies, and culture-at-large.

On campus, you’ll have access to:

  • The Dow Center FlexLab, KCAD’s state-of-the-art digital fabrication facility featuring 3D printers and scanners, laser cutting and vinyl cutting machines, wide format printers, and more.
  • The Material ConneXion Satellite Library, offering direct access to more than 1,000 physical samples of advanced, innovative, and sustainable materials as well as online access to over 7,000 more.
  • The Baker Furniture Collection, a 1,500-square foot collection of period furniture and decorative arts spanning more than three centuries of styles from around the world.
  • A spacious and well-equipped woodshop, supervised by an experienced technician, with over 30 pieces of equipment at your disposal, including table saws, sanders, and a fully-ventilated walk-in spray paint and glue room.
  • A fully-equipped jewelry studio featuring wax injectors, vacuum and induction casting systems, torches and flexshafts, a complete enameling setup, pneumatic assisted engraving toolsets, a collection of silversmithing stakes and hammers, a rolling mill, shears, a brake, a drawbench, a fume hood, equipment for electroforming and acid etching, as well as laser welders and a vast collection of small, specialized tools.
  • Large-scale metal fabrication facilities featuring mig and tig welders, hydraulic shears, a metal band saw, a sandblaster, a high-speed metal lathe, a tubing roller, and more specialized tools.
  • The KCAD Library, which provides access to millions of books through the MeLCat shared library catalog as well as access to specialized research databases and subscriptions to scholarly journals.

Off-campus, opportunities to connect with leading designers who visit Grand Rapids and KCAD’s strong relationships with the local chapters of the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) and the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) provide opportunities for you to immerse yourself in the larger design community.

 

Information

View the 2021-2022 KCAD College Catalog for a list of current courses. 
 

Colin Bloemendaal

ADJUNCT FACULTY

Gayle DeBruyn M.M.

PROFESSOR, COLLABORATIVE DESIGN PROGRAM CHAIR

Brett Kincaid

ADJUNCT FACULTY

Kenneth Krayer, Jr.

ADJUNCT FACULTY

Ryan Lafferty M.S.

ADJUNCT FACULTY

Jonathan Moroney M.B.A.

PROFESSOR, PRODUCT DESIGN PROGRAM CHAIR

Joe Parr

ADJUNCT FACULTY

Phillip Renato M.F.A.

PROFESSOR

Timothy Syfert

ADJUNCT FACULTY

Kathryn Verrill

ADJUNCT FACULTY

Steven Wilcox

ADJUNCT FACULTY

Thanks to a unique blend of classic industry training and an interdisciplinary approach to design, you’ll emerge from the Product Design program prepared to adapt to and thrive within a wide variety of professional settings.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CAREERS IN PRODUCT DESIGN



 


Ready to get started? Apply now!