Design / Universities

MICA’s new product design program shows how art school is becoming entrepreneurial

The program, which debuts this fall, will be chaired by Leslie Speer. It'll be housed in the new Dolphin Design Center.

Leslie Speer will chair MICA's new product design program. (Courtesy photo)

Along with training artists, MICA is showing more desire to educate students in creating business opportunities with their work.
That’s evident in community facing events, as the Station North arts college now runs a startup competition, and is helping students get space at OpenWorks makerspace.
The push is also turning up in class.
A newly created program debuting on the course schedule this fall will offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in product design. The program will be chaired by Leslie Speer, who previously taught at San Jose University and California College of the Arts. She also worked as a designer with DuPont, Philips and Oracle/Sun Microsystems, among others.
In an interview, Speer said product design is distinct from other artistic disciplines because of its focus on “who is going to be using that product.”
At the same time, the integration of new technology is transforming the discipline, she said. Along with a new major, MICA is looking to provide tools that will assist in those efforts. The program will be housed at the Dolphin Design Center, which will have labs that provide the tech tools for prototyping and fabrication, as well as space to collaborate. It also opens this fall.

A rendering of MICA's Dolphin Design Center (Courtesy photo)

A rendering of MICA’s Dolphin Design Center (Courtesy photo)

Along with the technology in those products, the program’s introduction reflects how creative businesses are changing. It debuts at a time when a new wave of product designers are becoming less services-oriented, and more integrated into a company’s overall team, Speer said.
“I think there’s an opportunity to create a product designer as the creative entrepreneur,” she said.
She believes design can play a role in social change. She’s applied design methodology to create economic programs that help farmers and artisans in countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, China and Cameroon.
Given MICA’s place in the city, Speer is looking to engage the community in Baltimore when she arrives from California later this summer.
“MICA is clearly a really strong force in Baltimore and really participates a lot in the development of the creative side of the city,” she said. “I’m really excited to come to Baltimore.”


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