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The business nature of our program is one of a kind. Most design MFA programs are strictly about design. Ours is about design as well but we want to make sure our graduates not only have the design skills but that they also have the skills that allow them to communicate their designs in a professional context.
Paul & Helen Farago Chair of Transportation Design
As designers, we are often asked to think about how design can impact our lives. And, in a rapidly changing world, uncovering insights into the human context of design is an increasingly important challenge. In no other industry is this more critical today than transportation and in no other city is the opportunity for innovation and change more evident than Detroit. Graduate students will study in the newly renovated, 11-story, 760,000-square-foot A. Alfred Taubman Building – formerly the Argonaut Building - which housed General Motors’ first research, engineering and design center. Harley Earl, the first modern automotive designer, and other renowned researchers and designers created landmark automotive innovations such as the first fully automatic transmission, the Hydra-matic and the Buick Y-Job which became the world’s first ‘dream car', and other groundbreaking concept vehicles from their studios and laboratories within its walls. The building’s rich history provides a fitting platform upon which to inspire a new generation of designers for not only the automotive industry, but transportation and mobility in general.
At College for Creative Studies, Transportation Design graduate students are challenged to design with an eye towards the future. Our curriculum is specifically designed to help students identify and understand the nature of how uncertain driving forces may affect their ideas. And, by extension, how much impact design can have on shaping the future.
It focuses on a proven combination of research, business and studio courses to simulate ‘real projects’ in the classroom that reach beyond aesthetics and styling. These projects are sponsored and taught by industry leaders and practitioners who offer insights, critiques and guidance throughout the duration of the program. The design problems are complex, multi-faceted and market-driven, requiring a team of individuals with diverse skills to complete rather than the isolated works of individual designers. Not surprisingly, the successful results reflect a solution that is not only aesthetically beautiful but effectively integrates the needs and desires of its intended users.
Transportation Design is not about making stand-alone artifacts, as beautiful as they may be. It is about creating mobility solutions that impact our lives in relevant and meaningful ways. Although other MFA programs offer similar-sounding programs, we believe that our curriculum is unique in the specific way it integrates proven business practices, research methods and advanced creative skills to prepare our students for career success. For instance, our program includes:
- the study of marketing fundamentals and entrepreneurship practices specifically tailored for the design strategist or entrepreneur
- the application of observational and ethnographic research methodologies to identify unmet user needs as well as the ability to validate ideas through primary market research
- the utilization of scenario planning to explore innovative design opportunities for the future
- the translation and visualization of concepts and rapid iteration of prototypes in studio settings
While other MFA programs are contained within the confines of a classroom, our projects, often sponsored by industry, are designed to mirror real-life business challenges whose solutions are design-driven and interdisciplinary.
Our curriculum is led by faculty who understand what it takes to succeed in the design industry because they have been or currently are successful industry practioners and leaders. Students learn not only to become critical thinkers and strategic designers but to be professionals because creative talent and executional skills alone do not guarantee career advancement or entrepreneurial success. Students are taught to work effectively in teams both as leaders and as team peers. They cope with the real stresses of deadlines and uncertainties, both within and outside of their control. They learn to champion their ideas through formal presentations and rigorous critiques led by industry professionals who are in positions to recruit and hire promising talent.
In the final academic year for graduate students, the MFA Transportation Design curriculum concludes with the Graduate Thesis, designed to help students articulate and execute a body of work that is the culmination of their graduate studies experience. Students follow a design development path that commences with a rigorous research phase. A business case and a creative brief emerge from their research findings. These serve as the plan of work for the completion of the Thesis. Through multiple phases – complete with milestones and reviews with their advisors – students complete a series of high-quality deliverables, building up to a final presentation to the Graduate Thesis Review Committee.