CCS Welcomes Patrick Schiavone to Product Design Faculty in Fall 2018

Pat Schiavone
Renowned designer and CCS alumnus Patrick Schiavone (’88, Industrial Design) has joined the College for Creative Studies as Visiting Associate Professor of Product Design. Before retiring in February, Schiavone had been Vice President of Global Design and User Experience at Whirlpool Corporation, the leading global home appliance manufacturer, since 2010. His CCS appointment begins Fall 2018 semester.

An award-winning design leader for three decades, Schiavone came of age professionally at Ford Motor Company, where he served most recently as Director, North American Truck, SUV and CUV Design. He led the redesign of three generations of Ford’s F-150 truck — the bestselling vehicle in North America for more than 40 years — and attributes the truck’s success to knowing the customer.

“When we were debuting the new [2004] truck at the Auto Show in Detroit, Nissan was also debuting their new full-size pick-up truck,” Schiavone recalled. “I took one look at the competition, and I knew it wouldn’t work. American truckers like things a certain way, so you have to give it to them. And what they value doesn’t change much. So every time we did research, it was tough because the customer always loves the truck they currently have. You really have to learn how to understand them more than please them.”

Schiavone Ford F150
The 2004 F-150 resulted from a ground-up redesign that — at the time — was the largest and most expensive design program in Ford history. Along with the 2009 refresh, the truck won countless industry awards. Both were named Motor Trend Truck of the Year and were named finalists for NAIAS’s North American Truck of the Year. Schiavone also led design for the 2008 Flex, the 2010 Fusion/Milan/Hybrid, and the 2008 Lincoln MKS. He also served as the principal designer for the 1994 Ford Mustang, a crucial model year that is credited with saving the brand from extinction.

Schiavone’s approach to car design is detail oriented, market savvy, trend aware, and devoted to good storytelling. At Whirlpool, he brought the same approach to home appliances and led design globally for 14 brands, including KitchenAid, Maytag and the luxury brand Jenn-Air, which had been flagging a decade ago.

“We started to think about Dutch masters’ paintings and still lifes, which always had these rich black backgrounds that emphasized the colors of the fruits and flowers,” Schiavone said. “So we tried a deep matte charcoal for the Jenn-Air interior, and then we got pushback from the company. ‘No one will like this, no one will want this.’ But they let us do one. Now, Jenn-Air doesn’t even offer a white interior; they only offer charcoal gray. And Jenn-Air sales went up 50 percent. So, it made a tremendous difference in the business.”

The experience exemplifies his design philosophy, which Schiavone says boils down to the preparation that precedes actual design.

“I believe in doing my homework, and that’s one of the things I’ll be talking to students about. You have to understand all the competition that’s out there, all the design trends, the manufacturing trends and what the brand is. And then you can start to design a little bit and it becomes more about the brand than the company. At the end you can start to make some proposals. And once you start to understand what you want from a product perspective, you need to sell that to management and then that becomes the story you create. If you do all those steps right, you win almost every time. They’re not designers. They want to hear it from me, especially as lead designer, what I think the design should be. You either do as you’re told or tell them what you believe it should be.”

Schiavone JenAir
Satisfied with the contributions he has been able to make, Schiavone understands the fundamental difference between the worlds of car design and home appliances. “The main difference was the culture,” he said. “Ford had a hundred-year-old culture in which design had a seat at the table. Everyone understood what design’s job was. At Whirlpool, they treated the business as primarily manufacturing. We had to really convince them that design can make a difference and to invest the money into it.”

Schiavone has received numerous accolades throughout his career, most recently including: 10 2018 IF Design Awards for KitchenAid and Whirlpool products, three 2018 CES Innovation Awards for Whirlpool and Yummly, and six 2017 IF Design Awards for Hotpoint, Bauknecht and Whirlpool products.

Schiavone is excited to give back, especially at his alma mater, where he looks forward to working with young designers. “Design is always the most important to me, but what I really got good at was the ability to sell it to upper management: storytelling and homework. My process works, and I want to share that with students.”