Grant from William Davidson Foundation supports two new MFA programs


 Last December, the William Davidson Foundation awarded the College for Creative Studies a $2 million grant to support the launch of its two new MFA programs in Color and Materials Design — the first master’s program of its kind in the United States — and Interaction Design, both scheduled to begin fall 2014. These programs align well with the Foundation’s objective of supporting innovation and attracting world-class talent to the region. The grant will enable the College to recruit two new Chairs and adjunct faculty, market the program internationally and build the incoming class for fall of 2014. The new programs will augment CCS’s existing MFA offerings in Interdisciplinary Design and Transportation Design.

“The new programs integrate awareness of issues, trends and developments in business and technology as well as educate students to conceive and execute compelling design solutions to the highest industry standards,” said Joanne Healy, dean of Graduate Studies. “Students will learn to think beyond the design of objects/artifacts — they will learn how to be innovators which will help them succeed in the face of a dynamic and unpredictable future.”

Color and Materials Design addresses both theoretical and practical knowledge of color, new materials, finishes and processes. The field grew out of the automobile industry in the 1920s, but today it plays a significant role in industrial design, interior design, and fashion and technology-related industries. Students will develop a critical eye for color differentiation, materials craftsmanship and quality assessment and learn how these qualities relate to communicate a unique design message and product brand identity — critical in today’s highly competitive and changing markets.

Interaction Design is a comprehensive program that teaches students how to apply the principles and techniques used in designing effective human- to-technology interaction solutions. The curriculum will focus on a proven combination of user-centric research, business and design studio courses to simulate professional practices in the classroom, often with an eye toward the future. “Technology is now ubiquitous,” said Healy, “often imbedded in a broad range of products from handheld devices and manufacturing machines to consumer electronics and automobiles.”

The study of interaction design demands a strong foundation in user-centric investigation and research, beginning with studies of psychological processes relevant to understanding “what people say,” “what people do” and “what people need” in relation to the design of new products and technology. Students will then be in a position to identify unmet needs or a new market opportunity for their design solutions.

Industry-sponsored studio courses will test students’ creative skills as well as their ability to deliver under pressure. The structure of the courses will reflect a professional studio environment, where industry leaders will evaluate students’ work. During their final year of study, students will complete a master’s thesis, which will provide an opportunity to demonstrate their readiness for post-graduation careers.