As technology evolves at an exponential rate and direct-to-consumer businesses continue to thrive, today's industrial designers must be equipped with not just design and business tools, but a mindset that will allow them stay ahead of the technological curve and connect with culturally relevant issues. Erica Muhl, dean of USC Iovine and Young Academy explains, "To create not just what the world wants, but what it needs, it's essential to understand the entire ecosystem from which great products emerge -- from ethnography and user investigations, to design, prototyping, testing, funding, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution."
Iovine and Young Hall's Mixed Reality Lab provides state-of-the-art motion capture technologies
The Academy's Master of Science in Product Innovation (MSPRIN) offers a unique design degree that teaches product design utilizing a 360-degree perspective. "With the rise of AI and additive manufacturing, the current pace of innovation is demanding a new breed of product designers," says Grant Delgatty, chair of Product Innovation for the Iovine and Young Academy and founder of the micro-transportation startup, URB-E. "Successful product designers must understand a product's design in meaningful relationship to the entire product ecosystem and the end-user."
Established by Beats Electronics founders, Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, the Academy nurtures creative problem-solving at the intersection of the arts and design; technology; entrepreneurship, and communication. Since the school's inception, Academy students have been creating highly successful and global award-winning products, and launching product-based enterprises that have been highlighted by leading publications. "We were founded on the same creative principles that drove Beats Electronics to its status as a multibillion-dollar company," says Muhl. "When you think about it, great product design is just in our DNA."
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Mira Prism AR headset, designed by Academy alumni, awarded 2018 Red Dot Best of the Best. Photo courtesy of Mira Reality
Like leading design firms, the Academy brings together students from diverse educational and professional backgrounds, including design, engineering, computer science, architecture, and interactive media. The ability to work collaboratively with people who bring different mindsets is a vital skill for today's creatives, according to Muhl. "The best and most sought-after designers will be capable of working in multidisciplinary teams to envision the entire lifecycle of a product, from the first ideas all the way through to delivery," she explains. "Products that have true, positive impact on society are rarely created in silos or vacuums."
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The level of work generated by these multidisciplinary teams has attracted the attention of industry leaders across all fields – adidas, Audi/Volkswagen, Mattel, and Verizon are just a few companies that have assigned special projects to the school. Students serve as design strategists, collaborating in teams with experts from top-tier organizations to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems. "This is a win-win situation, as we're able to provide students with these incredible opportunities and connections. On the flip side, companies can tap into the fresh perspectives of our students, and see how they approach problems in new and creative ways," explains Delgatty.
AR Playdates, an interactive platform that helps long-distance family members play together. Photo courtesy of AR Playdates
As a long-time educator, Muhl observed developing design trends and sensed an urgency to create a program that addressed the evolving needs of both students and industry. "I've seen higher education institutions drag their heels to respond to the changing world with relevant offerings that mean something to today's learners, as well as to our communities, local and global," she reflects. "I'm very proud of the program we've created. It is by far one of the most elegant options for anyone who wishes to make a dent in the world, and do something big, meaningful, and good."
Through a fresh and integrative approach to teaching product design, the Academy's MSPRIN will prepare current and future generations of creatives and entrepreneurs to address global needs. "Students graduating with the MSPRIN degree will have a deep understanding of what it means to develop a product that is best positioned for success," explains Delgatty. "You might look at it as a degree that develops a student profile that's a perfect blend of a Jony Ive and a Steve Jobs." What could be more desirable than that?
Those interested in applying for USC's MSPRIN program can fill out the prospective student form. The application deadline is January 15 for fall entry.
Title image shows Iovine and Young Hall's Creator Studio makerspace, which provides a vast array of fabrication technologies