Effort views differences

April 13, 2009
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To many, “design” refers to an object’s color, shape and aesthetic properties — not the kind of thing that would necessarily help a business succeed. However, “design” can be seen as a way to solve problems — important to any business.

Design West Michigan’s Design Academy for Non-Designers aims to teach non-designers how design benefits economic growth.

The day-and-a-half event will take place at Kendall College of Art & Design. George Erickcek, senior regional analyst for the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, will kick off a host of speakers with a presentation on the regional economic forecast. Other speakers include representatives from TowerPinkster, Conduit Studios, Gentex, People Design, Progressive AE, Whirlpool and Kendall.

Each company will present a case study that dissects the use of design in solving problems. Kendall professor Gayle DeBruyn will describe various design disciplines and what they entail.

“One of the things I learned from the first (academy) was that there was not enough explanation on the different design disciplines and what they bring to economic gain,” said John Berry, director of Design West Michigan and consultant for Greystone Global.

This marks the second year of the academy and also a name change. The move from last’s year’s name — Design West Michigan Business Academy — to Design Academy for Non-Designers, Berry said, was to add clarity to the purpose of the academy.

“It’s much more clear with Design for Non-Designers. ‘Business Academy’ didn’t clarify the real objective, which is to help gain an understanding of design through both lectures and case studies of real life examples for non-designers,” said Berry. “Confusion came in (last year) that maybe it was about how to run a design business.”

Berry’s goal for this year is to focus on understanding the differences between art and design.

“While related, (art and design) are significantly different when it comes to the application of skills to the economy,” said Berry.

“Many people confuse those two. They think of art as equal to a luxury, and therefore perhaps not necessary. If they’re equating art and design, then too easily design can be considered a luxury and not necessarily beneficial to what a company does. I want to work at getting rid of that concern.”

On a regional level, Berry sees the academy providing an avenue for non-designers to communicate with people in different design fields, and then take lessons learned and apply them to their own businesses.

The academy is part of Design West Michigan’s overarching goal of leveraging design as an economic building block for the region.

The Design Academy for Non-Designers runs May 14-15. Food is provided and the tuition fee is $450, half of which can be reimbursed with an application to the Michigan Works, Workforce Development.

Registration and information can be found at www.designwestmichigan.com.

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