A Case Study
Paul Rothstein, Arizona State University
Managing integrated development, cross-functional teams and strategic planning are challenges that many of today’s business and design leaders face. The pressure to meet these challenges comes from a variety of sources, including: a need to connect with consumers in meaningful new ways, accelerating development cycles, and competitive global markets that require a ready supply of highly creative and innovative ideas. In response, the practice of design has changed from a relatively simple service-based model to one that offers a range of capabilities and offerings geared towards providing strategic value to corporate partners. In design education, the changes have been considerably less dramatic. In spite of a number of notable examples (such as at IIT, MIT and Carnegie Mellon), most design programs in the U.S. struggle to implement coursework that includes integrated development and crossfunctional teams of students. Without meaningful progress in this area, today’s students will graduate ill-equipped to confront tomorrow’s most challenging design projects. This paper highlights a research project that explored how this problem might be addressed. With generous corporate funding, the project was conducted at Arizona State University during the past two years and featured the development of a set of special studio-courses that involved cross-functional teams of students (from business, industrial design and graphic design) applying a user-centered, integrated development process to explore new strategies, plans, concepts and experiences.
The paper includes: discussion of literature in business and design relating to the topic; a full description of the course; presentation of the students’ final strategies and concepts; and a set of implications for educators to consider. The paper also summarizes the results of a unique evaluation of the course that was conducted by a team of independent graduate research assistants. Using data generated from an ethnographic study of the students enrolled in the course, the research highlights key issues and problems the students encountered with creativity, teamwork, and leadership.