The Large Design Project: Beyond Traditional Education
Tom Gattis, Professor of Product Design | Savannah College of Art and Design
The large-scale student project presents the opportunity to more closely simulate experiences graduates will encounter in the workplace - forcing students to fully understand the ramifications of their decisions and to gain knowledge about a variety of design topics.
Academically there is great potential to teach the students more than could be achieved in a traditional studio setting. The idea that students have to see their concepts to a completed prototype stage raises the standard for design. The requirement to build a full-scale, fully functional prototype forces issues of design development and fabrication to be proven and taken beyond the theoretical. As often is the case with large-scale projects the work will fall outside the realm of the product designer thus presenting the opportunity for crossdisciplinary collaboration. Collaborations may be with other departments or with outside experts and professionals. These projects may tour industry tradeshows, participate in design competitions, and become an outlet for media publication. However, there is also an opportunity to promote the individual students and their collective achievement.
Large-scale projects are difficult to organize, fund and manage. Corporate participation is essential in the equation. Corporations should be looked at as more than a source for monetary contributions; they can provide support in technical areas, sources for materials and supplies, design guidance, marketing feedback, etc. In all cases the corporate participants should be looked at as “partners” in the process. One of the major obstacles to a project of this type is how to convince the administration to commit to the project in terms of special arrangements and funding. This process is not cheap and must be presented to this group in terms that they will understand – donations, recruitment and retention.
This paper focuses on the case study of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s 21.5’ family concept boat. Over an 11-month period twenty-three graduate and undergraduate students researched, designed and developed a fully functional family sport boat prototype completing every aspect of the project from design to manufacturing to testing. The result of the project is an award winning concept boat that represents a confluence of energy and expertise, design and creativity, unparalleled in the consumer boating market.