Art Center × OtherPlane: A Business Reinvention


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How might Art Center College of Design grow their business out of the threat of opportunity?

There is infinite business opportunity in the creative process, more so than design deliverables. Art Center could expand its market space by empowering everyone to use design thinking for innovation.

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Art Center × OtherPlane: A Business Reinvention

  2. 2. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNABOUT ART CENTER 2 Art Center College of Design (ACCD, or ‘Art Center’) is a private art college located in Pasadena, California. It has continuously been cited as one of the best design schools in the world, as well has being able to boast for having the top Industrial Design program in the nation. Art Center has traditionally built itself as a vocational school, maintaining a strong “real- world” focus; its programs emphasize craftsmanship, technique, professionalism, and rely slightly less on theory. During the past decade, Art Center has developed programs and projects that focus on design’s potential for positive social change, under the initiative Design Matters. Year founded 1930 Affiliation Private, nonprofit institution Applications accepted Spring, Summer and Fall for most majors Terms (semesters) Three 15-week terms per year Fall 2011 Undergraduate enrollment 1,650 (53% men, 47% women) Fall 2011 Graduate enrollment 192 (63% men, 37% women) Costs Yearly Tuition: $33,544 (2 semesters, 2011-2012) Annual Operating Budget:  $70.3 million (FY 2012) $50.4 million endowment (as of 6/30/11, FY 2011) Alumni (FY 2011) Job Placement Rates for One-Year-Out Graduates: 91% employed (53% response rate) Job Placement Rates for Five-Year-Out Graduates: 90% employed (45% response rate) 2011 Undergraduate enrollment by program Advertising: 77 Entertainment Design: 98 Environmental Design: 83 Film: 85 Fine Art: 83 Graphic Design: 259 Illustration: 474 Photography and Imaging: 154 Product Design: 136 Transportation Design: 192 Students who complete degrees within six years 70% Average job-placement rate one year after graduation 91%* *Based on alumni-survey responses of 53%. 2011 Graduate enrollment by program Art: 34 Broadcast Cinema: 64 Industrial Design: 46 Media Design: 44
  3. 3. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNCURRENT BELIEFS & LOGIC 3 OS1 THINKING Business HARMFUL BELIEF • Art Center believes they are in the business of teaching design skills and exporting graduates to businesses and organizations. Offer: Product or service HARMFUL BELIEF • ACCD’s industry network and content is unique and advantageous to ACCD • Businesses need employees who fill roles written in job descriptions LOGIC • Create a curriculum, hire industry teachers, cover all the hard skills in job descriptions, produce students who fit job descriptions for entry to mid-level positions • “Companies find solutions, great interns, and future employees at ACCD” “Rigorous, transdisciplinary curriculum” “Strong ties to industry, commitment to socially responsible design” “Faculty of professionals” – for their knowledge and professional connections “Specialised courses” – declaring majors before admissions and having 30 credits to explore and perfect skills Aim: High Market Share in Silo Industry (product or service category) HARMFUL BELIEF • ACCD’s beautiful and rigorous design legacy, manifested in students’ concepts and skills, will be the factor that continue to attract and retain future applicants LOGIC • Separate disciplines of design, separate degree levels, students graduate into separate roles • Academic credits are considered separate, and the knowledge learned here are often disconnected from design learning; students often end up thinking that they are bolt-ons to their education and not required • Must finish degree with ACCD and design courses from their instructors; students can take academic credits elsewhere but ACCD decides whether to transfer those credits Horizon: Short-term profit HARMFUL BELIEF • Both businesses and graduates can get the first end product and upskill themselves as technologies and economies change • Businesses should train employees to become strategic and graduates only need to be trained in aesthetic/functional design for project based products and services LOGIC • Many students are accepted first year, with a 77% retention rate into later terms. Overall graduation rate is 54%. This means many students get accepted into Art Center having wasted $17,000 per term of tuition, not knowing that this is not where their talent and interests lies. It is unethical to accept students only based on portfolio, optional interviews, and essays.
  4. 4. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNCURRENT BELIEFS & LOGIC 4 OS1 THINKING Measurement: Product profitability Many students are accepted first year, with a 77% retention rate into later terms. Overall graduation rate is 54%. This means many students get accepted into Art Center having wasted $17,000 per term of tuition, not knowing that this is not where their talent and interests lies. It is unethical to accept students only based on portfolio, optional interviews, and essays. Power & Authority HARMFUL BELIEF • The instructors at ACCD are the authority of design knowledge and sources of industry network LOGIC • Students have access to the Chairs of each department but do not have say in the making of the curriculum, rise of tuition ($1000 each year), registration process, choice of instructors, and curation of gallery of winning student work • Must finish degree with ACCD and design courses from their instructors; students can take academic credits elsewhere but ACCD decides whether to transfer those credits Mindset: Competition HARMFUL BELIEF Their competitors are other higher-education institutions who teach design Customer: Next-in-chain • Students • Businesses/organizations who need designers • Businesses who need a project completed Objective: Customer Lock-in HARMFUL BELIEF Students need to pay ACCD the most expensive tuition to get the best quality of education i.e. price paid is proportional to quality LOGIC The instructors at ACCD are the authority of design knowledge and sources of indsutry network Must finish degree with ACCD and design courses from their instructors; students can take academic credits elsewhere but ACCD decides whether to transfer those credits Need: Ownership HARMFUL BELIEF Students need credits and degrees from them to be considered professional / good / competitive designers. Values: Stored in the end product/service HARMFUL BELIEF The value they deliver to students are embedded in the content, hard skills, projects for portfolios, network opportunities from instructors, industry connections The value they deliver to employers are industry-ready graduates with hard skills matching expectations of job descriptions
  5. 5. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNCURRENT BELIEFS & LOGIC 5 OS1 THINKING Mentality: Industrialisation • “Companies find solutions, great interns, and future employees at ACCD” • “Specialised courses” – declaring majors before admissions and having 30 credits to explore and perfect skills Innovation & Change • They talk about change at conferences but their own strategies take a lot longer to roll out and take account into change in digital landscape • They make incremental changes to curriculum Marketing: Meet expecations (sell into existing market) HARMFUL BELIEF • Businesses need employees who fill roles written in job descriptions • Students expect to learn design skills and aesthetics when they enter LOGIC Often accept students after asking them to take the Night-time, Saturday High part-time courses as a way of luring applicants into paying for trial course Technology (Make, buy, rely on technology for advantage) HARMFUL BELIEF • Access to facilities and technological resources that include various labs and tools for modelling, printing and prototyping will attract students and instill value in their skills LOGIC • They took a long time to incorporate interaction and digital into their curriculum, when web 2.0 happened they were at least 2 years behind in building a degree for these • Their digital marketing are bolt-ons: they have profiles on social networks but not integrated campaigns or solutions • They use digital spaces to store information that are the same as their physical viewbook • Registration, alumni networks, marketing communication exist on separate and disconnected websites not optimised for today’s devices Communication: Broadcasting Use emails, printed collaterals to distribute fixed message broadcasted by ACCD Art Center’s case is one for a threat of opportunity. It does continue to increase its revenue, without aggressive investment in customer innovations – student or business. Competition are coming from peripheral institutions, internet start-ups and initiatives, and even from customers themselves. It’s time Art Center repositioned its strategic thinking and occupy new market space to create a value-added ecosystem for all of its possible new customers. While Art Center has steady admission rates and continues to develop programs and initiatives with external companies and NGO, its business may not be sustainable as it sees value stored in a product that only gets ‘upgraded’ incrementally. Customers in possible market spaces are migrating to other newer forms of learning/utilising design, especially in an economy where paying for the most expensive tuition in the nation seems like it is a luxury. Users are getting a disconnected experience, where value provided by Art Center stops 2-3 years after graduation as technology changes and approach to design needs to keep up with new behaviors and oragnisational needs.
  6. 6. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNTHREAT OF OPPORTUNITY 6 WHO MIGHT TAKE ART CENTER OUT OF BUSINESS? Paid and free online tutorials TED/COURSERA YouTube Advertising agencies who open up their own schools / learning workshops in China & other emerging economies Creator’s Project Knowledge / Skillshare movements Dr. Dre’s USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation There are a plethora of factors that show that learning hard design skills do not require a degree. Knowledge sharing platforms offer free insights and lessons on basic principles of design. Many social and content sharing networks are becoming resources for businesses to look for talent. Moreover, venture capitalist companies are investing in incubator programs that foster design & engineering talent. New institutions are being established as being multi- or trans-disciplinary in their entirety as digital is making knowledge and organizational boundaries blur. MIT/Aalto BlogsMobile drawing applications Behance Companies with own innovation lab
  7. 7. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNCUSTOMER NEEDS NOT MET 7 STUDENT EXPECTATIONS FOR DESIGN EDUCATION To put things into perspective, I wanted to know whether student expecations before they entered ACCD were exceeded or met after they graduated. These quotes were then to industry and academic perceptions of design to see if ACCD’s mission has been met. The following questions were put up on to collect user perception of design education. What motivated you to go to design school or become a designer? What did you expect out of your design education before you began? “A thorough understanding of fundamental principles, combined with a working design faculty and real-world projects.” “To understand processes and techniques applicable in real world.” “I had natural talent and mild-passion for sketching and drawing. I saw it as a means to retain, utilize and monetize my talent” If you can change any aspect of your education, what could your institution provide that would help you today? “Better understanding of the business of creativity. Outside of the portfolio, I think colleges should help students understand the value of design in business and how to best monetize their opportunities. Also adjusting their tuition relative to the income levels of graduates. I think a lot of private art + design colleges saddle their graduates with unprecedented amounts of debt that cripple graduates for many years to come. I mean if you're graduating with $50-60K in debt and your starting salary is $35-50K USD that's almost a 1/4 of your paycheck. While some may argue the onus is on the student to plan for their future I would argue that colleges are almost as bad as banking institutions when it comes to predatory recruiting and lending.” “Design is the ability to solve problems (let's say human problems... but it could be anything). Utilizing empathy, listening, and other words you can read on Don Norman books. I'm not sure if design is significant in how it's viewed now, but the type of critical thinking represented a different type of education, which is a lot more interesting to be. Being inductive, deductive, abductive, and all other "ives" to help solve problems that arise around the world. The type of thinking and what it represents if a lot more interesting to me than "what design means right now"... in that case this week it means people bitching about iOS7.” If you can change any aspect of your education, what could your institution provide that would help you today?
  8. 8. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNCUSTOMER NEEDS NOT MET 8 INDUSTRY AND ACADEMIC EXPECTATIONS FOR DESIGN EDUCATION “Design is central to every experience, product or service created and consumed. Successful companies such as Apple, P&G and BMW are often cited as corporate leaders that clearly understand the businessvalue of good design.” “IDEO’s Diego Rodriguez makes the case that good business arises from a design-centric process that incorporates marketing, research, and ideas while RKS Design’s Ravi Sawhney and Deepa Prahalad outline four specific areas in which design can create value: understanding the consumer, mitigating risk, boosting marketing and branding, and driving sustainable business practices.” “Companies that invest in their design capability and develop a reputation for innovation can avoid competing on price alone: rapidly growing businesses are twice as likely as others to compete on the basis of innovation.” “In today’s economy, scholars and practitioners position design as a company’s most critical competitive advantage. Their collective research provides evidence that the design process, design thinking and designed products matter, and make a major contribution to economic and national competitiveness.” INDUSTRY EXPECTATION OF DESIGN ACADEMIC EXPECTATION OF DESIGN There is a big discrepancy of perception between how designers and industry/ academia see the role of design. Art Center needs to shape the expectations so that it is a valuable business to its customers.
  9. 9. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNVALUE GAPS 9 TURNING WASTAGE INTO OPPORTUNITIES Things customers don’t want • Lose graduate level employees because they do not know what it is like to look for a culture where they can fit in Things done badly • Customers end up using a lot of time to upskill designers to become strategic thinkers, and only if they have the aptitude • Potential underpriviledged customers cannot hire/learn design thinking because it is expensive to hire consultants or to go to a fixed place to learn Things done expensively • Customers pay the most expensive tuition ($17,000/term) in the US for very little ROI ($35,000 starting salary) • To have to take out 2–4 years of time away from work for full-time study • To be told to take expensive Art Center at Night classes to get in • To have to drive and potentially get into accidents in Los Angeles, and pay for very expensive auto insurance Fear, uncertainty & doubt • To have invested time, money and energy in education and end up not knowing what businesses want in a designer, or lose the goal of why you went into design in the first place Things done disconnectedly • To move to a different city after graduation, only to find out that Art Center has no industry connection or reputation there • To graduate and to have little connections with the industry; instructor connections may not always be best matches Art Center cannot continue to teach design as a means to producing aesthetic projects that are served for the purposes of holding a job in the creative industry. It needs to shift its strategic position to one of a way of thinking... customers, students or business, want strategic thinking that helps them sustain in their career and business. Students need to be empowered to be known as leading design thinkers – not producers, and businessese need employees who want to bring more strategic innovations and benefit on a long-term basis, rather than a production role whose sole intention is to make things look good. Art Center needs to create an experience around being the provider of design thinking.
  10. 10. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNTHE NEW MARKET SPACE 10 EMPOWERING PEOPLE TO USE DESIGN THINKING FOR INNOVATION Art Center College of Design should position itself in the new market space of empowering people to use design thinking for innovation. The user experience will revolve around an ecosystem supporting human-centered design for creative problem solving. The ecosystem consists of the physical school, a platform and drawing tablet which promote leading short- and long-term projects and sharing insights, knowledge and skills. Whether it is a brief, a sketch, a photo of prototype, drawings of complex systems and early notes on possible new processes, these bits and pieces of ideas sketched and photographed on the drawing tablets should be shared on the web early on to gauge public interest, promote debate and discourse, and invite feedback. The platform becomes a place where non-linear, interactive education happens between instructors and students, students and students, the public and students, and business and students; these roles exchange with one another as students become more empowered to teach other people their skills and thinking. The tablet is used to draw ideas accurately and share with other people/institutions/ interested businesses, so students receive feedback and businesses and participate in seeing what are the newest strategic solutions to their problems. After each student finishes with the physical tablet, it can be sent back to Art Center or onto a student who can’t afford Laptops for reuse. “Today, because of rapid economic and social change, schools have to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that we don’t yet know will arise.”
  11. 11. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNTHE NEW MARKET SPACE 11 EMPOWERING PEOPLE TO USE DESIGN THINKING FOR INNOVATION Firstly, Art Center has to change its cost structure and make a sliding scale of tuition, from free, accessible, affordable, to executive and enterprise. For free users, this opens up possibilities of learning basic concepts of design thinking and hard design problem-solving skills for free – opening up the market space to many more people, disadvantaged communities, and government orgnisations new to design thinking. For users who pay affordable tuition, they get to meet industry professionals who mentor them through the short-term and long-term projects in business contexts. Funding is provided to make projects as professional as possible, and users can compete and collaborate with people from other disciplines/schools interested in the same projects online. NGO, impoverished or other communities who cannot afford to pay consultants and think tanks should be able to invite students to work on long-term residence projects in their settings in exchange for true social design learning experience. Users on the scale of businesses, venture capitalists, government and enterprises pay a fee to find all the world’s solutions being shaped, step-by-step, before their eyes. They can also see each participant’s working style and decide on hiring without having to go through headhunting agencies. Alternatively, they can also donate equipment, materials and human resources to make projects happen in less privileged areas of the world. Some of the cost being taken out of the business include maintaining a separate campus for part-time studies; maintain physical computer labs; and much of the cost is covered by gaining new access usership from paying companies who choose to view and use the projects being explored on the platform.
  12. 12. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNTHE NEW MARKET SPACE 12 PARTNER BUSINESSES Art Center can partner with the following entities for strategic success: Wacom: to create a series of low-powered, low-priced tablets that replace the need to buy laptops; specifically for the purpose of sketching, note taking and fleshing out ideas for early exchange and critiquing of ideas out on the web. Invitation to every educational institution: all students should jointly work on projects with multiple disciplines. For design thinking to maximize its potential, people should use the collective intelligence amalgamated from generalists and specialists. The best designed systems, processes and solutions often involve. Art Center should compete and collaborate with these institutions to recruit, partner with outside organizations, and search for investment in project funding.
  13. 13. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNTHE NEW MARKET SPACE 13 CONCLUSION The new market space of empowering people to use design thinking for innovation expands from only having paying students interested in the aesthetic/ theories/process of design and businesses looking to fill roles, to anyone who needs human-centered design approach to solve personal, business, community, government, policy, economic and social problems. It helps Art Center cut across sectors like human resources (supplying a large network of reliable talent, watching the process as it happens), venture capital (businesses/people looking to invest and incubate the next business idea), tablet, and last but not the least, a large domain in education and consultancy. Art Center becomes a facilitator for making linkages between interested parties, while providing hardware and platform infrastructure to network the process.
  14. 14. ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGNREFERENCES 14 Art Center College of Design. 2012. Art Center View Book: Create Change. [report] Art Center College of Design, p. 2, 149. Art Center College of Design. 2011. ART CENTER ANNUAL REPORT 2010-2011. [report] Art Center College of Design, pp. 22-23. 2010. Graduation Rates | About | Art Center College of Design | Pasadena, CA | Learn to Create. Influence Change.. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 19 Jun 2013]. Chuang, M. 1919. QBN - Why do you design?. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 19 Jun 2013]. Design Council. 2010. Multi-disciplinary design education in the UK. [report] Design Council, p. 4, 13, 17–29,. Pryce, V. and Whitaker, B. 2013. Restarting Britain: Design education & growth. [report] Design Commission, p. 30, 37, 46.