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Wayne State industrial design students build cultural bridge at Shanghai University

September 14, 2013

Wayne State industrial design students build cultural bridge at Shanghai University

In this age of globalization, when peoples separated by oceans, languages, cultures and creeds carry the same mobile devices and sport the same tennis shoes, industrial design has powerful potential to unite. For the past two years, Wayne State University industrial design students have explored the cultural currency of this academic discipline through summer workshops at Shanghai University (SU), where they work with their Chinese counterparts to conceive new ways of capturing consumer interest.

Taught by Brian Kritzman, Wayne State associate professor of industrial design and area coordinator with the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History, the three-week workshops bring Shanghai University and Wayne State industrial design students together six hours a day, five days a week to study the aesthetics, ergonomics, functionality, and usability of products and spaces and to produce a final project bringing these design elements together. Wayne State students’ airfare is paid for by contributions from Kritzman’s department, the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, and the WSU Office of International Programs.

The summer workshops were conceived by Shanghai University art and design faculty member Wenjia Chen, who was invited by the WSU Office of International Programs to be a visiting faculty member at Wayne State in 2012 to explore opportunities for relationships between the two institutions. Kritzman, who has designed exhibits for the North American Auto Show, learned that Chen shared his professional background in exhibit design and invited her to critique his courses and talk to his students on a weekly basis. In turn, she invited him in to teach an initial workshop on product design for WSU and SU students at Shanghai University in summer 2012. Based on its success, Kritzman was invited to bring WSU students back this summer to teach a second workshop, from July 1-20, on exhibit design.

John Richardson, professor and chair of the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History, described Shanghai University as a wonderful addition to a “growing list” of the department’s international partners that has been made possible through the support of Wayne State’s Office of International Programs.

“SU has been wonderfully collaborative and continues to provide opportunities for Wayne State students,” Richardson said. “We are quite fortunate in that we are able to provide unique, high-quality international educational experiences to our students in very accessible and affordable ways."

Kritzman sees the relationship between Shanghai University and Wayne State’s industrial design program as a “natural progression” from the established and highly successful relationship between SU and the WSU College of Engineering, which have coordinated student exchanges to advance Dean Farshad Fotouhi’s goal of enhancing academic formation through global experiences. Kritzman believes Chinese and American students can learn a great deal from the “distinct differences in their countries’ approaches to industrial design.” Americans’ strength, he said, is in abstract design, which uses form, color and line to evoke an idea without making literal references to it. Chinese designers excel at simplicity.

“When Chinese design is really ‘on’ it’s because it’s so clean and quiet,” Kritzman said. “I think young designers especially want to overdesign, while the Chinese have a tendency to hold back that can greatly benefit the discipline.”

To view photos of the 2013 SU workshop, visit Kritzman’s photo album at http://briankritzman.com/briankritzman/Sh13_1.html.