Design Entrepreneurialism

Steven Doehler
University of Cincinnati


Steven Doehler
University of Cincinnati

For the past five years Steven Doehler from the University of Cincinnati’s Industrial Design program has introduced design students to career opportunities outside typical channels and into the realm of entrepreneurialism. This idea started when he noticed so many great ideas packed neatly into portfolios would never have an opportunity to reach user’s hands. To address this, he enlisted his own entrepreneurial experiences and began a “design” entrepreneurial course based on a lecture series. This series introduced students to opportunities and realities of pursuing entrepreneurial ventures as Industrial Designers. While the course was informative it did not allow students to transition learning into action. 

As the lecture series grew in popularity and the economy/job opportunities dipped, students wanted more options to keep their design dreams alive. To accommodate these needs Professor Doehler developed an independent study that enabled students to work specifically on project concepts that could transform into actionable entrepreneurial ventures. 

For three years these two courses ran simultaneously and it became obvious that developing a hybrid pedagogy of lecture and action was the most efficient direction. This course has gradually evolved from a lecture dominant to action dominate pedagogy where students are transforming Senior Capstone projects into viable business plans that provide them a road map to independent careers in design and development.

Currently Professor Doehler has been working closely with Masters of Design students in using the class as a test ground for developing “designer” focused business tools. These tools are designed to assist students in developing presentations and business strategies that not only provide comprehensive concept solutions but also business components that integrate into the design process.

This paper/presentation will outline the pedagogical nuances; it’s evolutionary process, results, and future outlook.