Design Students as Entrepreneurs

Jose Rivera-Chang
California State University Long Beach


Jose Rivera-Chang
Industrial Design Program Coordinator
California State University Long Beach

Industrial Design education is going through a rapid evolution with more design schools incorporating entrepreneurship elements into their curricula. More students are making use of internet resources and tools such as crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, 3D prototyping/printing services, and other web-based tools to expose and to validate their ideas. Several newer academic papers and publications discuss this current trend in industrial design schools (ID-Schools) in general but very few provide examples on how they implemented the new tools or what type of online tool should be used at what stage in the student project. 

Most of these internet tools and resources created an environment that allows self-learning, immediate production, accelerated collaboration and fast networking. The rise of websites such as Wix, Shapeways, Alibaba and Kickstarter are examples of the current trend. These websites provide the tools and resources that empower their users to create their own business – encouraging them to become entrepreneurs.

Technical design skills that took months or even years to learn are now more accessible and more intuitive for designers and non-designers as well. What were once considered optional skills for industrial designers such as web design or video production and editing, are now becoming almost mandatory. Designer-entrepreneurs need to master these skills and tools quickly if they want to get feedback about their ideas from “the internet crowd” or simply to raise funds online to finance their own enterprises.

ID-Schools need to adapt quickly to the new reality, embracing internet resources and online tools as core skills that every designer-entrepreneur must have. The implementation method for teaching these core skills may vary among ID-Schools. This paper will discuss one case in particular where entrepreneurial student projects were developed during a 10-week period using online resources.