Why Get a Real Job

Author:
Michael Elwell
Company/School:
University of Notre Dame

WHY GET A REAL JOB?
ENCOURAGING ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN UNDERGRADUATE DESIGN STUDENTS

Michael Elwell
Postdoctoral Research Associate – University of Notre Dame

Current industrial design education adequately prepares students for jobs in the corporate or consultancy fields, but struggles to prepare them to be career entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is not only essential to rebuilding a recessed economy, but also empowers students to take control of their intellectual property. Educators must do a better job identifying students with entrepreneurial aspirations, and encouraging them to explore entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to traditional design employment.  

Launching a product was more daunting in the past, with the keys to manufacturing held by established professionals, but the internet has been a powerful democratizer. Current students are “digital natives” who expect to produce their own content, personalize the products they purchase, and collaborate cross-culturally through social media.  Today, with crowdscourcing and crowdfunding platforms, open source hardware and software, rapid prototyping tools, and payment methods such as Paypal and Square, it has never been easier to be an entrepreneur. However, industrial designers’ technical and creative skills make them distinctly qualified to take advantage of these opportunities.

It is illogical and wasteful to train students to be innovative and inventive, while not preparing them to properly leverage their intellectual property. Entrepreneurship must be integrated into the design curriculum to prepare students for the current economic climate, while maintaining core principles of social and environmentally responsible design. This paper documents and illustrates the process of establishing a culture of entrepreneurship within a traditional design program.

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