John Jones

Forging a New Partnership with Design Higher Education 

For the past two years, Fjord and Parsons School of Design have been collaborating on a new higher-education learning model by including Design and Technology Master’s Students in the one-week Fjord Immersion Program.

The idea for the immersion program came up at a breakfast meeting with Anezka Sebek, faculty member at Parsons and one of the designers of the curriculum for the BFA and MFA Design and Technology Programs. The one-week Design Study intensive is a Fjord exploration method that often sits outside of client work and is a perfect vehicle to plug students into an intense, structured process. Traditional months-long summer internship programs can sometimes be a strain on company resources, or even a waste of time for students. As companies look for the right way to engage students in meaningful work to achieve valuable outcomes, an immersion program becomes a perfect option. The approach drops students into an established team with a specific process and outcomes defined. Because the program is set up before or after a semester, more students can be considered than would be available in a traditional internship. It’s a huge benefit to both parties and guarantees a truly memorable, enriching learning experience for students and Fjord design teams.

“The program helps to drive specific types of students forward by plugging them into an intense design environment focused on insights and learning,” Sebek said of the program. “They can’t get this kind of real-world experience in the classroom, and they often are not finding it via more traditional internships.”

To date, five students have participated in the program.

The Design Studies Process

A Design Study begins by exploring a specific human-centered theme, such as zero UI (designing interactions without screens), designing for relationships, extending community interactions, and privacy. The week-long exploration in our studios focuses on defining hypotheses and experiments, immersive research, hands-on making of ideas and a report-out of the results. Several of the Design Studies with Parsons have advanced to patents and product prototypes, including our VR Wheelchair.

The student(s) also have the opportunity to present the design study theme and experiments at the end of his/her immersion – a presentation that’s part of the Friday Design Clinic at the Fjord studio. The Design Clinic is a forum for continuous learning at Fjord where designers share new techniques, points of view and guest speakers are often invited to work with the studio.

Another unique aspect of the immersion program is that Parsons chooses the student based on who might benefit most. Fjord then sets up the design study topic and team, and plugs the student into the process for a week.

The Fjord side of the program is co-led by Roman Kalantari, the Design Technology lead in the New York Studio. “This has become a way to tap into the skills and enthusiasm of design students to focus on unsolved problem in design. Fjord gets quite a bit of value out of this great program,” he said.

In January 2017, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) formed a collaboration with Accenture to help shape how the fashion industry integrates technology and consumer insights into its business practices. Part of this collaboration includes connecting CFDA fashion students with the Fjord Immersion Program. This will allow the selected CFDA Design Graduate to further extend his/her Senior Thesis Collection by participating in the 1-Week Immersion Program at the Fjord studio. Areas of interest should include either one or more of the following: consumer behavior, new business models for designers, behavior in spaces, sustainability, social engagement, fashion and technology.

The mission for the Fjord Immersion program and Design Studies is that we can help influence the future of design, shape future designers and shift our own design capabilities.

Fjord team (left to right): Ruben Sun, Audrey Fox (Parsons Immersion student), Suzanne Gause and Hideki Aono
John Jones

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