Today, like the first day in Milan, we visited a facility for higher education. This time, we visited the New Academy of Design, a private institution dedicated to providing specialized and holistic education in design. The school offers three main degrees: architectural, visual, and fashion design. Like Pitt’s engineering school, the design school provides many opportunities to connect students with companies in the industry of their choice. The most significant being design competitions similar to Swanson’s senior design challenges. Through this project, students are given a chance to go through the design process from beginning to end. They start with a prompt, such as a location or theme, off of which they must develop a complete design with dimensions and furniture and decoration.
The school was very proud of the approach to education they take, which is vastly different from classic Italian learning. I found it interesting that this “fresh take” resembles the liberal arts style of US schools. They are very proud of the interdisciplinary freedoms they allow for their students to specialize in unique interests and aspects of design. This is because traditional universities in Italy follow a narrow field of study and exclude design almost completely. Rarely offering specialties in fashion, let alone in architectural and visual design. Although the school is very new and small, it has many modern amenities that are meant to prepare it for growth. For example, the classes are offered online to its few international students in a way that doesn’t sacrifice the benefits of in-class learning by providing live feedback and recording the entire classroom. This way students can still hear feedback given from the questions of peers and can ask their own questions for the benefit of the rest of the class.
Even in their most general and introductory courses, their students learn a blend of business and engineering principles when they are required to account for consumer interest and at the same time feasibility of a design such as a piece of furniture or faucet. This intrigued me particularly since my Art of Making class this past semester also blended these ideas in approaching solutions to real problems in the lives of real people. As some of the students presented their projects, I saw that these were done individually as opposed to than our Art of Making team-based work. Nonetheless, they were all designed with their customer in mind, like we always kept in mind our end users, with intense attention to each detail of the final design to ensure that the final product is reproducible and realistic.
After lunch at a local shopping center, which curiously had a full supermarket mixed in among the other stores, we were taken to Mero & More, a co-working fashion consortium. This consortium is a new organization made to help start-ups and small fashion companies produce and distribute their products. It provides model designers to make original sketches into practical templates for construction. These templates are passed onto Another team of the co-worker space that builds prototypes to test the templates and their accuracy. The templates that work well are then copied into a coding language and used to cut out bunches of pieces from imported fabric. The pieces are shipped out to other companies and sewn them packaged into final shipments.
As a middle-man, the consortium basically just makes the process for smaller companies cheaper and quicker so that they can compete with larger, more vertically integrated competitors. Luckily, with the size and quantity of production being so small, the consortium is more flexible to adjust for changes in demand and in that aspect has a leg up against the others.
Surprisingly, although all products are made and sourced locally (contributing to the flexibility of production), the vast majority of the consortium’s market lies outside of Italy with large percentages in India and Russia. This is because standards of materials and designs are slightly different and are easier for these small companies to account for their limited resources.
Although their job may seem small in the grand scheme of production. The co-worker space provides a home base to host classes and create the first physical representation of raw designs, which can be a big help to tiny companies in their early beginnings. Who knows, maybe I’ll need a similar guild someday.