Learning By Design

Learning by design

Students collaborate on product design


Two large manufacturers of sporting goods may find themselves using design ideas from UW-Stout art and design students.

Industrial design students within the department of art and design have been involved in a number of projects in conjunction with well-known national companies. Two such collaborative projects have been with Rollerblade Inc., of Minnetonka, Minn., and PUMA USA, of Brockton, Mass.

Projects like these are one reason so many students are drawn to the art and design department at UW-Stout. According to Paul DeLong, art program director, there are more than 600 students in the program, and there's a waiting list for some concentrations.

"It is one of the largest undergraduate art programs in the state," DeLong said. "And it's the only industrial design program in the whole UW System." DeLong said that the only other such program is at a private art school.

The project with Rollerblade was initiated by UW-Stout alumnus Todd Olsen, senior industrial designer at the company. The endeavor was supported by a small grant, and the company provided product samples and informational support. Olsen, a 1983 graduate from New Ulm, Minn., advised and directed students and critiqued their work.

Olsen said UW-Stout students gave a diverse, fresh look to Rollerblade products. "They did an excellent job," he said. "Our management was impressed."

Benjamin Pratt, instructor of the industrial design class, said the project was good for students in that "they saw ways in which the skills they are learning can be used professionally. And it was great to work with a company so open to creativity and new ideas."

This was the second time UW-Stout students worked with PUMA. Last year students worked on ideas for footwear. This year, juniors in Robert Rabinovitz's industrial design class designed a new sport or activity and the gear that would go with it, from the clothing to the arena.

Rabinovitz said students were innovative with their ideas for both sports and equipment. Designs included a virtual reality shoe, shoes for walking the tracks of roller coasters and power walking shoes which incorporate an elastic band between the hands and shoes.

Todd Ellis, a UW-Stout graduate from Green Bay, is employed as a designer at PUMA and engineered this collaborative effort. "We're always looking for new ideas," he said, "and we wanted input from the Midwest. Stout students generated a lot of new ideas."

"Todd (Ellis) advocated for the selection of his alma mater due to its up and coming industrial design program which is improving every year," said David Miller, director of research and design at PUMA.

"The final presentations surpassed all expectations," Miller said. "As director of research and design at PUMA USA, I can assure you that we will definitely try to do this project next year or the following year."

Puma must, in fact, have been impressed. The company recruited another UW-Stout student, David Stender, a design student and athlete, after seeing his work in the program.

Outlook Fall '95