Industry Collaboration in Sponsored Design Studios

The nationally-ranked programs in Auburn University’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design (SIGD) are characterized by long-standing collaboration with industry and community. Students in sponsored studios develop and research projects in collaboration with, and supported by, industry and other outside organizations. Over the past 25 years, SIGD students have had the opportunity to participate in studios sponsored by organizations that include NASA, Coca-Cola, IBM, Smucker’s and the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.

Sponsored studios offer students the chance to gain knowledge from conversations and formal design reviews with industry professionals. These experiences prepare students for professional practice by replicating the relationship between design teams and manufacturers. In some cases, studio sponsors may integrate students’ design ideas into product development or marketing strategies. During the Fall 2020 semester, SIGD faculty and students participated in six different sponsored studios.

Associate Professor Shu-Wen Tzeng’s third-year industrial design students worked with Pratt Industries, one of the nation’s largest corrugated packaging companies. Tzeng’s students designed creative solutions for paper-based restaurant take-out packaging items like food containers and caddies.

Associate Professor Courtney Windham asked her senior graphic design students to create an exhibit about the central nervous system for AO Discover!, a hands-on children’s science center in Auburn currently under construction in a former retail space just steps away from campus.

Professor Rich Britnell taught a fourth-year industrial design studio sponsored by healthcare product innovator Aptar, which recently purchased local technology company CSP. This is CSP’s fifth consecutive year of sponsoring a SIGD studio. Britnell’s students designed consumer sanitizing products and branding that make use of a sterilization technology owned by Aptar.

Associate Professor Robert Finkel’s third-year graphic design students worked with AU Libraries to develop an identity system and corresponding advertising campaign. They created a design concept that visually unifies the AU Libraries yet distinguishes each branch within the Library System.

Professor Randy Bartlett’s third-year industrial design students completed a sponsored studio with Mobile Carnival Association as part of SIGD’s futures studio, an off-campus instructional site in Mobile, Alabama, where students can complete a single semester during undergraduate or graduate studies.  They worked with one of Mobile’s mystic societies to create new takes on “walking heads” for use in parades, construction for better conveying float names and kinetic sculptures for mystic society balls.

Assistant Professor Rusty Lay’s fourth-year industrial design students participated in a studio sponsored by local businessman and entrepreneur Jason Sager, who has an interest in aquaponics. Aquaponics combines aquaculture, or farming in water, and hydroponics, which is gardening without soil, in one integrated sustainable system of raising both fish and vegetables. Lay’s students designed and built home aquaponics systems that were large enough to produce a significant amount of produce and protein but small enough to visually accompany other patio décor.