A New Education for Designers at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is has announced three new graduate design programs for the Fall of 2006; the Master of Architecture, Master of Architecture – Emphasis in Interior Architecture, and Master of Design in Designed Objects. These programs will complement the current MFA in Studio offerings for the department of Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects (AIADO), and are designed to allow a broader range of students to pursue a professional degree in design.

Design is becoming ubiquitous in today’s world, as new ideas move quickly from concepts to sustainable solutions. The education of designers is at a crossroads that necessitates originality. SAIC, drawing on its 140-year history, is poised to offer a unique series of programs for several reasons.

First is the School’s longstanding commitment to a fluid interdisciplinary curriculum and hands-on material exploration. Rich opportunities reside in 14 studio departments ranging from ceramics, painting, foundry and light metals, to film, video and new media, all of which are complemented by a vast array of academic disciplines. Related design courses reside in the Visual Communications and Fashion Design departments.

The newest artistic tools are part of the pervasive computing environment at SAIC. An advanced software library facilitates research and arts production, with 24-hour technology assistance and high-end digital equipment such as the 3-axis CNC router, digital Jacquard loom, and Durst-Lambda printer. The School also relies on the sophisticated use of geographical information systems (GIS) in the design process.

A new matrix of course-based programs has been designed to communicate a deep knowledge of design strategies, history, and practices to students of diverse educational backgrounds. Clusters of studios, seminars, and labs address contemporary issues of sustainability, shelter, risk, interactivity, collaboration, political advocacy, and focus on social and material culture. Students apply specialized knowledge and skills in collaborative teams to test new concepts grounded in real-life activity.

Visiting artists and designers, a premier faculty, the collection at the Art Institute, and the city of Chicago all create a vital learning environment for students. The School’s community outreach includes important projects in Millennium Park (the Crown Fountain), the Park District (Marquette Park), the Department of the Environment (Green Roofs website), and Department of Cultural Affairs (numerous exhibitions). SAIC has recently participated in international design exhibitions around the world, including the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York (Best Design School 2005) and SaloneSatellite 2006 in Milan.

New design studios will be unveiled October 10, 2006 on the top floor of the National Historic Landmark Sullivan Center, designed by Chicago architect Louis Sullivan. Motorola Chairman and CEO Ed Zander will attend the event to celebrate the opening of the GFRY Design Studio, a new collaborative studio space built through a donation by Motorola Foundation in memory of Geoffrey Frost, the company’s late Chief Marketing Officer. The opening will also commemorate Louis Sullivan’s 150th birthday. The design studios’ 31,000-square-foot space houses media-savvy smart design studios and dedicated 24-hour secure access to cutting-edge fabrication facilities; mold-making facilities, vaccu-forming facilities, laser cutting, full-color 24-roll printing on demand, and 3-D digital printing in multicolour ABS plastic.

SAIC has always promoted “crossing the boundaries,” making it an ideal place to study design. The new graduate programs at SAIC will contribute to the development of socially responsible and inspired designers, ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.