NMU program teaches design with a human touch

NMU program teaches design with a human touch

MARQUETTE — For nearly a decade, Human-Centered Design has been a part of the curriculum at Northern Michigan University’s Art and Design Department.

The concentration teaches students how to develop products, systems, and services for various demographics of end users around the world. The field’s process of developing products from early sketches to prototypes and beyond shares funadmentals with industrial design, but includes an additional aspect.

“What we’re doing that’s a little bit different from industrial design is also adding that step within there of researching and understanding people better and understanding their needs better,” said Peter Pless, a professor of human centered design at NMU. “Those are the really valuable things that can make a more successful design and help enhance people’s lives on a daily basis.”

Students in the program have participated in international house wares competitions, helped a business find applications for a new plastic, and much more. In addition to designing products for mass production and consumption, designers often strike out on their own to bring their creativity to the world.

“There’s also a large movement of people that are gravitating toward actually just designing and producing their own goods,” Pless added. “They might have a bit more of a fine arts spin on the products they’re developing, but they are developing limited batch productions of objects for consumption.”

Revisions Design Studio in Ishpeming is a business that operates in this mold. Designer–maker Michele Dupras has been creating and producing small production runs of porcelain products and home accessories for seven years. She has worked with interns from the Human–Centered Design program, and has found the things the students learn helpful in an enterprise such as hers.

“Many of their skills are quite useful for what I do,” said Dupras. “When it comes to drawing up 3D renderings or using rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printing, to get an item from the idea stage into protoyping, and then put it into production, all of those things are very useful, and quite necessary.”

For more information on Human–Centered Design, visit art.nmu.edu.