Each year, over 15,000 students join SCAD from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The creative university offers more than 40 majors and over 75 minors, allowing its student body to explore and navigate an array of design-driven tracks. Since its foundation, the university has also pioneered academic programs in a handful of inventive fields, like user experience design, immersive reality, luxury and fashion management, service design, themed entertainment design, and more.
Today, within 10 months of graduating from SCAD, 99 percent of alumni are employed, pursuing further education, or both. SCAD’s diverse program and ints experience with real-world companies are just some of the reasons for success after graduation. One program in particular, though, is heightening student relations with leading organizations around the globe by solving real-world problems for companies now.
SCADpro is the university’s design and innovation studio, where students get the chance to work with top businesses and brands from all over the world. Organizations—like Google, BMW, Disney, L’Oréal, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, NASA, Delta Air Lines, Reebok, Samsung, and The Coca-Cola Company—ping SCAD for assistance with issues they’re aiming to solve. Like an external internship elsewhere, students must apply and be accepted to partake in the program.
“Along with co-designing the curriculum, Google also kicked off a sponsored project initiative in conjunction with SCADpro, the university’s design innovation studio, where we present a group of students across a range of disciplines with real-life problems that Google is working on,” said Mike Buzzard, Google UX Design Manager.
“Students, through extensive UX research, come up with solutions during a 10-week quarter, which are then presented to stakeholders and subject matter experts at Google,” continued Buzzard. “This engagement has been very successful on many levels, and in 2019 we completed our fifth consecutive year. The quality of output students have produced has been consistently exceptional and we’ve constantly been inspired by the thoughtfulness, depth, and creativity of the solution from each team—not to mention the teams themselves.”
To learn more about SCADpro, Whitewall spoke with Josh Lind, Executive Director of Strategic Enterprises at SCAD.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about SCADpro.
JOSH LIND: SCADpro is a collaborative design studio that generates business solutions for the world’s most influential brands by tapping into the minds of talented students and experienced faculty. SCADpro exists to provide students with the opportunity to utilize the knowledge and skills they learn in the classroom to a professional environment, while providing brand partners an experience where innovative solutions are created by future design leaders and presented in an immersive setting.
SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace created SCADpro in response to experiencing collaborative industry projects pop up across SCAD’s 40+ disciplines, inside of the classroom. She saw the potential and wanted all disciplines at SCAD to have regular opportunities to answer the world’s largest business questions with top brands.
WW: What are some recent projects SCADpro students have worked on?
JL: SCAD students have worked on more than 50 brand assignments in the past year, including: The Future of Advertising with Google; The Future of Mobility for the Aging Population with BMW; Next Generation Pilot Training with Gulfstream Aerospace; and Enhanced Smartphone Communication Experience with Samsung.
WW: How do the students benefit from their relationships with these companies during and after the program?
JL: Students participate in SCADpro as an enhanced learning experience within our university. With each assignment students use their creative skills and talents to collaborate with industry professionals providing first-hand experience for their future endeavors. SCAD students learn important skills including adaptive thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, and efficient management.
Additionally, every time the students work on a SCADpro assignment they have the opportunity to showcase their work on resumes and professional portfolios. Each year we have multiple students hired directly with the partnering brands whose assignments they have worked on during their time at SCAD. More and more frequently, brands also take the student ideas to market offering even more exposure for the students work and creations.
WW: Can you describe for us a typical project, and how that begins and ends?
JL: Each collaboration begins when a member of the SCAD team asks a brand, “What are the top three things that are a challenge for you?” Many times realizing they have more than three, and not enough time or resources to solve these challenges, they come to SCAD! After a challenge is identified, a diverse group of faculty and students are carefully curated through portfolio reviews and interviews to create a dynamic and unique team based on the individual assignment needs.
The students then work through four phases of design: SEARCH to find new uses, trends, innovations, and opportunities; CONNECT using their research as a basis for concept development; ADVANCE the conceptual directions chosen by the brand to refine and prototype; and DELIVER, presenting the final research and concepts. Throughout the assignment timeline, the students collaborate and network with industry professionals leading the project for the brand.
WW: Are there any new industries SCADpro is currently working with that it wasn’t before, specifically due to the interest from students?
JL: With our finger on the pulse of numerous industries and their creative needs world-wide, SCADpro is regularly seeking what’s next—simultaneously for our insatiable, talented student population and industry alike. Healthcare is a new industry for us this academic year, and is a space that both parties—SCAD students and industry professionals—desire to see tremendous growth in creative collaboration for years to come.
Chapter 1 — Noteworthy
SCADpro is the university’s design and innovation studio.
Students work with top businesses and brands from all over the world to solve real-world problems.
SCADpro is regularly seeking what's next—for both the student population and the industry.
Attuned to the creative needs of both the market and student interests, SCAD‘s list of career paths is growing. One recent development for the university is its new UX Design degree, launched in 2015—a first of its kind in the United States, focused on user experience design. Created in collaboration with Google, the track allows for students to embrace the power of technology to create effortless interactions between consumers and products.
The UX Design degree also allows for students to work with mentors and collaborate with some of today’s leading companies—like Facebook, Capital One, Instagram, and more—to gain real-world experience with acclaimed applications and developments. Through this form of hands-on applied learning, SCAD students stay in tune with current marketplace needs, as they focus on four fundamental pillars: human behavior, technical proficiency, aesthetics, and collaboration. From mobile devices and apps to hospitality brands and car companies, students harness the power of technology to foster fluid interactions between consumers and their products.
“We have known that there has been a need for more standardized, consistent, and industry-informed education practices in the User Experience Design discipline for some time,” said Mike Buzzard, Google UX Design Manager. “This began our quest to solve the problem around increasing the preparedness of talent entering industry UX roles through undergraduate design education.”
“In 2014 we visited several universities to better understand the landscape of their design programs. We met faculty and students to discuss philosophies about what is required for emerging designers to be successful in the foreseeable future, and how the programs were or were not offering the right opportunities to develop those skills,” continued Buzzard. “When we shared our perspective with Savannah College of Art and Design, they were eager and willing—and provided the optimism, ambition, and leadership to work closely with us to shape a first of its kind UX degree program.”
Whitewall spoke with Victor Ermoli, Dean of School of Design, to hear how the UX Design degree was developed, what students are learning now, and what’s next for its curriculum.
WHITEWALL: Can you describe for us the new UX Design program at SCAD?
VICTOR EMOLI:The SCAD UX Design program represents the confluence of programing and design—the absolute intersection of computer system and human sensibilities. Through collaboration and innovation, SCAD is advancing the frontier of higher education by creating degree programs that respond in real time to the technical demands of dynamic digital environments. The UX Design program is a perfect example of this. In addition to these responses, the program creatively integrates the human behaviors that dictate how those environments are used. SCAD is constantly monitoring industry trends to identify unmet opportunities. In this case, we created the user experience program.
During the development, Google was working with our university on a SCADpro project and approached us with the need to hire UX designers who can translate user-centered opportunities into desirable designs and can also prototype these creative solutions. They were looking for these types of design professionals for an array of industries. There was a disconnect between who were making the designs and who were producing the coding and programming making the final results very difficult to use. Together, SCAD faculty and Google leadership, created the cutting-edge program that was the first UX comprehensive degree.
WW: What types of classes are offered in this program? What types of skills are the students learning from them?
VE: The creative design elements are supported by courses such as graphic design and interaction design classes, and UX design studios. For the analytical approach, we offer math for computer science, algorithm design, logic, prototyping electronics, and one full year of in-depth programming guidance. The results over the past five years with this approach have been widely successful for industries and popular with SCAD students from around the world. The SCAD alumni graduating from the program are producing creative design solutions that have become effective professional realities.
After the program was launched, we have continued an active partnership with Google. They visit as guest lecturers and mentors every quarter, providing our students in-depth knowledge and professional experience for their future creative careers.
WW: What have been some major successes and innovations that have occurred the past five years for the students and alumni with the program?
VE: Since the launch of the UX Design program, the demand for UX designers in the workplace has exploded, touching every major industry from transportation to healthcare. The number of students enrolling in SCAD’s UX Design program has also increased significantly and continues to increase every year. We have also expanded the program to be available at our SCAD Atlanta and Hong Kong locations, in addition to Savannah.
In 2018, the first students graduated from SCAD with a B.F.A. with a UX degree. They are employed at leading companies around the world, including Google, IBM, Instagram, Uber, AirBnB, Capital One, Volvo, and Gulfstream. Our students and alumni from the program have won prestigious awards in recent years with organizations like Red Dot, Adobe Design Awards, The Rookies, IxDA, SXSW, Indigo Design Awards, among many others.
The university has integrated UX design research into all of the university’s SCADpro projects. UX Design program students have been an intricate part of the cross-disciplinary student teams who have worked on app creation for Samsung’s new foldable phone, Uber’s aerial electric ride-hailing service called uberAIR, and future mobility solutions for Volvo, Ford, and BMW.
WW: Are there any new technologies that the program isn’t currently working with, but has plans to explore?
VE: We are currently working with next generation voice-based interactions, and the application of visual recognition to enhance lives. The next challenge is to connect this knowledge with Artificial Intelligence.
A recent project was to incorporate these technologies with children toys where they monitor the safety of the children, without interfering with their play activities. If a person is not recognized as a “safe person” by the toy, it will automatically notify the parent that an unauthorized person is in the room and send a picture of the individual. At this point the parent can choose to take the appropriate action. This project was not just a concept; the SCAD students created fully functional working prototypes of the system to test for potential development.
Chapter 2 — Noteworthy
In partnership with Google, SCAD created the first comprehensive UX degree.
In 2018, SCAD's first UX Design degree students graduated and were employed with leading companies around the world.
Today, SCAD is exploring new technologies with Artificial Intelligence to expand upon in its UX Design degree.