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Friday, 06 July 2012 17:05

Q&A: Max Shangle, Dean, Kendall College of Art and Design

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Q&A: Max Shangle, Dean, Kendall College of Art and Design Joe Boomgaard
Max Shangle just celebrated his third decade at Kendall College of Art and Design, the last two years as dean of the college. The experienced furniture designer and design consultant said he is invigorated by the state of change at the college. He believes Kendall is poised to make a statement through its new president, the newly renovated Historic Federal Building and the three new degree programs in design collaboration, fashion studies and medical illustration. "Kendall really is ready," Shangle told MiBiz during a wide-ranging interview about design's role in business, the nature of design education and more.



You're headed to China both for a recruiting trip and to expose Kendall students to that culture. Why is studying in China important?

It's a global community. Design is global, as much and if not more so than manufacturing is. Makers of products want designers and communicators that understand their market, but can speak to the constraints and understanding of where they come from. It's a very good deal. We got serious about it about five years ago.

What's your take on companies talking about design as a differentiator?

Design is a differentiator. I don't think any manufacturer or any company sets out to make an unsafe, inferior and undesirable product or service. In order to not do that, design has to play a critical role. That's one of the reasons we started our new program in collaborative design.

What's changed about design that Kendall needed to create this collaborative design degree?

Design isn't any longer a solitary thing. You used to be able to call up the design department and say, design me a widget, and people would go to work on it in their little cell and then they'd give you (the design). Well, no longer. Design is collaborative as a differentiating process within industry. It used to be: You do a bunch of designs, throw them against the wall and see which ones stuck. That's no longer the way people or industries are looking at design. We want to be ahead of that curve.

How will students translate that into careers?

(Designers) are only as good or as valuable to industry as their ability to communicate. Having our students understand design's role within business and helping them be better communicators within that field is vitally important.

As dean of Kendall, you co-chaired a national search committee that selected David Rosen to succeed Oliver Evans after his 18-year run. What were you looking for in the next president?

We did a national search and asked the question – not 'How do we replace Oliver?' but 'What is the next chapter of Kendall College?' With this new chapter, we're going to get some new vision, some new drive. And Kendall is really ready. Dr. Evans really left his mark here. He had an extremely successful presidency. The opportunity to have a new leader come in and help set the next course is important, and now is the right time for that. I'm very happy that Dr. Rosen is joining us.

What in Dr. Rosen's background caught your attention?

He comes to us with the experience of taking a couple of programs at his former institution and making them nationally recognized. Kendall is ready to raise public awareness about the fact that we're here and we're great and that we're serving our long-time mission.

It seems like Kendall is going through a period of quite a few changes right now.

I'm not sure anyone would set out to open a renovated building, install three new programs and have a new president — all at the same time — but here we are.

Like Dr. Evans, you've also had a long run at Kendall, having celebrated your 30th year at the college. How has the nature of design education changed?

Our (furniture design) students graduated and went to work in the industry either here in Grand Rapids, or the adventuresome ones went to North Carolina. Now, it's global. They used to ask me: Can I make a living in Grand Rapids as a furniture designer? Back (then), I could say yes. There were 150 (furniture) manufacturers in this region. Now, there are four. The difference is how have we adapted and adopted the changes in the industry. When we produce a furniture designer now, it's about how they become a designer in a global industry rather than in the local industry.

Interview conducted and condensed by Joe Boomgaard


Read 3384 times Last modified on Saturday, 28 July 2012 18:31

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