Thelen and members of the design community in
Thelen said the proposal seeks $480,000 over two years from the $15 million U.S. Department of Labor grant. The money would be used to form the council and to conduct a gap analysis survey to determine how design services would aid companies in
“The beauty of WIRED is that it provides resources to move conversation to action,” Thelen said.
Following completion of the survey, the council would help connect different companies and markets with the design services that would best enhance their products and services, Thelen said.
“We live in such a complex economic world; one of the few ways to differentiate your company is excellent design,” he said. “We think it can be a really transformative initiative.”
Goals for the council would include creating a cluster of design services, bringing together people from various areas of design, including industrial, graphic, architectural, interior, new digital media, interactive media, fashion and landscape architecture. The council would help that base connect with the proper markets and also would use design to influence K-12 and higher education, bringing the design element into the learning process.
West Michigan has a rich design history, through its furniture industry as well as companies such as Tiara Yacht and Whirlpool, Thelen said, and the design council would be drawing on that history to help make
“We can elevate
Thelen said many people have shown interest in working with and on the council if it receives funding.
“There is great talent here, energized talent that wants to enhance and move our economy forward,” he said.
John Berry, a senior consultant with Greystone Global and part of the committee behind the council proposal, said he believes the council has precedence-setting potential.
“There always has been a certain design consciousness in West Michigan, certainly with the furniture companies, Wolverine (World Wide) and others, but there’s never been a collective effort to utilize all that design can do as an economic building block for
“The term design means so many different things to so many different people, and the role or the goal of the council is to clarify design, what it is, what it can do, and how it can help grow the economy of
It would also help prepare the next generation of workers by involving design in education,
“Another aspect of what the council will help do — and this is long-term thinking, which I think is wonderful — is to help K-12 and higher education programs to recognize and be able to have content to bring design into the education system,” he said.
Rather than just teaching design,
“If the council is able to demonstrate not only the ‘why’ but some of the ‘how’ to do that — that gets to be pretty exciting stuff,” he said.
Thelen said the funding for the council is currently being reviewed and will go before the WIRED board in February; a decision will be made no later than March.